Through the movie <Yeongasi>, the modifier of ‘actor’ is no longer unfamiliar to Kim Dongwan, who says that the fact that he is a member of the best and longest-lasting idol group, Shinhwa, makes him proud. Yet when talk about acting comes up, while still maintaining his usual polite self, he suddenly becomes serious. Even though he himself actually waves his hands in denial that that happens.
The movie <Yeongasi> is indeed a topic in full bloom. Caught in the crossfire of Hollywood superheroes that started with <The Avengers> to <The Amazing Spiderman> and <The Dark Knight Rises>, the depressed Korean film industry has regained its pulse of resurrection through the arrival of <Yeongasi>. The surprising thing is that the project that has fired the flame of movie resurrection this summer is none other than <Yeongasi>. Whether it’s a Korean film or a Hollywood film, in a time when a movie will not be dubbed a blockbuster if its minimum budget doesn’t exceed 10 billion won (~8.7 million USD), this project was based on an original idea, effectively distributed its smaller budget, and had directing ability that put great actors with the right talents in the right positions. Through these strengths, a movie that has appealed to the audience was born. The first main factor in <Yeongasi>’s success was the strength of an intelligent initiative that caught an urban myth that was at the center of internet chatter amongst middle and high school students a few years ago. As the project began to form and take shape, it was insisted in the beginning that it also be a good idea that matches with trends, thus bringing together two paradoxes [being both original and commercial]. And above all, is the underlying strength of the actors. A good actor like Kim Myungmin is of course a given. Kim Dongwan, while his acting ability was not yet 100% recognized, was a great talent in the making. And with it being said that his intense energy had led the way, <Yeongasi> can above all be called an actor’s movie. In addition, through the proper utilization and control of countless extras in shocking scenes, the lead actors shined even more. On that account, it is now Kim Dongwan. As a key member of Shinhwa, as one person amongst the best existing idols, he at some point has gradually broadened his scope as an actor and has reached the goal of becoming a young male actor that Chungmoro (the Korean film industry) has taken note of. Actor Kim Dongwan, whose gentle smile is his charm, but once he goes into filming in front of a camera, immediately emits his own unique charisma without regrets. While he still finds the title of ‘actor’ awkward, he, more than anyone, enjoys acting with his whole body, and we listened to his inner thoughts.
It now seems like you have really established a solid position as an actor. What do you think is the reason <Yeongasi> has achieved such an explosive reaction from the audience?
Actually I can’t really give an analysis. Even when you do an album, once in awhile there are moments when a song that’s not the title song gains popularity, and it’s hard to analyze why. I’m just thankful that it’s done well. In reality, I really wanted to learn a lot from and get along well with (Kim) Myungmin hyung, and didn’t really worry a lot about the movie doing well. Even though I did work extremely hard.
What did you specifically want to learn from Kim Myungmin?
Actually, acting is not a dimension that you learn. With this movie, I looked forward to it a lot because I could act in something that was a much larger scale than what I’ve done in the past. When we actually filmed, I came to really like Myungmin hyung. I naturally like senior male actors who have a cool and stylish aura. Actors like seniors Lee Jungjae and Lee Byunghun. I don’t really like maintaining oneself in order to be loved by everyone or showing only a nice image. I respect actors that push through according to what they want.
I heard that when you first were going to choose <Yeongasi> there were also some people who tried to prevent you from doing so.
Ah, it wasn’t strongly, but slightly. (laughs) There was a small amount of pointing out that it didn’t fit with my existing image. However, even though I seek out advice, ultimately I’m the type that does what I want. When people give advice, they usually suggest the safe and easy road. However, I’ve hardly ever seen instances in which taking the safe road resulted in success. There are lots of times when you need courage and boldness. Right now I’m at the crossroads of picking my next project and it’s to the point that I have so many worries that I’ve been losing sleep. Ah, you’re asking me to tell you what my next project is? I’m sorry, but tomorrow is the final decision so…I’m sorry. (laughs) (Note: If you remember the stylist’s tweet, she said that this photoshoot was held July 26th, which means that if oppayam did indeed make a final decision about his next project, it was July 27th. And yet, we still don’t have news. This oppa is a friggin TEASE and a TROLL orz. WE WANT TO KNOW NOW NOW NOW! *sigh*)
While you were watching <Yeongasi> at the movie theater, what was the scene that you regretted and what was the scene that pleased you?
There’s a scene where a big fire happens. Originally, since you shoot a couple times and check until a final cut is decided, I was sort of acting without haste. However, I had forgotten that because it’s a scene in which the set is completely burned down, we couldn’t do a lot of takes. Later my friends told me that I came out like a fool in that scene. While audience members may not notice, the eyes of my friends are scary. The scene that I was pleased with was my first scene with Lee Honey in the laboratory when I’m asking her to give me money. I originally acted with lines that made me seem more lacking but they were edited out. I looked even more lacking because Honey is taller than me.
That’s unexpected since celebrities usually don’t really like the feeling of being needy.
I don’t think I can do acting in which I have to act like I’m better than others. I think it will lack sincerity. Your walk becomes a little slower, you’re told to stand and take up the stance, but I think these will be hard for me to do naturally. If possible, I think that I’m going to avoid boss roles or roles that require me to act like I’m better than others.
Why don’t we talk about your first movie, <Spin Kick>. While it failed at the box office, I heard that it’s a project that holds a deep meaning for you.
