Yesterday, “The Housemaid” held a press conference with director Im Sang Soo and the three stars Lee Jung Jae, Jeon Do Yeon, and Yoon Yeo Jung. The film is opening soon, and the trailer was oh so provocative! The following is an excerpt from the press conference, and it sheds some light behind the film and the actors’ difficulties with their respective roles.
Just as a refresher: Lee plays a philandering husband to Seo Woo’s character (who wasn’t present at the conference), Jeon is the not-so-innocent housemaid that starts a torrid affair with Lee, and Yoon is the housekeeper who oversees the general household and is the first to note Lee and Jeon’s burgeoning relationship.
Q: You must have felt a lot of pressure in having to produce a remake of filmmaker Kim Ki-young’s big screen production “Housemaid” since it is considered quite the masterpiece in Korean film history. What did you pay the most attention to in directing the movie?
Im Sang-soo: “Housemaid” is based on exactly the same story as its original — about an odd housemaid who has an affair with the man of the family she starts working for. It’s clearly different in terms of picture quality or scale since it’s a remake of the film from 50 years ago, but you may be interested in seeing how much or how little change there has been regarding the circumstances the characters are put in or the way they act. Director Kim Ki-young is a maestro but I think I felt more confidence than pressure while creating the film. I also put in a lot of work into the art. I needed to do something different because issues regarding marriage in upper class is a topic which is always being handled in TV dramas. So I paid a lot of attention to providing enjoyment by trying to show what their lives are really like. And there are exactly six actors in the original film so I too concentrated just on them. It will be fun watching the actors act.
Q: Jeon Do-youn, you must’ve thought a lot about whether you should take on the film or not because you had to do wire action, bed scenes and even get slapped in the face an outrageously large number of times.
Jeon Do-youn: It wasn’t an easy choice to make. And I did worry about a lot of things but I don’t think I would have done it if director Im Sang-soo wasn’t doing it. The original piece was received so well that I thought the only director who could overcome that pressure was him. I also didn’t know from looking just at the scenario that my character Euni would have so much to do. (laugh) Physically, it was so straining that it felt that I was playing several roles at a time but psychologically I was happy and had fun. Even the hard time I had came as a pleasure to me rather than stress.
Q: How was it shooting the film as the only male actor on set? You worked with Jeon Do-youn, Seo Woo and Yoon Yeo-jung — all actresses with strong personalities in every aspect.
Lee Jung-jae: I suffered from indigestion for three days after we all ate together for the first time before going into shoot. (laugh) Yoon has a strong personality, Jeon has a strong personality too and Seo Woo isn’t any easier either. So I had a tough first day but the shoot itself was fun. I had expected it to be fun also because I would be playing the role of a bad boy. But it turned out that I wasn’t the typical bad boy. My lines or the situation my character would be in was 10 times worse than what was in the script for every shoot so I was flustered at the time but I think that’s more of the reason why I was able to have so much fun with it
Q: I think “Housemaid” must have a special meaning for you, Yoon Yeo-jung. You made your big screen debut through director Kim Ki-young’s film and have been working with Im since “A Good Lawyer’s Wife.”
Yoon Yeo-jung: He’s the only one who asks for me. (laugh) “Housemaid” was so special to me that I was just overwhelmed with emotion throughout the entire process of filming. I was proud that I had debuted through director Kim Ki-young’s “Housemaid” 40 years ago but was still an actor. Of course, nobody took notice of that fact so I was proud about it by myself. (laugh)
Q: We saw in the making-the-film footage that Jeon, you kept saying you’re not sure about your character Euni. So when was it that you actually felt what she was about?
Jeon: It was difficult for me because I couldn’t understand her innocence. I couldn’t quite understand how she could be confident because she was overly innocent and how she could be honest because she was overly innocent. And I ended up finishing filming the movie without quite figuring out that about her completely. I had that question about her till the very end and constantly doubted myself while in shoot. The director trusted in me from the very beginning though, and at one point, I thought I might have been looking too hard for an answer. I felt more comfortable after telling myself that I myself might actually be who she is.
Q: So what are the main points to watch for in “Housemaid” which is currently considered the most anticipated film for the latter half of the year?
Yoo: We were very happy while shooting the film. I didn’t think much of the fact that Jeon had won an award at Cannes but I realized how great of an actress she is after working with her for the first time. I reflected on myself a lot after watching how she absorbs the director’s directions like a sponge. I wondered whether I had her attitude when I was her age. I worked on the film while learning a lot from Jeon. Lee too said this film has been a turning point for him. Us three even pretended to die when the director told us to. (laugh)
Lee: It’s not easy to maintain the mindset that you’ll try your best from the beginning till the very end but with “Housemaid,” everyone put in a lot of effort and we wrapped up shoot without any hitches. I think it’ll remain a meaningful film for me.
Jeon: I too became moved and stimulated while filming with Yoon and Seo Woo. I had never wondered what sort of actress I would want to be when I grow older but watching Yoon, I thought I would want to look like her and have the passion and mindset she has when I too become a bit older. The points to focus on in our film is that it will be interesting for the eyes as well as the ears because everyone performed so enthusiastically.
Im: “Housemaid” doesn’t deviate from the original story. You may think it’s a very common story. And it could be a so-called “dead-end” drama because of its absurd plot but we’ve made it much more sophisticated through classy acting and classy art. I think we’ve produced a classy dead-end drama. (laugh)
I am surprised at their overall positive feeling with this film, which I feel can bog you down a bit. The original actress who played Euni in Kim Ki Young‘s film never acted again supposedly because of the fierce backlash towards her character. She was so convincing that it ruined her image even outside the film. Then again, it was her first film; Jeon has been in numerous others so people can see her as Jeon the Actress and Jeon the Person. To take on a polarizing character or leave a deep impression for your first role can do things to people’s minds… take Tang Wei for instance and her shocking turn in “Lust, Caution”.