[Interview] Bae Doo Na is Proud She Made It Into Hollywood Herself
This actress not only acted, but sent her own emails with a dictionary beside her and even wrote and signed her own contract without the help of any agent. There are probably no other actors who made it into Hollywood this way.
This is the story of Bae Doo Na, the lead of the Wachowski Siblings′ Hollywood blockbuster Cloud Atlas. Her big Hollywood mission put her on a rough road, and she had her share of hard times. She said that such difficulties actually made her more proud and happy about herself.
Enews met with Bae Doo Na to talk about how she made it to Hollywood and about her life.
Bae Doo Na up close
She was like a high school student excited about her field trip. Her round eyes shone brightly, and her heart seemed to be full of anticipation. The way she kept saying, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, what′s happening to me," showed exactly how she felt.
The way her eyes filled with tears when asked about what made her proud while working with the film explained the passion and affection she felt for her piece.
"I′ve never thought of the film as a means that will help me step into the overseas market, or as a stepping stone for my future career," she said modestly.
"I gave my all for my first, and probably my last, time," she said, giving off a radiance she gained from her achievements and her efforts.
How did it feel to finally watch the film yourself? Some said it was difficult to understand.
"It will depend on the person, but it was easy to understand for me. I believe it will be easier if you start following the chain of ties and the categories of each character."
Your role was pretty heavy. You especially got a chance to act in four characters for one piece, a chance usually given only to leads.
"Yes, that is true. Every character was meaningful, and filled me with emotion. I was especially proud and happy that no one recognized me as a Mexican woman. I appeared in the scene with a fat suit on me pulled so tight I felt my body would cramp. I went through many difficulties, including how I memorized a page of dialogue in Spanish in order to execute it perfectly in an all-day shoot. I was happy that my small wish to see people surprised came true (Laugh)."
Most of your lines were in English. It must have been a burden.
"My clone Son Mi character needs to convey a message, so I tried to care a lot for the accent. It wasn′t that hard when I was acting, though. I became immersed in the role. I was more stressed about having to speak with the director and actors outside of the shoots."
It seems you had a hard time because of the differences in language and culture.
"A lot of my acquaintances voiced concern, asking me whether it was okay or whether I was lonely. I comforted them in return. I told them, ′I got to learn English while shooting for a great piece; I can′t say I suffered.′ Honestly, I felt more happy and glad than pained."
I heard you took care of everything from casting to contracting and filming alone without a manager.
"I didn′t have a manager at the time, so I couldn′t help it. I asked my friends about the script that director Wachowski sent me, and I communicated with [the producers] through email with my broken English. I took care of my contract by myself also, but it didn′t pose to be a problem because I cared more about working with such great figures than the financial issues. I acted in four characters, but I didn′t get paid more for it (Laugh)."
You traveled to London after wrapping up your shoots. Why did you go after and not before you started shooting for the film?
"Perhaps because of the extreme tension, I felt so empty after I finished. I was scared of having to go to Seoul and going back to my ordinary life. At that moment the teacher who taught me British English told me that I could go if I want to learn more English. I was annoyed that I couldn′t say how thankful I was toward my great colleagues and friends. I wanted to conquer English, and I wanted to learn."
Controversy surrounded the image of Seoul depicted in the film: A tatami room with cheery blossoms. There were many scenes that Korean fans couldn′t seem to accept.
"I understand that the scenes could be misunderstood by Korean fans. The film is set in the Seoul of the future, but it doesn′t take place specifically in Korea. It′s a place that brings all of Asia together. The directors said they wanted to contain Korea, China and Japan in one setting. You can call it a new race and transcendental country 130 years in the future."
The Wachowskis are known as some of the most well-known pro-Korean directors. They visited Korea for the first time in December; what did they say when it came time for them to go back?
"They loved Insadong and Samcheong-dong. They especially said they loved Korean people. They were surprised at how so many people recognized them. I believe they were impressed at how Koreans send them such pure affection and support."
When were you the happiest while shooting the film?
"After the last shoot I first felt proud at the thought of how I overcame this journey. I became even prouder after I saw the film. The moments when I tried to translate all my lines by myself and received my screen test in Chicago raced before my eyes."
"Reports said I had become a popular actress around the world through the Hollywood appearance, but I always believed that I was overestimated. I believe I was just lucky and that I was just chosen by good directors. After this film was released, however, I was so proud of myself at how I had overcome everything myself."
Will we be able to see more of Bae Doo Na in Hollywood?
"You probably know, but I′ve never really wanted to travel overseas. I′ve never thought of this film as a stepping stone for a new phase of my career. I just thought of how I would never get to film with such actors and directors again. Of course, I will take up an offer if it comes with a good script, but I′ve never planned to go overseas after this."
Lastly, how do you hope Korean audiences will take the film?
"Hugh Grant said that [anyone who watches the film is] in for a giant roller coaster ride. I think what he said is true. The film makes your head spin, but it fills your heart and gives audiences sights to see. It′s a great film with perfect music too. Audiences will get to ride a roller coaster with a good piece. You can enjoy it even without your seatbelt (Laugh)."
Photo credit: Hea Jung Min