[Interview Part I] Lee Jung Jae Will Now Only Concentrate on Acting
Lee Jung Jae is a cool actor. He used to be a model, but as soon as he made his debut as an actor he became a big teen idol. His tall height and sharp features gave him enough strength to make his way into the hearts of female fans.
The actor, however, didn’t settle for being a teen idol forever. In director Lim Sang Soo’s The Housemaid, he left a big impression as Hoon, and in director Kim Yong Hwa’s Oh! Brothers, he gave everyone something to laugh about as the photographer Oh Sang Woo, who only takes photos of adultery scenes. The range of his filmography goes beyond imagination.
This time he’s meeting with his fans as a sly thief through The Thieves. Lee Jung Jae appears in this film as the thief Popie (pronounced Popeye). He pretends he’s cool and sharp and holds big ambitions, but he’s actually clumsier than anyone and isn’t very smart. Lee Jung Jae took this role and peppered it with his well-acknowledged acting skills.
You always make the most unexpected choices, and this choice was again very surprising. Why did you decide to take up the Popie role?
“First of all I decided to be in the film because of director Choi Dong Hoon. The project shined so brightly. I believed that this project would be great for me to lightly get in and out of, without much pressure."
"Actually, in the scenario, Popie is even duller. They said they made him be like that because they didn’t know who would be cast for the role. After they cast me, he became cooler. He was originally supposed to die, but the producers agreed that ‘since Lee Jung Jae has been cast for this role, it would be better not to kill him.’”
Did you relate to your character?
“It was so much fun. Popie is a man who believes he can turn his back on anyone for his greed, desires and wants. Compared to the size of his greed, though, he’s not very smart. He can’t help but be funny. I thought also that Popie’s character was funny.”
Were there any difficulties you had to endure during your shoots? For example there was a scene in which you get hit by a car.
“I didn’t have any. The scene where I get hit by a car is actually an edit. Because it’s all in one take it may look like I was the one getting hit, but we actually edited in my face.”
What are the attractions of ‘The Thieves’?
“A lot of things are subtly implied. It’ll be much more fun if you watch it more than once.”
You’re a great actor, but that characteristic seems to have been downplayed because you were a teen idol.
“It is true that I didn’t suffer much at the time of my debut because of my image as a teen idol. I understand why the public thinks so, since I haven’t been in many pieces. I have more pieces from when I was a teen star. (Laugh)”
You’re a great actor but you haven’t been seen for a while. You actually appeared on the news more often as an entrepreneur.
“When men reach age 30, the people around them start to hand them a lot of offers. There are people that say since I’m popular, I should use that popularity to push a business. Many tell me to invest my money too, because they assume I must have a lot of money.”
Why were you so bent on being a businessman? You owned a restaurant, a men’s clothing brand and were even a real estate developer.
“Celebrities often become anxious on how much time they have left in their work lives. Celebrity jobs are affected by so many variables. They also worry about what they should do when their popularity takes a dip and no one wants to see them anymore. The older we get, the more temptations and offers we meet. Even though we weren’t interested before, we suddenly become interested in some things."
"That’s why I worked with an Italian restaurant, men’s clothing and real estate development. Restaurants are fun [to work with], but they require a lot of care. It is great to invite people you know. It was impossible, however, for me to do something that required a lot of care while acting at the same time. Expertise is important in businesses these days. That’s why I closed down all my other businesses.
"Now, I’ll try to concentrate only on being in more pieces, and that’s why I decided on my next piece so quickly. I was originally trying to choose a drama but Choi Min Sik sunbaenim (senior) gave me an offer and had me land in this new world.”
Photo credit: Kim Byung Kwan
This is Part I of our interview with Lee Jung Jae. Read Part II here. .
Reach reporter Oh MiJung on Twitter @isyutar!