It’s a project that I worked hard in and learned a lot from. However, I do feel a bit bad that it sort of gets portrayed in a joking light on variety shows. Although I can’t help but to laugh with the others, I also think about how if the people associated with the movie see that, how bitter they must feel. It’s a project that I am so thankful for. It seems like I didn’t live up my worth and for that I still feel sorry. When I was at the peak of being a singer and an idol, I chose to act. As a singer, you have to prepare a lot of things to stand on the stage. Even though I of course love Shinhwa and singing, you have to worry about subsidiary things like if my clothes are pretty, if I’m coming out handsome, etc. But when I act, I don’t have to worry about my hair being disheveled or looking haggard. It’s hard to explain this in detail, but there’s a feeling of being free when I’m acting? I feel this sense of freedom.
In your background of firmly establishing your place as an actor, there was a project last year called <Zenith> that you starred in.
It’s a project that I received so much from. When I got casted for the movie, there were a lot of people associated with the movie who said they chose me after watching that project. At the time, filming was so difficult. Because of the rainy season, the landslide that happened at Woomyun Mountain caused shootings to be frequently cancelled. Director Lee Sangyeob endlessly made us do script readings whenever there was a chance. Once when I was in a daze, I even had the thought of what if Lee Yooksa would come find me and possess my body. (laughs). The actors I filmed with, (Seo) Hyunjinnie, (Yoon) Jihye also worked really hard. I think I just followed along while being amongst amazing actors. Just like group activities, I think acting is not asserting yourself in the front, but choosing the road to follow along with others.
What’s the reason for that?
Just like when you’re doing group and not solo activities, a drama or a movie is a project that many people make together. My original disposition is like that too. You can’t use your strength and your mind, and also play the guitar and drums, right? Each person being entrusted with what he or she is good at is the most effective thing. Also, I try not to do more than what I am good at. It’s not a safety precaution; if I throw my body into a fire pit, it’s entering a fire pit that I can withstand. I’m the type that hates baseless confidence. I also really hate the statement ‘If it doesn’t work, make it work.’ (laughs) If it doesn’t work, isn’t going back and finding a different way the wise thing to do?
You seem to have the good fortune of receiving lots of help from others. You’ve done group activities really well for a long time too…Speaking of, isn’t <Shinhwa Broadcast> difficult? It seems like the filming time alone would take a long time.
Because I’m doing it with friends I’ve been with for a long time, there are times when I’m not even aware of the camera. When I’m in a good mood, it’s so much fun, and when I’m in a bad condition, it gets broadcast that way. I’ve received a lot more from doing group activities for a long time. I also have no regrets because later on I also got to do solo activities and acting. There are lots of singers that can’t sleep before the day of a concert. However, being in a group, I feel at ease because it’s stable and we can depend on each other.
Do you have anything you want to say to the younger idol groups who are actively promoting right now?
They’re all really working hard, so I don’t really have anything to say to them. Idols today don’t seem human. They’re kindhearted, sing well, dance well…they lack nothing. Even during our time, there were instances of people who were kindhearted, but lacking somewhat in skills, or were very skilled, but bad people. (laughs). Even if I don’t say anything, they figure it out themselves and do well, and I think they will continue to do so in the future too.
So lastly, let’s hear what plans you have as an actor.
Of course, my goal is to get unquestionable recognition by people as an actor. To be recognized not as a singer who also acts, but unquestionable recognition as ‘Actor Kim Dongwan.’ Ah, that’s not it. To be honest, I just really want to act. People advise me a lot to be choosy with projects, but if I nitpick over all that, when am I going to act? Like soccer manager Hiddink once said, ‘I am still hungry.’ Ah, I have to wrap this up in a stylish way, but it’s becoming increasingly and blindly scattered. People who’ve acted know. When you go to the filming set, people from kids to elderly grandpas and grandmas are gathered. People who usually can’t say one word, once they receive the cue sign, that moment when they cry, laugh, and hug is really thrilling. It’s often said that when a woman passes thirty she wants to become like a lead in a makjang drama (search for ‘makjang’ at the link) and cry really hard. When you act, there are times when you really feel that pleasure of emotions being excreted out of you. You keep experiencing these thrilling moments that you can’t really put into words. Not long ago, I watched Director Kim Kiduk’s <Arirang>, and even though he’s not someone with whom I share close friends with or know very well, I earnestly identified with the part about really wanting to make movies. That part was sad too. That’s right, I do it because I too want to do it. Of course, even though my aspects of starting as a singer and being a Shinhwa member probably won’t change, I want to become ‘Actor Kim Dongwan’ who thirsts for acting.
Right now Kim Dongwan indeed has two wings attached to him. Group Shinhwa is still skyrocketing with <Shinhwa Broadcast> and their Asia tour, and the movie <Yeongasi> has unquestionably attached him with the title of ‘actor.’ Just as he wished, the era is now beginning in which ‘Actor Kim Dongwan’ comes to mind before ‘Shinhwa.’ When he softly speaks to people, his eyes are obviously filled with gentle warmth, but when he stares at the camera, his eyes are completely ingrained with a sharp charisma that can’t be shown by just anyone without the right experience and effort. That is how much Kim Dongwan is advancing as an actor.
Credits: First look + Kim Dongwan Tumblr (Eng trans)