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Hyun Bin's "Happy" is unhappy

최종수정 2009.11.16 17:53기사입력 2009.11.16 16:23

From left, actor Hyun Bin, director Yoon Jong-chan and actress Lee Bo-young pose during a photo session of a press conference for film "I Am Happy" held at a CJ CGV theatre in Seoul on November 13, 2009. [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]

A man and woman sit leaning back-to-back against each other under the sun with subtle smiles on their lips. A happy looking actor Hyun Bin and actress Lee Bo-young fill up the poster for film "I Am Happy" but the chance to see them laugh in the film itself comes rarely. The press conference for "Happy" was held at a CJ CGV theatre in Seoul on Friday, showing just how deep the paradox of the movie's title runs.

Man-soo, played by Hyun, becomes a megalomania patient after his heavy gambler older brother flees the household leaving behind an enormous debt and a mother suffering from dementia. Life is a living hell for nurse Soo-kyung, played by Lee, who is also a terminal-stage rectal cancer patient and has debt from looking after her sick dad. Man-soo and Soo-kyung meet as patient and nurse at a mental ward of a hospital and become consolation for each other throughout to see them throughout their harsh reality.

The film, directed by Yoon Jong-chan of "Sorum" and "Blue Swallow", is set to meet with the audience on November 26, over a year after it closed last year's Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF).

Below are excerpts from the press conference attended by the two lead actors and director Yoon.

Actor Hyun Bin smiles during a press conference for film "I Am Happy" held at a CJ CGV theatre in Seoul on November 13, 2009. [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: Is there a particular reason you decided to make a movie based on book "Mr. Cho Man-deuk" by writer Lee Chung-joon who is famous for writing the stories on which films "Secret Sunshine" and "Seopyonje" are based on?
Yoon Jong-chan (Yoon): I liked the story which talks about a man who goes crazy because he can't bear the weight of reality and I thought I could do an adaption of it on film. Lee told me that the book is based on a true story that he heard from his friend.

Q: The characters in the story are far from happy, unlike the title of the film which is "I Am Happy
Yoon: It's a paradoxical statement. In a way, Man-soo is happy because he goes crazy due from his miserable life. I think life is very indifferent because it goes on regardless of that person's burdens in life or whether they go crazy or not. But I also felt that the fact of being alive, just in that itself, could be considered a blessing especially after seeing the main characters go back to their normal lives after overcoming their difficulties. The movie may seem serious overall but in way, I think viewers may also feel an emotional catharsis. Many people are going through rough times especially with the confusion in society these days but paradoxically, they might be consoled after watching Man-soo and Soo-kyung overcome their difficult situation.

Q: You play a character who suffers from megalomania which must have not been easy to prepare for. And actors usually have a hard time coming back to their normal lives after taking on such strong roles.
Hyun Bin (Hyun): I talked a lot with the director because I haven't experienced megalomania before. And I also went to a mental hospital to speak with patients suffering from the condition. I did a lot of talking with the director and actress Lee Bo-young after watching movies about mental conditions, and that helped indirectly. And the director and I also rehearsed every look and move I make to express a patient suffering from megalomania. I had thought I'm someone who breaks away quite quickly from the characters I play in movies but it lasted a bit longer this time. I got used to putting on this non-focused, dull look Man-soo has in his eyes and it ended up interfering with my other movie. (laugh)

Q: Your character Man-soo is sadistic to an extent that it seems you may have tested your limit as an actor. Did you choose to take on the role to change up your acting?
Hyun: I wasn't in the right situation nor the right age range to play Man-soo when I first looked at the initial scenario. But I realized I couldn't help myself from smiling while looking at the depressing and miserable scenerio. (laugh) I felt a queer attraction to it while wondering 'Why am I laughing while looking at it?' I wasn't sure that I would play Man-soo's character well or express him well. And it wasn't so that I could change up my acting. One of the director's desires for this film was to portray Man-soo as he is, not show a Hyun Bin who is taking on a different kind of role.

Actress Lee Bo-young smiles during a press conference for film "I Am Happy" held at a CJ CGV theatre in Seoul on November 13, 2009. [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: Lee, you must have wanted to look pretty on screen as you are an actress but it seems you put that aside and really gave your everything for the role.
Lee Bo-young: I've never tried to look pretty while playing any of my characters. (laugh) I felt that I really should become my character Soo-kyung while filming "Happy" and I really wanted to do a good job with my acting so I didn't think of anything else. I didn't have time to think of how I look. (laugh)

10: Hyun Bin, you recently got cast for director Kim Tae-yong's remake of Korean pic "Manchu" alongside Chinese actress Tang Wei. How is it going?
Hyun: The whole film will be shot in Seattle. So I've been in the United States the whole time but came to Korea briefly for this movie. (laugh) We'll start filming in December.

Q: Like the title of the film, when was your most happiest moment?
Hyun: I actually like the time I spend preparing for a movie or drama rather than when I actually go into shoot. (laugh) And I'm in that stage right now for my next film so I'm always happy these days.
Lee: I realized that I'm a very fortunate person while filming this movie. I was happy just with the fact that I am living. I value every little occurance in life these days.
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