“As I was developing the characters and becoming more and more involved in the script development, it just was a natural decision for me to want to direct it myself and getting the courage to do that,” admits Lee Jung-jae about taking the plunge with his feature directorial debut, the Korean action drama “Hunt.” For our recent webchat he adds, “I was thinking a lot about will Korean audiences like this film and will foreign audiences be able to empathize with it,” he explains. “The answer to these questions was not easy and I went through four years of the script rewriting phase.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Lee directed, co-produced (with Han Jae-duk) and co-wrote (with Jo Seung-Hee) the espionage thriller, in which he also stars alongside countryman Jung Woo-sung. Set in South Korea during the tumultuous 1980s when tensions with North Korea were at their highest, The “Squid Game” Emmy winner portrays KCIA Foreign Unit chief Park Pyong-ho alongside KCIA Domestic Unit chief Kim Jung-do (Jung). The two men are pitted against each other, tasked with uncovering a North Korean spy deeply embedded within their agency who is leaking top secret intel that could jeopardize national security. The action-packed blockbuster weaves a complex narrative full of twists and turns, spectacular car chases, gun fights and explosions, all against the backdrop of a nefarious plot to assassinate the South Korean president.
The fledgling filmmaker says that his 20 years of experience as an actor gave him an edge when dealing with his cast from the director’s chair. “With some actors, their performance gets better with each subsequent take and for some it gets worse. I think recognizing the specific characteristics of each actor is really important in directing,” he explains. “I can tell if an actor is feeling uncomfortable and I’ll go up to them and say, ‘hey, let’s try to adjust to make this feel more natural,’ and we talk, actor to actor. I think it has definitely been a big asset to able to communicate more effectively and in a more efficient way.”
Lee is riding high this year, coming off a spectacular award-winning run with the Netflix hit thriller “Squid Game,” and currently promoting his debut feature while also in production on the highly anticipated “Star Wars” series “The Acolyte” in London. “The script is very strong and the pacing is very snappy, so I think we’ll be able to share something that’s very enjoyable for the audience,” he reveals. “When I step on set, I’m like, ‘am I really in ‘Star Wars?’ I can’t believe it and there are moments where it’s not real to me how incredible it is!”
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