I recently saw an interview in The Korea Times where you mentioned that you wanted to approach your character like a mystery. I still had a lot of questions about Sang-hyun at the end of the film, so I wanted to ask if you feel like you solved the mystery of your character, or if you still have questions about him as well.
Yeah, I agree with you in that I think this is a character that has no definitive answer to it. I think these characters are really a result of the environments that bear them and there isn’t really a precise answer to the questions that are posed in the film. And I don’t think pure good and pure evil exist. I think good and evil always coexist and just because you’re doing good things doesn’t mean you’re a good person and vice versa — just because you do evil things doesn’t make you an evil person. I feel that both are really a part of being alive, and the character that I play, while he is both warm and kind, he is in a situation in which he is doing things that are not very good. So, I can’t give you a definitive answer and this is sort of how I interpret this character.
I like that answer. You’ve done lots of work under Bong Joon-ho’s direction as well. A personal favorite of mine is “Memories of Murder,” your 2002 film, and I’m a big fan of the films that you’ve made with both Bong and this new film with Kore-eda. I was wondering how you felt that their directing styles differed, or if their personalities were at all similar to you?
Of course they’re from different countries, one is Korean and Japanese, so I would mention that. I mean, jokes aside, of course, every director, they have a focus on good and creative acting, so they share that in common for sure [laughs]. But in the way that Director Bong is very quintessentially Korean, Director Kore-eda is very quintessentially Japanese and it really shows in the specificity of their direction and the nuance in it. Initially going into this project, I thought they might have similar styles, but in fact, they have very contrasting styles and different worldviews as artists towards cinema.
I mean, I think it’s easy to have the conception that because Director Bong and I are both Korean, we will connect much easier, but there are ways that I found through working on this film that I really deeply connected with Director Kore-eda, and their kind of contrasting styles show. Like, Director Bong, he’s very detailed and he has a very precise way of directing, whereas Director Kore-eda, there’s a sense that he’s waiting for me and that I’m able to build my own character. It was very exciting to answer his waiting and questions as an actor and to fill in the blanks. So, I mean, I like both of them, but they have very different styles, and thinking that I wouldn’t connect with Kore-eda as much because of our different nationalities would be mistaken because I really do enjoy working with both of their unique styles of direction.