Uhm Ki Joon has mostly appeared in musicals – both in large and small theaters – and was best known for his roles in the dramas Hero (with Lee Jun Ki) and The World They Live In (with Hyun Bin and Song Hye Gyo). I had only seen him as the arrogant PD in The World They Live In, and he was a compelling character despite the boring drama.
He had an interview with 10asiae where he spoke about his acting career. He was also promoting his new film “Man of Vendetta,” which is his first feature film. His character abducts a pastor’s daughter, making the pastor (played by Beethoven Virus‘ Kim Myung Min) change his life completely and lose faith. Eight years later, he calls tauntingly to say that the daughter is still alive. The following includes excerpts from the interview.
10: I understand that you’re not the type that usually does a lot of interviews so you must be extremely busy with promoting your movie. It must be your first time experiencing this as much as this is your first movie.
Uhm Ki-joon: Yes. I had heard there would be ‘many’ but I didn’t know it would be like this. When I went to the press conference for “The World That They Live In,” questions were mostly directed to Hyun Bin and Song Hye-kyo so I had just sat there quietly…… I’ve done 15 interviews so far and will do another six tomorrow. I’m thinking of minor roles from now on. (laugh)
10: It’s been exactly a year since you last said that you want to do movies that “Man of Vendetta” is coming out.
Uhm: I got the scenario for it by the time “The World That They Live In” was wrapping up and I told them that I’m interested but there was no talk of it after that for a while. And then it was around the time I was doing TV series “Hero” that CEO Jeong Hoon-tak made a decision. But just because he agreed to making it, it didn’t mean that the director and producer had also agreed to it. (laugh) It was while I was doing musical “Killer Jack” that I met the director for the first time. So I waited exactly a year for the movie to happen.
10: I thought it had all been planned out but it looks like you were waiting on it the whole time. (laugh) Why did you want to do this movie so badly?
Uhm: I’m still in the position where I have to be chosen. (laugh) The most fundamental criteria I look at when choosing a movie or drama is the character. I also tend to choose to play characters that I have never played before and my character as Byung-chul in “Vendetta” is the very example of such a case. For the longest time, I’ve also had a yearning to play a role like Gary Oldman’s in “Leon.” I was able to reenact the role of a psychopath serial killer based on my imagination because he is someone who you rarely get to experience in life, even indirectly.
Uhm prefers to also act characters that are out of the ordinary. He’d rather take risks in his roles by playing character that may not have their own back story (like his character in “Vendetta”). But just the same, he’s never really been a mainstream actor, so he mentioned that he’d like to be in a “cheerful romantic comedy for the big screen” or act as “a special agent on the small screen. Like a policeman or public official who is high on drugs. I want to do something related to drugs.” (See? Offbeat choices…)
10: It must’ve not been easy rehearsing for musical “Monte Cristo” because it overlapped with the filming for “Vendetta.” I heard you even had a nosebleed on the last show in Seoul.
Uhm: I think I caught a cold for the first time in 10 years. I was waiting for my cue on the last show and I felt my nose run so I wiped it, seeing it was red. Everybody ran to me, pressing my nose and blocking it. It was really hard trying to inhale it while singing and performing.
10: You had mostly performed in small or medium sized musicals for ten years and did big musicals starting in 2009. Are there any technical difficulties to that?
Uhm: I’ve done three grand-scale musicals and of them, “Monte Cristo” was the hardest. With “The Three Musketeers,” my character wasn’t too expressive so it was relatively okay but the songs were difficult and expressions very detailed with “Monte Cristo.” And it was even harder to relay those emotions to the third floor. I had to express myself well enough for a grand theater performance but I found my concentration breaking while trying to do that. My character had to express detailed emotions through his lines and reactions in “Monte Cristo” so it’s impossible to do that just though my movements. So “Monte Cristo” was a musical that has a limit to how much emotion can be delivered when shown in a large theater.
Uhm noted the difficulties between acting for the small screen and acting in a large theater. In a large theater – like the one for the musical “The Count of Monte Cristo,” his expressions would not be easily seen by people sitting in the back. In a small theater or in a television drama, everyone can see all of his facial expressions and so he would not be able to make a mistake.
He sounds like one of those really hard working actors who really put every effort into every detail. He reminds me of Lee Seon Kyun, who had his start in little-known dramas, and Kang Ji Hwan, whose also had experience in theater.
10: It seems that your way of thinking is still focused on one’s acting skills.
Uhm: I think everything will become better once my acting improves. Acting is also the only thing that I know how to do and can do. If I was not able to act for some reason starting now? I might commit suicide.
10: But don’t you have not enough time to look around if you focus on one thing so much?
Uhm: That’s why there is so much I don’t know. I don’t know slang or pop songs. And I don’t know the existence of other dramas. that’s why I talk a lot with my manager in the car. (laugh)
10: You said you want to do “Jekyll & Hyde” when you turn 35. You’re 35 this year.
Uhm: I said I would do it this year but they didn’t ask me to. I think Mr. Shin Choon-soo still considers me as a young boy because he let me appear in a musical when I was very young. (laugh) I’ll be doing a play called “Closer” from July to September and I’ve been begging to be given a role in a drama that I really want to do. (laugh) If I can’t do the drama, I’ll take a break. I like the sea and swimming so if I have to take a short break, I’ll go to the East Sea and if I can take a long break, I’m planning on going to Thailand. I heard the South Sea is nice too but I have to drive there myself so it can’t be too far away. (laugh)
The play “Closer” was also turned into a film that starred Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and Natalie Portman, about two couples who have intersecting affairs.
Here’s a trailer for the film with English subtitles, and you can read the full interview here.