After I’ve read some press coverage on Gangnam Blues and finding out that most of them talked about the film in positive light, I felt a bit more secure.
When someone says LEE Min-ho, we think of your TV drama characters GU Joon-pyo in Boys over Flowers (2009) and KIM Tan in The Heirs (2013). To become a gang member in Gangnam Blues, what kind of changes to your image did you have to work on?
Choosing Gangnam Blues wasn’t a choice I made to change into a manly character or to escape from the idol image I had through previous works. I had always thought I would like to work on a film once I’ve become mature enough. That was when I received the screenplay from director YOO. He waited for me for a year while I finished up taping for The Heirs and I’m thankful that I was able to do my first film with him.
You’re a leader of the Hallyu trend. You must have wanted to do your best as it’s your first film in a lead role.
I always clear my schedule a month before any new project. In that time, I refresh myself, both body and soul before starting something new. But after The Heirs, I had a lot of schedules in China and felt like I didn’t have enough time to get myself prepared. But once we started shooting, YOO trusted my performance and it worked out.
What kind of character do you play in Gangnam Blues?
My character Jong-dae is not a super ambitious character. He wanted a normal life with a family and a house. So while under the skins of Jong-dae, I tried to portray a person who is running towards the better life and trying to run away from the bad times. I wanted to show that he wanted to escape from the present. I personally had some tough years of my own, and I wanted to express it through Jong-dae’s life.
Jong-dae’s piercing stare reminds me of the character you played in Public Enemy Returns (2008).
Director YOO also told me that he liked my eyes in Public Enemy Returns. During that time, the hungry eyes were very real. But maybe life has become better for me. YOO told me my stare has changed, and I put in a lot of effort to bring back that raw look.
Due to your popularity in Asia, Gangnam Blues was presold to many countries.
The reason why I have to work so hard is because I need to be responsible. Many fans in Korea and China are waiting for my next work. If I want to be proud in front of my fans, I feel like I should keep on working hard. With Boys over Flowers, I’ve earned a lot of fandom especially from China. There will come a time when I will look back at the past and say, “those were my golden years.” I want to make sure that I won’t regret anything when that day comes.
What changed the most after starring in a film?
I was able to act as much as I want, and I feel like I’ve really become an actor. There was a team dinner after finishing Public Enemy Returns. At the gathering, I was amazed by the minds of film professionals and admired them. Through Gangnam Blues, I had the same experience. When the staff members relate to what I felt as a character, we became one through the film. That experience was priceless.