For this actor, a change of a role is playing someone other than a son of a billionaire. He will star as a dim-witted guy on the big screen and he will kiss top actress Shin Min-ah in a commercial. He will be heartthrob Jang Dong-gun’s younger brother in another film and he will say on a TV show that his good looks is what he worries about. But no one will say anything against this. Because he is Won Bin. 10 Asia looks into the past ten years of his career to divulge what this actor is really about -- behind the pretty face.
Movie star. Won Bin wanted to become a movie star after watching Choi-starrer “Terrorist” in high school. “I thought celebrities had the easiest job in the world -- going overseas for a break after a drama or film,” Won Bin had said. But his thoughts changed after he debuted. “I never knew it would be this hard. For me it’s like hard labor.” And he actually knows what he is talking about. He once piled up bricks for a little over a dollar per pile and he also sold self-picked herbs in a market when he used to spend a lot lone time with his family busy with school and work. This probably explains why he avoids appearing in TV shows or doing interviews when possible.
Fashion designer. He took notice of Won Bin during the early years of his career and set him on his stage. Won Bin started to become famous after his debut fashion show, signing with an agency right away. “I will never do what I don’t want to do,” was one of the terms of contract laid forth by this actor. This would have never been an option for the typical start-up actor. But who could have said anything against this guy who became an actor one day simply through a profile photograph his sister submitted of him wearing one of the relatively nicer clothes in his wardrobe. Then one day, one of the most famous fashion designers in the country takes notice of him and is picked up by an agency. Of course, not everyone should follow suit.
Actor who starred in TV series “Kkokji” with Won Bin. “Is that the best you can act? Do it again!” he said at the time, scolding Won Bin to do better. Won Bin had the “pretty boy” image from previous dramas and commercials but took on “Kkokji” because he wanted to “try playing the role of a real scamp”, he had told his manager. Sauntering around in nothing but a tank top and boxers became a new acting experience for him. Won Bin had said Myung-tae, a scamp who grew up in the outskirts of the suburbs resembles who he is in reality the most. Won Bin does not do anything in particular to take care of his skin other than by sweating playing sports, he does not wear accessories and he does not wear ties because he says he feels stuffy in them.
TV series producer. He produced “Propose” and “Autumn Fairytale”. Yun is said to have just nodded after taking a moment’s glance at Won Bin. And the next day Won Bin was appearing as a man with a big dog in “Propose”. He was also cast relatively early to TV series “Autumn Fairytale” and received acting lessons twice a week while studying his character. “Tae-suk was very different from who I am so the whole time it felt like I was wearing the wrong clothes,” Won Bin said of his role in the hit TV series much later on. But his role as the son from a wealthy family bought him his image as “a pretty boy who knows how to act.” He has never played such a role ever since but he continues to carry on his classy image in TV commercials even till today.
Producer of Won Bin’s debut film “Guns and Talks”. After the success of “Autumn Fairytale”, instead of taking on a similar character, he expanded his scope of acting by playing the role of an absent-minded killer. Won Bin made a smooth entry into the movie industry with the pic and ever since, has only been starring in movies -- a field where “actors have time to communicate emotionally,” he has said. He had never become close with his co-actors previously but had to be carried home once after a heavy night of drinking with actors from “Guns and Talks”. Jang had once said, “He’s an actor who you want to find out more about the more you meet him."
Won Bin says he felt “too shy working with such a good-looking actor” as Jang. They first met when Won Bin walked on Andre Kim’s runway and later on, Jang appeared as a special cast member to play the role of his older brother in “Ready, Go!” They met again as brothers in “Taegukgi” which attracted over 10 million viewers to theaters. “Even after the movie, he always asks how I’m doing and encourages me. I’m always thankful,” Won Bin said of the actor. Both stars usually appear in movies in which they do not flaunt their good looks, they have been acknowledged to have better-than-average acting skills and they both maximize the attractiveness of their outward appearance through television commercials. In his past movies and TV series, Won Bin has not taken lead roles but crucial supporting roles that leave stronger impressions. As long as he picks the right script, his choices relieve him from the pressure to take on full responsibility for being a ‘top star’. On a side note, the producers of “Taegukgi” said Jang won by a slim gap in a vote on who looks better in person.
Co-star from “Guns and Talks” and “My Brother”. He is one of Won Bin’s closets actor friends. But the two, both famous for being reserved, say they once even just sat in the car for 40 minutes without speaking a word. “Celebrities are usually good at everything -- from singing to dancing to talking -- but I don’t have any talent to speak of,” Won Bin said of himself. “They always ask the same questions,” he commented referring to interviews. Which is why he is an actor with one of the strongest star qualities in Korea, yet with the least facts known about. He might be the last of the generation which can survive from his ‘acting’ and ‘image’.
His mother in “Mother”, a pic helmed by director Bong Joon-ho. With the film, Won Bin was able to make a successful comeback to the big screen even after a three year gap completing the country’s mandatory military service. It became a new turning point for his acting career. The role Do-jun he took on in the film could actually have been taken on by someone not as outwardly attractive as him. And the mentally challenged character transformed Won Bin into a prime suspect who is possible of doing just about everything because he does not know anything. The Won Bin before “Mother” used to change his image produced by his outward appearance in various ways. But “Mother” relied solely on how Won Bin, beyond his image, would interpret his character. From his childhood when he lived his life without regard to his looks, to the early years of his career when he accepted his looks, to the times when he tried to live as someone different from his looks -- and now -- Won Bin may now be entering a new phase where he is a real actor who also just happens to be good-looking. By the time the wrinkles start appearing on his face, he may actually be “an actor who stands out for the role he takes” as he so wishes to be. Of course, he is just still too attractive.
Senior Reporter : Kang Myoung-Seok firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor : Jessica Kim email@example.com
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