[Interview] Han Seok Gyu Sometimes Hates to See Himself Act
Han Seok Gyu was one of the biggest actors in the late 90s, thanks to the popularity of Green Fish, Christmas in August and Swiri. His name was everywhere, and it seemed Chungmuro wouldn′t be able to survive without him.
As a member of that generation, I was honored to be able to meet this actor, especially as he is known to avoid interviews. On January 21, Han Seok Gyu appeared at the media day event for the film The Berlin File.
Han Seok Gyu up close
The first time I saw Han Seok Gyu, he was acting in Green Fish, and I was watching him through a buzzing television screen on video. I still remember clearly how he cried out loud, screaming, "Do you remember, hyung (big brother)?" in a phone booth, though it′s already been 15 years since I first saw the film.
It′s now 2013, and many things have changed. Han Seok Gyu′s status has also slid down a bit with time. His warm smile and deep voice, however, was still the same.
Suddenly, the image of him riding his bicycle on Christmas in August came to mind.
He also said, "If I had to choose just one film out of the ones I′ve appeared in up to now, I would choose Christmas in August."
It was great to share similar memories, and this made the meeting with him all the more worthwhile.
You′ve been in many pieces that involve North Korea and South Korea, such as ′Swiri′, ′Double Agent′ and ′The Berlin File′.
"I don′t know... I hope to appear in films themed around North and South Korea throughout my career. It′s a story that has an infinite number of topics to talk about. I believe it′s an issue that will never come to a conclusion."
′Double Agent′ was filmed overseas, which was a shocking move to make at the time. It must have felt similar for ′The Berlin File′.
"At the time, I filmed across two countries. I remember it because it was a failure despite all the effort (Laugh). I thought some scenes really didn′t have to go overseas at the time, but for The Berlin File, I knew this had to go overseas ever since I started reading the scenario."
You made issues for getting ′samkyetang′ for your fellow actors and staff. Some say you′re a great cook.
"You can′t really call that cooking. You just put chicken in and boil it... (Laugh) I inherited an inability to drink, so I often cooked and ate with my friends instead. I like camping too, so I can cook some. Aren′t men all like this? (Laugh)"
Did the shoots pose any difficulties?
"We filmed about 70 times including shoots for the on-locale scenes. I think our number of shoots are record-breaking. I found director Ryu Seung Wan likes to prepare everything beforehand. Thanks to him, we found it easier to shoot."
It seems your eyesight isn′t very good. (He had been squinting whenever he had to look at someone fairly far away.)
"What′s funny about life is that when you get something good you get something bad. I have bad eyesight; it measures to be between 0.1 and 0.2. Still, this helps when you′re acting. I find it′s easier to concentrate when I can′t see much of the other person."
Did you feel you could′ve done any scenes better?
"(After keeping his head down for a while) (Laugh) I have strict standards about my acting. Sometimes I hate to watch myself act."
It′s hard to see you in dramas. You left big impressions with your appearance in SBS′ ′A Tree With Deep Roots′; will we be seeing more of you in dramas?
"I don′t think I′ll really be appearing often (Laugh). I don′t know. When I was asked to write down my job on some form I used to write ′movie star′. At one point I became proud that I was a movie star, but these days, I just write ′actor.′"
"I started to think, ′I didn′t start acting to be in movies, but I appeared in movies because I wanted to act.′ I′ve set down the strict standards I used to judge myself on. I just think if I′m interested, and if it′s a type of acting I like, which stage the piece is put on isn′t very important."
Your voice is very impressive.
"I don′t know. Sometimes I wonder whether it′s a good thing for an actor to have a good voice. There were more times when it became a hindrance. I still try hard to talk clearly; I think it′s a habit that lingers from when I used to be a voice actor (Laugh)."
Other senior actors, like Ahn Sung Ki, have been launching themselves into the mainstream, leading the scene. Do you wish to do so?
"(Laugh) I don′t know. I don′t think I have the ability. I′m not of that build. It looks like a very difficult job."
Have you changed in terms of acting?
"I think I used to act in order to show off in the past. I also wanted to widen my spectrum. Now, however, I′ve started to carefully think that I′m acting for myself. I′ve changed a lot from how I was when I was in my 20s and 30s."
You seem to have a definite view on acting.
"Sometimes I think, maybe my acting is polluting the scene. I want to act for the rest of my life, but now, I think it′s time I should take on roles I′m interested in, or which I′m good at, instead of trying to be in as many different kinds of roles as possible. I think that would be good for the audience, and for the actor Han Seok Gyu."
What type of film do you want to appear in next?
"To be honest, I just hope no matter what film I′m in, it′ll at least pass the break-even point. Movies aren′t made from nothing, you know. If I′m guaranteed that′ll happen, I hope my film becomes one that is constantly consumed by the public."
Why don′t you talk in interviews? Don′t you want to communicate with the public?
"(After keeping his head down for a while) I hope you understand. I′m just this kind of person. (Laugh)"
Photo credit: Hea Jung Min, Berlin