And how do you help them out when that happens?
Choi: If they don’t have experience, I teach them. Because it’s not their fault that they don’t know. But if they know what they’re doing, they just need to get a good beating. [laughs] Maybe it sounds too violent? But that’s how it worked back in the days.
It sounds like you’re strict on set. [laughs]
Choi: We create and that too a form of art that we come up as a team so harmony is most crucial for our work. It’s about experts in various fields coming together, adjusting their opinions and yielding what is theirs for a single goal yet also demonstrating what they do best to help achieve the ultimate goal. There are a lot of sensitive and unique people in this industry in particular so it’s no easy job for one to do even a bit of yielding to another. But if a single person happens to ruin the team’s mood or efficiency, a senior actor has to step forward and exert restrictions and punishments.
In what sort of cases do you exert restrictions and punishments?
Choi: Well you’re definitely allowed to be in conflict with the director if it’s for a reason. It happens to me a lot too. You need to shoot a scene when you’re in agreement so when you’re not sure of whether you’ve analyzed correctly, you need to stop filming and talk with the director. And that’s when the senior actor has to help think too. But I can’t stand things like an actor being late to set on purpose or unnecessarily challenging each other’s prides. You can’t regard being on set early as an act that would hurt your pride. You need to get there early and talk with the crew, drink some coffee, and warm up and such.
Actor Ha Jung-woo said too that you’ve never been late to set.
Choi: Neither has he. [laughs] That’s why I like Jung-woo. He’s an actor that I don’t have to nag at.
But while there is a strict hierarchy in the world of acting, as there is with other jobs, there is also a uniqueness to it in that when the camera starts rolling, you become equals.
Choi: That’s why your job is done when you nag at someone. I mean, we aren’t in school. We’re actors who get paid for our jobs. Basically put, we’re all players. Then you’ve got to look out for yourself. Even if your parents may have passed away, you need to get to set after changing your mindset and it would be ridiculous if an actor forgot his lines on stage. That’s how thorough you have to be professionally. That’s why the moment this becomes your job, you just cannot be clumsy about it.
Are you saying that attitude is more important than skills?
Choi: The issue isn’t whether you’re good at acting or not but how you accept this job. The kids who are thinking, ‘Who cares, I’ll just quit after I get married’ or ‘I just need to make money’ don’t work hard. There’s something missing about them. But the kids who risk their lives for this job are different from the start. Whatever they do, it has intensity. There’s just a different vibe about them, regardless of age and experience. And it makes me happy when I work with such actors.
You once said that actors are “professionalists who use their bodies.” And as an actor now with 25 years of experience, you probably work more often with actors that are younger and less experienced than you. So is there anything in regards to this that concerns you the most these days?
Choi: Our bodies may age and deteriorate but our minds must continue to evolve. Our elders used to say, ‘People these days… We weren’t like them back in our days.’ But we actors can’t say such a thing. What I’m most wary about these days is falling into routine. I shouldn’t come to conclusions such by acting habitually and thinking habitually. I should constantly try to think from new perspectives and be able to wonder, ‘Maybe this could be the case’ instead of conclude, ‘He’s just like that so he’ll probably be like this too.’ Because we are a group of people that look into people’s lives. No matter how good or bad of a person someone is, we need to know why that person does what he or she does and how such a devastating end came about.
You said you felt your age while working on this movie. So this physical aspect to your job must be something you must be quite bothered about these days.
Choi: That makes me sound like a veteran actor [laughs] but it’s only natural that I now have a hard time working on projects like this. I think I’ll work on a cooler project next time. [laughs]
Choi: A melodrama. [laughs]
So a melodrama like “Failan”?
Choi: I could do something like “Failan” that tells about someone that I’ve never met before, loving and missing me. I’d like to work on something that tells of an honest story that we could relate to, not something that has been copied from the West.
Is there a particular story you have in mind?
Choi: Just like how girls have crushes on their single male teachers in high school, boys in school do so too. So a story about a student continuing to like and really love his teacher who is becoming an old woman although the teacher keeps telling him to stop playing games. Then the kid suddenly becomes a psychopath [laughs] but of course, this would never do. [laughs] The teacher would have been in dismay because she has reached menopause and is thinking that therefore, nobody sees her as a woman anymore. But she becomes a woman thanks to her student. One time, actress Yoon Jeong-hee was sitting next to me at a film festival and I suddenly tried to imagine what it would be like if she was a teacher I had loved ever since I was young. So I asked her, “Madam, would you like to shoot a melodrama with me?” to which she responded, “I’d be happy to.”
Then who do you think could play the younger versions of your characters?
Choi: We don’t need anyone. I know how to do melodramas too. [laughs]
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Reporter : Lee Ga-on
Photographer : Lee Jin-hyuk eleven@
Editor : Jessica Kim jesskim@, Jang Kyung-Jin three@