The Good, The Bad, The Weird - Lee Byhung Hun interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
LEE Byhung Hun talks about making Oriental Western The Good, The Bad, The Weird in China and why the role came as a surprise to some of his fans, especially as it was his first bad guy.
He also talks a bit about making his American debut in two forthcoming films: I Come With The Rain with Josh Hartnett and GI Joe.
Q. Was The Good, The Bad, The Weird as fun to make as it was to watch?
Lee Byhung Hun: Thank you very much. Yeah, it was kind of fun because this was my first villain role.
Q. Were you a fan of the spaghetti westerns that influenced it?
Lee Byhung Hun: I watched them when I was seven or eight-years-old, so mostly I’d forgotten them. I was going to watch them again when I decided to do this film, but then changed my mind because I didn’t want to find myself copying them.
Q. Was there anything else that inspired your performance?
Lee Byhung Hun: Not really. I just read the script and tried to amplify the bad character inside of me [smiles]. At some moments, I think I changed my eyes and my behaviour.
Q. Did you enjoy being the bad guy?
Lee Byhung Hun: Yes, this was a very new experience for me and I realised that I do have this kind of ability to tap into those types of emotions. It was surprising to find so many aspects of myself that I didn’t know existed. Kim Jee Woon [the director] was surprised, too, because the previous times we’ve worked together he didn’t know I could play the bad guy. Ironically, he gave me the chance to select which character I wanted to play, from the good or the bad. So, finally I asked him what he wanted me to play, and he replied: “How about the bad guy?”
Q. How have your fans reacted to you playing a villain?
Lee Byhung Hun: Some of my Japanese fans were worried about that because I’ve never done it before. They’ve been watching me play the good guy – usually someone who is very nice and romantic. So, they were worried before the screening. But they’ve been really satisfied with the way it turned out.
Q. What do you think it is about The Good, The Bad, The Weird that inspires people?
Lee Byhung Hun: First of all, it’s an homage to a Western that everybody liked. Then, it’s an Oriental Western – and there’s not been too many of those. It also has a lot of comedy, twists and is very action-packed.
Q. What is it about Kim Jee Woon that attracts you to his films?
Lee Byhung Hun: He can make the stories to interesting and fun. He never loses the details. He always cares about the set, the props and wardrobe… everything. He must get a headache sometimes, because he’s got such an eye for detail. And that’s what actors like to work with.
Q. Was there ever any sense of competition between you and your co-stars given the nature of the screenplay?
Lee Byhung Hun: We’ve been asked that a lot by Japanese journalists and it did cross our minds when we first started filming. But when we got into the desert in China, we couldn’t have time to think about it. The environment was so hard… not only because of the action sequences, but the environment was tough. Sometimes we couldn’t breathe because of the sand storms. Everything was so awkward and uncomfortable, so we had to help each other and couldn’t afford to be competitive with each other. We were just so happy to be part of a team. Sometimes, we even had a soccer game. There were no actresses… it was only guys. It was like being in the army.
Q. Were you disappointed by the lack of actresses having played so many romantic leads before?
Lee Byhung Hun: Yeah, actually [laughs]. But the fact that it was guys only meant we could talk about anything, get naked… talk about girls.
Q. Can you identify something particularly good, bad and weird about the shoot?
Lee Byhung Hun: When I watched myself on the monitor, I looked so cold – so that was good. The other actors were better than me, so that’s bad! But then when everyone watched the movie, they all said they liked all the characters… so that was kind of weird [laughs].
Q. Did you perform many of the stunts yourself? Especially in terms of the fight sequences?
Lee Byhung Hun: Most Korean actors know how to kick because everybody learned Tae Kwon Do in school and in the Army too. I can use those kind of skills. It’s not a big deal – action scenes aren’t a big deal. If it involves learning how to do some dangerous things, I’d have a conversation with the director and decide whether or not I want to do it.
Q. What was the most dangerous thing you were asked to do on this?
Lee Byhung Hun: Actually, riding horses was dangerous because there were a lot of explosions. And they’re not a machine, so we didn’t know how they were going to react to the explosions. That made me nervous. They were so fast – so they’d be going straight, and then suddenly changing direction following the explosions.
Q. Had you ridden a horse before?
Lee Byhung Hun: No, this was my first time riding a horse. First day, I went to a horse riding place and learned for an hour. But I then broke my ankle later that day in my house by accident. So, I couldn’t learn anymore. And then, after one month, I had to fly to China. I’d had perhaps another 10 lessons, but once in China it was a totally different environment. There’s no mountains, only desert. The horses were so different. So, I literally learned as I went.
Q. Did you get saddle sore?
Lee Byhung Hun: It was so intense that we couldn’t feel the pain. But afterwards, I realised I had a lot of bruises. It was so tiring and I was exhausted.
Q. How was making your Hollywood debut in GI Joe, and what does it mean for your career?
Lee Byhung Hun: I’ve actually had two experiences… firstly, on I Come With The Rain with Josh Hartnett, and the other for GI Joe with Stephen Sommers [directing]. They were quite good experiences, even though it was also quite awkward. It was so different… the systems, the special language. Basically, I’ve been working in Korea and I don’t want to lose my fans there. But if I can get the chance to do both and work in Hollywood again, then why not? So long as they have good projects for me to do I’ll be happy going back and forth.
Q. Does that mean you get your own action figure, having done GI Joe?
Lee Byhung Hun: Yeah, it’s coming out. I was really surprised. My head was like this [gestures really small size] and I could still see myself, even though it’s so tiny.
Q. How does the production process differ between American and Korean films?
Lee Byhung Hun: Time is really important on American movies. They don’t want to waste any money, so we always had to gather at 6am each day. Sometimes, I feel they’re too logical. In Korea, they’ll decide after the shoot that we’ll get back together at, say, noon. It’s more like a family in Korea.
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
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- Lee Byhung Hun interview
- Kim Jee Woon interview
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