Director Lee Jeong-hyang who directed “The Way Home” (2002) had a video call with the main actress of the film Kim Eul-bun on Friday night. Kim was weak because of her health issues, but still had the same expression in her eyes. “I will visit you once the COVID-19 situation gets better. Hang in there,” Lee told Kim.
But Kim died of old age on Saturday morning at the age of 95. A photo taken during the interview with The Dong-A Ilbo in 2002 was used as her portrait at the funeral. “She was ill for two years because of her old age before she passed away,” said her daughter-in-law. “They said she may get better after a few days,” Lee said while bursting into tears in a phone call with this reporter on Sunday.
The film describes stories of a seven-year-old boy from Seoul when he visits his grandmother living in a remote mountain village where there is no TV. Kim took the role of a speech-impaired 77-year-old grandmother took takes care of her grandson Sang-woo. Many found the chemistry between her and actor Yoo Seung-ho who took a role of the grandson deeply moving. A lot of audiences cried watching it. The film was successful, attracting 4.3 million moviegoers. Kim who had no background in acting was nominated as the best new actress award for the Daejong Film Awards, which made her the oldest new actress in history.
Lee looked for an actress who meets three conditions — Someone with a neat bun, a hunched posture and a small physique so that a seven-year-old can defy against her. After searching everywhere, she found her at Jitongma village in Yeongdong County, North Chungcheong Province.
Kim, who had no knowledge about how the film ended, cried a lot while watching the scene where she sends off her grandson. Lee had a fond relationship with her grandmother when she was young. The director inserted a sentence “To all the grandmothers in this country” at the end of the film to express her love toward her grandmother that Lee could not say to her before she passed away.