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The Good, The Bad, The Weird - Kim Jee Woon interview

The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Interview by Rob Carnevale

KIM Jee Woon talks about directing Oriental Western The Good, The Bad, The Weird and why the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone left such a lasting impression upon him… not to mention Mel Gibson’s Mad Max: The Road Warrior.

Q. What attracted you to this story?
Kim Jee Woon: For Western audiences, this is a familiar genre, but for Korean audiences, they’re not so familiar. So, I wanted to make it easier for people to enjoy and employed a traditional narrative with the odd twist. I did worry that the Western was a slightly outdated genre, so I also had to consider how to make it more entertaining. So, I put in more action than traditional westerns, as well as a lot of humour.

Q. How old were you when you first saw The Good, The Bad & The Ugly and what captured your imagination about it? What do you like about Sergio Leone as a director?
Kim Jee Woon: I loved the traditional American Western films, such as High Noon, Rio Bravo and Gunfight At The OK Corral. But they always adhered to too many American values and ideology. So, when I saw Sergio Leone’s films for the first time I was amazed at how unconventional they were and it gave me a fresh perspective. That’s what I wanted to try and give The Good, The Bad, The Weird… that unconventional feeling. I also liked the facial expressions of Leone’s characters. Another thing that’s fresh about Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy was that everyone was a bad guy – even the main character. For me, it was so much more realistic.

Q. What other films influenced the making of this?
Kim Jee Woon: I really love Mad Max: The Road Warrior. Before we started making this movie, I showed some clips from Mad Max to members of my film crew, including the stuntmen, and said: “Let’s make a film that’s even more faster, exciting and action packed than this!” They were like: “What kind of film are we making?!” But there are also elements of Blade Runner and Ben Hur.

Q. This is the most expensive film in Korean film history. How did you cope with the responsibility of that?
Kim Jee Woon: Actually, there’s another film that is very CGI-driven and the budget on that is actually three times more than this film. But without CGI, you’re right, this is very expensive. But while it was difficult to raise the money while filming, I think it has turned out to be a very entertaining film and I’m very pleased with it.

Q. How was shooting on location in China?
Kim Jee Woon: Well, one of the biggest factors was the heat, because we were filming in August. It was like 40 celsius, so that was difficult. The chase sequence at the end was also very difficult because the horses kept going in different directions and it was a very big landscape to try and capture. Actually, we had to make a 30 kilometre new road for that sequence!

Q. You’ve made comedies, gangster movies, horror movies… is that a deliberate career move? To be diverse? And how do you choose projects?
Kim Jee Woon: I’ve worked with a wide range of genres because, at first, I didn’t know what I could do well or bad [laughs]. I’d really like to do a thriller and a sci-fi movie. This year, for instance, I’ve been really into No Country For Old Men, by the Coen brothers, and Zodiac, by David Fincher. So, I would like to make a film in that genre.

Read our review of The Good, The Bad, The Weird