|Kwon Sang-woo [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]|
Kwon Sang-woo is back to wearing a school uniform. He who placed films "My Tutor Friend" and "The Spirit of Jeet Kun Do" atop the local box office with roles as a high school student, is back as a student soldier full of rebelliousness in "71 Into the Fire" about the Korean War. Now a father of a son, a school uniform might have not been the right character for him to play. But in "Fire," based on the true story of 71 student soldiers who fought against one of the most elite troops of the North Korean army, Kwon's eyes and expressions are the very eyes and expressions of a student soldier full of vehemence. The wailing directed to the oppressive system of Korean high schools that his character Hyun-soo let out in "Jeet Kun Do," has taken on an intensity that goes between life and death to save his country and his colleagues. 10Asia sat down to speak with Kwon who says the sacrifices the student soldiers made was "noble and heartbreaking."
10: How did you feel after the first press screening for the movie?
Kwon Sang-woo: It's honestly up to the heavens to decide whether something will make it big or not. But I have faith that it won't turn a blind eye on us. (laugh) I like the emotions that films contain. The death of the student soldiers will touch your heart as you go towards the end.
10: Choi Seung-hyun (T.O.P) seemed to cry a lot while watching the movie.
Kwon: Yes, he cried quite a lot. (laugh) But I understand how he feels because "71 Into the Fire" is his first film. I think I knew nothing either when I was his age. How the tears flowed after I shot my last action scene in "Spirit of Jeet Kun Do." I think that might be what he felt.
10: I heard you had a hard time with the filming because it was so cold this winter.
Kwon: We shot from last November to early April and it was so cold. When we shot the scene in the field of reeds, the wind was so strong that our tent flew away. And we'd feel heavy because we'd be wearing two sets of long johns each while sweating at the same time so it was quite tough.
10: Do you think that once again, the film will do well because you're wearing a school uniform for your role? It's happened everytime so far. And are you not concerned, as an actor, that your character will become fixed in such a way?
Kwon: I think people see me in that way because the movies I've worn school uniforms in have always been successful. I don't know, maybe I should star in movies where I wear a school uniform all the time. (laugh)
Kwon: You can consider Choi's character as the narrator of the film and the one-dimensional main character while Koo is the character who is led by his own emotions when the main incident of the movie starts. He goes through very strong emotional ups and downs and I paid a lot of attention to it because he's an important character to the film. You can take it that the film actually starts when he loses his friend and goes crazy.
10: Your character Koo Gap-jo takes charge of the other student soldiers with his physical strength. Were you ever similar to him in any way when you were younger?
Kwon: I had fun but I never stepped out of line. I was goofy but I was classy about the things I did. (laugh) I also studied enough while fighting and goofing off to the extent that it would go unnoticed. I was famous for being the strongest guy in our school up till elementary school but the kids started growing really fast in middle school... they grew very tall and that's when I started getting beat up a lot. (laugh)
10: Then it must have significance to you in doing a movie in a school setting with such memories about your schooldays.
Kwon: It does have significance. "Jeet Kun Do" had significance to me in that I played a role in a school which is the miniature version of society and "Fire" too because I had to play the role of a student soldier who sacrifices his life for his country and embrace a much larger society -- namely North and South Korea.
10: The emotions between Oh Jang-beom (played by Choi Seung-hyun) and Koo Gap-jo (Kwon Sang-woo) change in the final scene when they fight against the North Korean army.
Kwon: I considered that scene to be the most important because it introduces Koo's background. It is where the one of the larger themes emerges -- that he wasn't a student but he was happy to be one after volunteering for it to save his country. That was the saddest moment for me and it really touched my heart. I personally think the scene itself was played out better than it was written in the scenario. I think the acting, expression and emotions were all expressed well.
10: Is that what attracted you to "Fire"?
Kwon: I wouldn't have done it if it was a typical war movie. It was refreshing in that it was about student soldiers and their death was noble and heartbreaking. I think that's what differentiated it the most. Those who have never used a gun before have to shoot them and they face off the North Korean People's Army with eggs. I think that's the strength of our film. It may come off as a blockbuster because of the large budget that went into it but it's actually a story-oriented film. The story was what attracted me rather than the visuals that would go into it.