Go to contents

“Heaven’s Soldiers”: Movie and Life of Park Joong-hoon and Kim Seung-woo

“Heaven’s Soldiers”: Movie and Life of Park Joong-hoon and Kim Seung-woo

Posted June. 24, 2005 05:54,   


The actor Park Joong-hoon has turned forty this year. Despite his youthful vigor, he’s now over the hill. In the virtual history movie “Heaven’s Soldiers” set to premiere on July 15, he will play Admiral Yi Sun-shin. Kim Seung-woo (36), who plays the part of North Korean sergeant Kang Min-gil, is a happy newlywed. It’s been six years since the two actors have become the kind of friends who “‘meet, drink all night, and say goodbye with the morning sun behind them.” Park Joong-hoon has acted as Kim Seung-woo’s mentor since the latter’s divorce in 2000. The two actors met on June 16 at a café in Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam, Seoul on June 16, and talked about life, movies, and friendship.

On Aging and Acting-

Park Joong-hoon: Turning forty was a shock. It feels strange. During the past couple of years, I’ve turned forty, celebrated the twentieth anniversary of my acting career, celebrated the tenth year of my marriage, and seen my eldest become a teenager.

Kim Seung-woo: You follow your path meticulously. But you’ve started recognizing and expressing the “right” path for forty-somethings to take. For me turning thirty was a shock. I never thought it would happen. I wanted to be careful, but I haven’t even been that careful after all.

Park: I changed my living pattern a lot this year. Since January 1, I’ve quit drinking, and my depth of empathy and patience has also increased during the past six months. It’s embarrassing to say this about myself, but I’ve become more of a family man.

Kim: I don’t think it’s because you meet your colleagues less often or because you’ve quit drinking. When we meet you always talk about family and home.

Park: I didn’t know that.

Kim: Actually, I decided to take the part in “Heaven’s Soldiers” because of you. But it wasn’t a role I was used to, so it was a bit of a pressure. Director Min Joon-ki told me that the name Kang Min-gil derives from the phrase “the path of strong people,” which is how I came to understand the role.

Park: I don’t think I’ve made any novel discoveries by acting in this movie, but I think I’ve adjusted to the level that the movie was aiming at. Actors that have been on the screen for a long time are rarely told that they act well unless they really make an impact on the audience. New actors are like strikers in the soccer field; if you score a goal you’re a hero, but older actors are more like Hong Myung-bo. If you support the team well, it’s something that’s taken for granted, but it’s hard to actually score a goal.

Kim: In this movie, you, I, Hwang Jung-min (cast in the role of South Korean sergeant Park Jung-woo), and Gong Hyo-jin (playing the nuclear physicist Kim Soo-yeon) were all fantastic in terms of team play.

Park: I think Jung-min acts well. But you? When you act you have to have a sense of mystery. But I know you too well, and when I look at you I can see what you’re feeling. You probably feel the same way about me, too. You act well, but I can’t really tell, you see. It’s not that you don’t act well. Maybe Choi Min-sik from “Old Boy” might shock even those familiar to his acting style. But I don’t know about “Heaven’s Soldiers.” I really don’t. I don’t know what our viewers think nowadays. Working in this field longer somehow confuses me more. Maybe it’s because I have more thoughts in my head. Strange.

A Sense of Balance, All of One Mind-

Kim: Last year, we were drinking together till dawn and finally parted ways, but you called me at around 11:00 in the morning. After this and that you said that I looked unstable, that I needed stability in my life. After the conversation I was in a daze the whole day. I didn’t think of remarrying up till then. It was at that moment that I realized that to become a good actor I needed stability in my life.

Park: After that decision you seemed much more comfortable with yourself. You’re a bit hypersensitive. When you’re in distress you can’t overcome it and you begin panicking. Of course artists should have an element of distress in order to produce a work of art, but you were just destroying yourself. You were past your mid-thirties, but you weren’t married and you had too many thoughts to yourself, so that’s why I suggested that you marry someone that would understand you. I was so happy to hear that you decided to get married. I was happy to hear that you plan to have a baby soon.

Kim: You’re the center of Korean male actors. Four, five years ago you set up a group of Korean male actors, with yourself as the focal point. If it wasn’t for you, who else could have done it?

Park: I have a long resume when you take my age into account. I’m the last generation from the period when Chungmuro was where movies were at. Ahn Seong-gi started relatively late in age, while I started early, so that’s why we overlap a lot, but actors of my age like Song Kang-ho, Seol Gyung-gu or Han Seok-gyu started ten years later than I did, so we don’t share much. It would be an exaggeration to say I’m lonely, but I was a little confused at times. The part where we all agreed upon was “It’s all good and all, but aren’t we just too lonely.”

Kim: I like the year-end parties that we’ve been having since 2000.

Park: Yeah, Shin Hyun-joon, Jang Dong-gun, Jung Woo-sung, and even Jo In-sung and Kang Dong-won joins us. It was fun teasing In-sung and Dong-won, telling them to “judge the acting skills of Ahn Seong-gi, Choi Min-sik, and Seol Gyung-gu.”

Kim: People don’t know that actors don’t get together much and that they’re not that close with one another. That’s why we should set up a bronze statue of Park Joong-hoon next to Na Un-gyu.

Park: Hey, I said that was a joke.

Dong-Yong Min mindy@donga.com