Gong Yoo [Beck Una/10Asia]
You may shed tears from how tragic the real-life story to film "The Crucibles" is and clench your fist at the sight of the corrupt faces who come together to commit evil. But what will really linger in your minds long after the movie has ended will be the eyes of one man. His eyes, which neither cold nor hot, gazed at the audience while standing on an asphalt road in the rain, showed where he currently is as an actor. 10Asia sat down with that man, Gong Yoo, who knows exactly where he is positioned instead of looking far ahead for where he should aim for in the future.
Beck: It's been a while since we've met. The first time since the wrap-up party for MBC TV series "The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince" so it's already been four years.
Gong Yoo: Well I've been reading 10Asia and I read the comment you recently left on Twitter after you watched "The Crucibles" because my fans send me clippings of good articles or words on me.
Beck: Oh, you must be talking about me having written, ‘Gong Yoo's eyes deliver powerfully without him putting any force into them which is worthy of being compared to the last close-up shot of Song Kang-ho in 'Memories of a Murder.'’
Gong Yoo: Yes, I felt great when I read it but also got worried that whoever else sees it may give me a hard time for it. (laugh)
Beck: Well "The Crucibles" has been getting good critique in general. What have people around you said about it?
Gong Yoo: I didn't invite a lot of people to the premiere for it because I don't know a lot of people (laugh) and I was embarrassed to. But overall, maybe it was because their heart felt heavy afterwards but the people I know didn't say much except a “Good work” while giving me a pat on the shoulder. Yet it was a bit different from the “Good work” that I'd heard in the past... As if they were telling me, 'What need is there for words?' Gong Hyo-jin, who's at the same agency as me, rushed to the premiere for it although she was in the middle of shooting a movie and Jeon Do-youn came as well although her film "Countdown" is set for a release the week after mine. And she sent a text message to me saying, 'The movie was hard to watch and must've been harder to film but you hung in well till the end. I sincerely hope this movie does well.' And it made me choke up with tears. There's a different sort of feeling you get when another actor encourages you. I responded, 'I'll be looking forward to 'Countdown' as well!' (laugh)
Beck: A movie becomes uncomfortable to watch when it gets worked up before the audience does but "The Crucibles" was able to get viewers infuriated because it did the opposite. And the character In-ho that you played didn't get as worked up as he probably was from the shock of the incident. I think you would’ve had an easier time playing the character had you been allowed to get angry or scream so I think it must've been harder to maintain a uniform tone of emotion that is neither agitated nor calm.
Gong: Yes... it was hard. I think you could compare it to one thinking that someone is a good singer if he or she can reach high notes really when singing in a karaoke room. But when I'm listening to music, I like voices that tug at the heart, regardless of whether they are technically skilled. Those are the voices that I think are really good. So in a way, I had to express In-ho in the latter way which made my job more difficult and was why I was intense the whole time I was shooting the movie. I also told myself that viewers may have a hard time keeping up with my character if I went out of line or overboard so I constantly asked the director, “Am I going overboard? Is this too much?” Even when I was trying to relax my eyes, I'm only human so I had been shocked over the original story, right? So the more I’d think about it, the angrier I'd get and cry even when I wasn't trying to. That's why this was the project I said “Again” the most times. No matter how hard I tried, I was just never satisfied enough. And it was when we were shooting the scenes at school that the director told me that at that rate, he thinks I'll get tired and quit midway. He also said I shouldn't worry because I'm doing well. I think he did well at encouraging me at such moments. And I'm relieved that there are people who know [what I went through] from hearing the things they've said to me.
Gong Yoo: At first I wanted him to be more ragged too. “We should show the reality that people don't want to see, even if it may get them exhausted and make them leave the theater!” is what I said. And the director had agreed with me. But we weren't the only people that were working on the film so we were getting told that the way we want to go with things would definitely exhaust the audience. And being an actor, I said, “Who cares if people turn their back on it? Isn't it important that nothing is made up since this is about a fact based on an actual incident?” But the director probably had much more to think about than I did and I was grateful that he understood me so well that I came to compromise on the realistic aspects that I had to.
Beck: What were the compromises you made?
Gong: We came to portray on him as being dynamic to a degree because the audience needs at least a small amount of space for release. That's why we had him throw pots and break glass. But this too was actually harder to do because such setups wouldn't mean we've decided to change who In-ho is so it was rather hard for me as an actor to find that point that's midway.
Beck: Yet despite you making compromises and In-ho constantly being on the go to reveal the truth and save the children, not once was he portrayed as a hero. And I think that's what has made it possible for the audience to immerse themselves into "The Crucibles" more realistically.
Gong: This is what I told the director at our first meeting. That it’s not because I want to become a hero that I want to do this movie. And the director said he knows why I want to play In-ho. That's how I came to place my faith in him from the very first time I met him and from then on, I just clung onto him. (laugh)
Beck: The scene where the water cannons are shot is the climax yet even then, In-ho didn't make a grand speech for the people.
Gong: There were actually a lot more lines to the original script. ‘I'm sorry people. This child cannot hear nor speak. This child's name is Min-soo...’ But the moment I saw the first take, it seemed unnecessary to say any of those lines. He wouldn't be in his right mind so it would be hard for him to say everything. It just seemed like he was saying the same things over and over again as if he were a crazy person. But really, what need is there for words? So I told the director that I think so and he too said that there's no need for me to say my lines. That they're meant to be guidance.
Beck: How and when did you come across the book for "The Crucibles"?
Gong Yoo: The commander of my company gave it to me as a gift when I got promoted to sergeant. And I wondered why he gave me "The Crucibles" but he said, "Just. I think it'd suit you." He's someone who had served as an anchorman to the news program for the Ministry of National Defense but he's been dispatched to Afghanistan. I told him I'll probably talk about him a lot when I do interviews for the movie (laugh) but he's far away right now so I'd like to show it to him when he gets back. Anyway I’m not the type that looks for novels to read but it said 'shocking true story' on the front cover which suddenly drew my interest. And the more I read it, the more agitated I got, clenched my fists and immersed myself into the book. Of course, after I finished reading it I wondered whether it was a gimmick because the things that happened in it were so absurd. I thought that maybe the writer had been exaggerating. So I went through the process of reading up on the incident itself and checking on the facts myself.
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