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Lee Joon-Ik Talks 왕의 남자 (The King and The Clown)

- by X @ TwitchFilm

[Reproduced herein with kind permission from X and Twitchfilm]

 

gamclown.jpgOne the most unlikely 'star directors' this new era of prosperity brought to the Chungmuro shores is certainly Lee Joon-Ik. Not because he didn't pay his dues, or because his films don't deserve the acclaim they received (at least locally, abroad he's still unknown). No, it's just that he seems to go against every single rule of the star director. For starters, he didn't graduate from a prestigious foreign film school, quitting Sejong University to start working on his company from the late 80s. It was just a marketing company, making CFs and magazine ads, but he eventually used that as a launchpad for an expansion into the film market. He did direct the comedy 키드캅 (Kid Cop) in 1993, but I'd safely say he'd rather forget about that. What's important is that, from the early 90s, Cineworld started operating in Chungmuro, producing films like Jang Jin's 간첩 리철진 (The Spy), the Park Chan-Wook co-written 아나키스트 (Anarchists) and the hit comedy 달마야 놀자 (Hi, Dharma). But more than producing local films, the company has always been known for importing and distributing foreign films, like Memento and Velvet Goldmine.

Perhaps because he grew up as a producer in an time when Korean films were made on a shoestring budget, his approach to filmmaking, in particular his first big film 황산벌 (Once Upon a Time in The Battlefield) was very pragmatic: no excesses, especially in terms of production (the film was a big success because it didn't cost much, compared to other films of the same kind), a tendency to focus on the basic fundamentals of filmmaking, like telling a good story, allowing the actors to perform to the best of their abilities, and never indulging in pseudo-artistic 'games' to gain recognition overseas. The results were surprising, as the film starring Park Joong-Hoon and Jung Jin-Young managed to affect and entertain viewers, without ever dumbing down the historical background the film used -- the momentous meeting at Hwangsan, where the fate of the Three Kingdoms was sealed.

'Battlefield' was one of the most beloved films of 2003 by Koreans (over 2.9 Million tickets sold), for mixing tropes of the 'well made blockbuster' with elements of Historical Dramas, local comedies and more. The 'Fusion Drama' was born, which brought us other films like 스캔들 (Untold Scandal), and the tradition still continues today. Lee does't call his new film 왕의 남자 (The King and The Clown) a Fusion Drama, but everything I've seen and read about this film reminds me of the same intelligent balancing of different genre elements you could find in 'Battlefield'. And critics responded to that again, praising the film more than any other during the holidays [even Yoon Jong-Chan's 청연 (Blue Swallow)]. It seems the hype worked, as Lee's film about a group of Royal Clowns and the country's most detested King, Yeonsan, is leading most online presales rankings with rates between 25 and 30%, a sign of a potential big box office success. Director Lee recently sat down with Film2.0 to discuss his latest film, and his approach to filmmaking.

You can read a production meeting report here, and our press screening report. Here's a few highlights from the interview:

You've directed another Historical Drama, right after 황산벌 (Once Upon a Time in the Battlefield). Did you originally plan to do two in such a short time?
Lee Joon-Ik: Not really, but I've always wanted to do Historical Dramas. My film company has imported plenty of foreign films in the past, and the ones which left a lasting impression on me were always Japanese Historical Dramas [時代劇, Jidai Geki] of the 40s and 50s, and films like those of Kurosawa Akira. I was inspired a lot by those films.

I know the adaptation process was helped a lot by Kim Tae-Woong, who wrote the original screenplay. Did he show any concern about the direction this adaptation was taking [the film changes the POV from Gong-Gil to Jang-Saeng, unlike what happens in the play]?
Lee: I got to know Kim Tae-Woong when I was working as producer, and Jung Jin-Young introduced him to me. He was a junior from Jung's college days, and he told me Kim was someone with plenty of talent, and that he could have helped us a lot. I did meet him, and he was extremely talented, but his style didn't fit the movie business. After that, we didn't continue working together. Even looking at the original script , I couldn't believe it was written by someone like him. But, go figure, as we met again and started working together, he greatly helped us. But he kept trying to focus on Gong-Gil, after which I'd always put the focus back on Jang-Saeng. He would go: "If you keep doing things your way all the time, I'll stop doing this. You don't even listen to me" (laughs).

