|Korean actress Jeon Do-youn [Asia Economic Daily]|
Jeon Do-youn was called the "Queen of Cannes" after she won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in the film "Secret Sunshine".
Although winning a trophy at Cannes cannot be the absolute criterion for anything, it is worth remembering that so far only two Asian actresses -- Jeon and Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung -- have been named best actress at a world-renowned film event like Cannes.
Even among European and North American actresses, who usually monopolize the competition at film fests, only four have bagged the best lead actress trophy at Cannes -- Vanessa Redgrave, Barbara Hershey, Helen Mirren and Isabelle Huppert.
This is the reason that one cannot help but make a fuss that Jeon has scored another nomination as best actress for her role in director Im Sang-soo's film "The Housemaid".
◆ Jeon says "I feel more calm about the second Cannes invitation because it is an honor."
She reflected back upon her best actress win at Cannes in 2007.
"When I first heard that [film "Secret Sunshine"] had made it into the Competition category at Cannes, I didn't really know much about the festival or how significant it was. But after I won, I realized just how big an award it is. Now I understand what an honor it is just to make the nominations, regardless of whether you win or not, so I felt more calm than excited when I heard about the invitation."
"Housemaid" is an erotic, suspense movie which tells a provocative story of Eun-yi (played by Jeon), a housemaid working for a rich, upper-class family who starts having an affair with the husband (played by Lee Jung-jae). Actresses Seo Woo and Yoon Yeo-jeong also star in the film. As the housemaid and title character, Jeon leads the film -- and perfectly qualified to score another win at Cannes.
When told fans were expecting a second best actress title, Jeon laughed and remarked, "If you say something like that, I won't be able to keep acting." She then curtly added, "A film festival is not the Olympics," and only laughed when asked whether she had prepared an acceptance speech.
◆ "I chose 'Housemaid' because of director Im Sang-soo"
Jeon had been linked to Cannes through three of her films; her 2000 film "Happy End" by director Jung Ji-woo was invited to the Critics' Week section, and she snagged the best actress trophy in 2007 for her role in Lee Chang-dong's "Secret Sunshine" which made the competition category. "Housemaid" will mark her third appearance at Cannes.
"The most important reason that I chose to do 'Housemaid' was that Im Sang-soo was going to direct the picture," she said. "I saw the original film but I just watched it thinking it was just a completely different movie, not reference. You could say that Im Sang-soo's "Housemaid" is a separate film from the original."
As the film has not been revealed to the public yet, many fans are anticipating what new and different side Jeon will be able to show through "Housemaid." It is hard to explain in detail, but Jeon exuded an indescribable confidence and firmly stated, "I never want to do acting where I can play it safe," further fueling curiosity about her turn in "Housemaid".
"At first, I had a hard time understanding the absolute innocence of Eun-yi. When you are acting, you have to think about why your character is behaving a certain way and understand the validity of her actions. But it was hard to do that with Eun-yi because she was faithful to her desires and instincts and seemed like a different person one minute to the next. So it was difficult to express that, but I played the character thinking that I could be Eun-yi."
About her skin-bearing scenes in the movie, she explained that "it won't be shocking in a visual sense. But the bed scenes are the beginning of tension in the film and they are important because that is when the story develops."
Jeon further pumped up the anticipation, saying "This version of 'Housemaid' is clearly different from the original work and you can discover the spontaneity and unique personality of director Im Sang-soo through various scenes in the movie."
"Housemaid" opens in Korea on May 13, a day after Cannes Film Festival kicks off. The phrase "coming soon in theaters" has never been more appropriate for Jeon than the present.