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Too Handsome

Posted June. 08, 2006 03:01,   


If “Something Happened in Bali” was a TV drama that made Jo In-sung (25) famous as a TV actor, “A Dirty Carnival,” scheduled to be released on June 15, will likely to establish him as a movie actor.

In the movie directed by Yoo Ha, the director of “The Cruel History of Maljuk Street,” Jo In-sung stars as “Byung-du,” a third rate gangster who lifts himself out of poverty, dreams of success, but falls due to the very reasons why he succeeds. In the movie, he looks young and sounds young, but he wields a knife ruthlessly. The “gangster who is not like other gangsters” creates a curious reality in the movie. This reporter met Jo In-sung on June 6.

You are too handsome for a gangster-

“The moment the shooting starts I forget about my face. People say that a brilliant performance cannot be expected of handsome actors. But I was not born like this because I wanted to. Even if I look like this, I never, even for one second, have stopped making all efforts to act, and have always been serious about acting.”

Indeed, among “character actors,” handsome actors are hard to find-

“My appearance can either harm or benefit me. However, I can become as good an actor as those character actors by making the effort, but character actors cannot look like me no matter how much they try. I am proud of myself because I make efforts to achieve goals as an actor if those goals are achievable.”

Your record as a movie actor has been poor compared to your success in TV dramas. Your previous film, "Namnam-buknyeo,” made me wonder, “Why did Jo In-sung decide to star in the movie?”-

“I am good at expressing intense emotions, but I don’t perform confidently when emotions are not intense. I learned that from "Namnam-buknyeo,” and that experience (a failure at the box office) was a valuable lesson for me. I want to be an actor whose end is more beautiful than his beginning.”

Your face shows two contrary images. It is bright on one hand, but dark and full of pathos on the other. It may be because of the wrinkles in your face-

“My father has wrinkles in his face just like me. People suggested me to try Botox injections, but I don’t like the idea. I love my wrinkles, because they show my life.”

You lived in a semi-underground house because of financial difficulty that your family was in. For me, your real life curiously overlaps with the life of “Byung-du,” who struggles to lift himself out of poverty-

“I went through the Asian financial crisis just like all other Korean people. Just like in the movie, which is filled with betrayals, people betrayed my father, didn’t pay back their debts and ran away. We had no choice but to live in the semi-underground house because we had no income. The semi-underground house has both merits and demerits. It is really cool in the summer. But lots of fungi sprout because of the high humidity (laughter). It may have been because of this experience that I did not feel uncomfortable in the slum where Byung-du lives in the movie.”

You earn a lot, but you did not move into a big apartment in the southern part of Seoul like other actors do-

“What for? I attended elementary school in Cheonho-dong, middle school in Cheonho-dong and high school in Cheonho-dong. All of my friends live in Cheonho-dong. If I move to the southern part of Seoul, I have to come to Cheonho-dong to hang out and drink with my friends. Going back and forth appeared to be cumbersome to me. I love to do things the way I used to.

Byung-du abruptly kisses Hyun-ju (played by Lee Bo-young), his alumna from the elementary school, and asks her “Would you go out on a date with me?” How is Jo In-sung in real love life?-

“I make the first move. If I feel certain of my feelings, I don’t drag my feet. I make my feelings known without any ambiguity. If the woman says “No” at first try, it’s O.K. I try for the second time. But if she says “No” again, I give up her without hesitance.”

What kind of a woman would you like to marry?-

“A wise woman.”

What do you mean by a “wise woman?”-

“Let’s say I earn one million won and bring that money home. By a wise woman I mean a woman who can grow that money.”

Isn’t it a woman who is good at finances?”-

“Oh, it’s not that (laughter). I mean a woman who makes me feel comfortable so that I can do acting without anything weighing on my mind. A woman who grows not only money but also my mind.”

Quoting his line in the movie, “What is a family? A family consists of mouths that eat at the same table,” he said, “Why do I act if I can not protect even my family and parents? If I cannot protect my family and parents, I would not be worth much as a human being, let alone as an actor.” After the interview, posing for a photo op with this reporter, Jo In-sung who is 186cm was considerate enough to lower himself to the height of this reporter like a giraffe drinking water.

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com