Just looking at the title of the film [Korean title means 'The King's Man'], it has some homosexual undertones. But that's not something you emphatically stress in the film, at least not directly.
Lee: I didn't do it on purpose, I would have if it were my money I was spending, then things would have been different. If that happened, then people would try to completely strip Gong-Gil, but how can I do that when I'm using someone else's money? That would be crazy. But If I didn't show as much as we did, people wouldn't be able to get that aspect of the film. Instead, they'll understand everything just by association.

You show all the different things the clowns do to entertain the King in the film. It must have been really hard, not only as a director, but for the actors as well.
Lee: That's precisely why Gam Woo-Sung is a great actor. There's a limit to how much an actor can immerse himself in a character, but Gam does so much more than you'd expect from anyone. He never walked on a rope, tried pansori, played those traditional instruments... never, but he did all that in this film. How was he able to do that, just sheer dedication to improve, and constant training? He just had a month to practice, but he did it, and well, I think he had all that in his blood. Battle Rap is like that, it's not something you can understand, try to replicate or go somewhere to learn, you either have it in your blood or you don't, simple as that.

The scale of the film was really big, but you wrapped the shoot in just 3 months. That was really fast.
Lee: I'm just relieved we did it so fast. I don't shoot more than three takes per scene. If you shoot slowly, does that really help you? That's a waste of time. Before even starting the first shoot, I made my position clear: "I won't shoot more than three takes per scene, so deal with it." If we get to the third take, it's pretty obvious someone is not doing things the right way, as we never went to the third take because of mistakes I made. At first people were a little confused, but then as they started seeing scenes take a little longer, some of them thought: "If I don't do it in three takes, then I'll look worthless", and they became nervous.

Doing that without asking them anything, isn't that a little too confident?
Lee: It's not difficult, just an easy equation, it's all there in the monitor. No matter if you're a director or not, it's all the same. If you do as planned while rehearsing, then that's it. We are animals who live by habits. If the director starts shooting several takes, then everybody stops working hard. We'll shoot another take anyway, why give all you have in one take? If you do like me, not shooting more than three takes per scene, then a hundred people on the set become nervous: "If I fail, this cut will never come back." Isn't that more convenient economically? If I do a take myself, then for other reasons we have to repeat because of the Make Up team, the Costume team or the DP team, then a hundred people all have to move again, and at the end everyone stops concentrating.

So that's why a 4.4 Billion Won Historical Drama could be made.
Lee: I'm realistic, other people are just going overboard. If this were their money, they wouldn't spend it like that. A man of wisdom would pay more attention when using other people's money, much more than if he was using his. Is going around spending tens of Billions of Won something to be proud of? If I said our film cost more than 10 Billion Won, I bet people would believe me. They'd say since I spent so much, we were able to do all that. Why are people judging movies based on their budget scale? Spending a lot of money on films is just like leading a thriftless life, it's a waste that involves the entire country and a crime. It's not my money, right? So using someone else's money so inefficiently is a crime. A professional breach of trust.

Is your next project another Historical Drama?
Lee: I want to do one, but doing it cheaply takes a lot of preparation. So going straight into another Historical Drama would be difficult. At the moment I'm preparing 라디오 스타 (Radio Star), a comedy with a modern setting. We've cast Park Joong-Hoon and Ahn Sung-Gi already, and the script is in process right now. It's about an aging rock star turned DJ and his manager: he thinks he's still great despite being clearly past his prime, and even though he's become a minority after being a big star, he cannot strip himself of that complex yet. People look down on him, but he keeps thinking he's some kind of great person, unique in the world.

--

kingclown.jpg왕의 남자 (The King and The Clown)
Director: 이준익 (Lee Joon-Ik)
Cast: 감우성 (Gam Woo-Sung), 정진영 (Jung Jin-Young), 이준기 (Lee Joon-Gi), 유해진 (Yoo Hae-Jin), 강성연 (Kang Sung-Yeon)
Press Screening Report
Official Website
Daum Cafe
Highlight Reel (Streaming, Windows Media)
Theatrical Trailer (Streaming, Windows Media)
Teaser Trailer (Streaming, 700k, Windows Media)
Making Of(Streaming, 300k, Windows Media)
Making Of (Streaming, 700k, Windows Media)
Music Video (Streaming, 300k, Windows Media) [Lee Seon-Hee - 연인]
Movie Stills/Posters
Produced By: 이글 픽쳐스 (Eagle Pictures), 씨네월드 (Cineworld)
Distributed By: 시네마 서비스 (Cinema Service)
Rating: 15 and Over
RELEASE: December 29

[Source: Film2.0]

 

Original Link : http://www.twitchfilm.net/archives/004657.html (Posted by X at December 30,2005 02:12 AM)

 

 


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