Friday March 4, 2005
Getting to know Lee Byung HunBy THAM AI MEI
There is just no logical explanation why Korean actors continue to captivate Asian women in recent years. In Japan especially, middle-aged women had fainted and screamed mindlessly when encountering Korean hunks such as Bae Yong Joon.
Apparently, yet another si lai sat sau (Cantonese term for a hunk who particularly appeals to middle-aged women) is the suave Lee Byung Hun, who has recently starred in the hit movie, A Bittersweet Life, and the popular drama, All In. A Bittersweet Life is scheduled for release in Japan and South Korea next month.
To add another feather to Lee Byung Hun’s already well adorned cap, he was recently voted Most Reliable Man in a South Korean poll.
At the height of his success, Lee has launched a personal DVD set of two titles – Brave and Human – and a photo book.
The star was in Singapore for a promotional tour recently. The 1.8m actor walked into the press conference room at Grand Copthorne Hotel dressed in an Elvis-like ensemble of white jacket (with a super low V-shaped neckline that revealed his manly chest), matching white pants and shoes.
The confident thespian in rather thick make-up and faint lipstick, flashed a grin at those in the room, before proceeding to amuse them by grunting comically into the microphone to test the sound system.
Lee the person
In Brave, fans will get up-close and personal with Lee as he speaks passionately about his life and his 14 years in show business as well as savour some collages and candid shots of the star.
The lighter side of Lee is captured on Human as the camera zooms in on him touring Japan, Hawaii as well as his native South Korea.
“At first I was hesitant about coming up with a photo book and DVD set because this is more the habit of Japanese stars,” explained the voiced Korean-speaking Lee through an interpreter. “A lot of popular Japanese stars have done this but I have never worked with a Japanese creative team before so I thought of this as a challenge I have to take.”
Just like the autobiographical DVDs of fellow stars Bae, Won Bin and Jang Dong Gun, Lee’s became an instant success in Japan.
Furthermore, he found himself learning some valuable lessons from the Japanese crew as he disclosed with his trademark grin: “The Japanese crew was highly professional. I learnt some innovative working methods from the director and producer despite our cultural differences.”
In both DVDs, Lee appears at ease.
“I tried to be as natural as I could when filming the DVDs because I wanted my fans to see me as I am and not as Byung Hun the actor,” he described with panache.
“In Human, there is a scene of me jumping spontaneously off a water jet ski. There are many spontaneous and unscripted moments in the DVD.”
The actor in him
This former student of Hanyang University (where he majored in French literature) and Graduate School of Chungang University (where he studied theatre and cinematography) admitted that he does not speak French.
With that roguish smile and a wave of his hand, Lee quipped: “I started acting in my varsity days so I did not have time to pick up French.”
Clearly, not mastering French is the least of his worries right now as he is savouring every moment of being a revered actor.
“I love my work because through the different roles I play, I get to experience different feelings. I think the key to playing a role convincingly is to make sure you stay in touch with the layman to get a first-hand look at the wide range of emotions.”
To add another feather to his already well adorned cap, Lee was recently voted Most Reliable Man in a Korean poll.
With an endearingly dazed expression, Lee said: “I didn’t even know about this poll because there were too many polls being conducted. I think I was voted because I usually played a genuinely caring and thoughtful guy in my movies. And I try to be like that in real life as well. Maybe that is why my fans think highly of me.”
Lee seems destined for bigger things to come, if Hong Kong actor-director-producer Jackie Chan’s opinion is anything to go by. It was reported that Chan had named Lee as his number one choice if he ever gets the chance to work with a Korean star. Surely Lee must be reeling with happiness.
With a firm nod and an almost bashful smile, Lee disclosed that Chan has always been his favourite hero.
“When I was in primary school I wrote in the first page of my diary about how great Jackie was. I was so awed by Drunken Master (the movie which Chan starred in) and he was like a big brother to me then. Unfortunately, we don’t have the opportunity to work together as yet because of our busy schedules.”
On the romantic front, female fans might be curious if Lee still keeps in touch with his ex-flame Song Hye Gyo, who was his co-star in All In.
When the question was posed to the man, a foreboding moment of silence ensued before Lee burst into laughter and smilingly said: “No comment.”
All just part and parcel of a day in the life of Lee the Korean super hunk. Lee Byung Hun’s DVD set comprising Brave and Human DVDs as well as a photo book is now available in the market in Malaysia. It retails at RM79.90 and is distributed by Innoform Media Sdn Bhd.