Lee Sung-min (Acemaker Movieworks)
Veteran actor Lee Sung-min, 53, hopes that his new dramatic film “Remember” can help narrow the generational gap in Korean society.
“I think the most attractive element of our film is that an elderly man in his 80s and a young man go on a journey together. I hope that people in this world can also become like the characters in our movie. I hope they can hang out with each other, respecting the older generation and also embracing the younger generation,” Lee said in an interview with a group of reporters at a cafe in Samcheong-dong, Seoul, Monday.
In “Remember,” directed by Lee Il-hyung, Pil-Joo (Lee Sung-min), an Alzheimer’s patient in his 80s whose family members were killed by pro-Japanese collaborators during the Japanese colonial era, decides to execute a lifelong revenge plan before his memory fails him. Pil-joo enlists In-kyu (Nam Joo-hyuk) to help him push his plan to action, without fully letting him in on the details of his scheme.
At the beginning of the film, Pil-joo hangs out with young part-time workers in their 20s without any problems. Pil-joo seamlessly speaks in the dialect of the younger generation — including many newly coined words the actor himself was not familiar with.
“I have the know-how. When performing lines that included those words, I had to make sure that I did not hesitate before saying them. It has to come out naturally without pauses,” Lee said.
Now that the film will be released soon, Lee said he was a bit worried about the audience reaction.
“I worry that people will complain, saying ‘not another movie about pro-Japanese collaborators again,’” he said.
Lee explained this is also the reason the role that Nam played is important in attracting moviegoers, as In-kyu can make them feel that the movie inspired by historical events can also be relatable today.
“The story centers around Pil-joo but Nam Joo-hyuk’s character is the one that the audience follows, especially younger people,” he said. “His role also helps convince the audience that the story is realistic.”
Lee added that he realized Nam did a great job portraying the character when he was watching the movie for the first time with an audience.
The veteran Korean actor also emphasized that there was nothing he taught Nam as a more experienced performer.
“When I was younger there were actors who told less-experienced actors what to do and what not to do on stage. As I got older, I realized that those pieces of advice were useless. Some veteran actors told me to freely do what I wanted to do on stage and that seemed to work better,” he said.
Lee Sung-min stars in “Remember.” (Acemaker Movieworks)
“I think the important thing is that there are no walls between actors of different generations. So when I perform with younger actors, I try to make them feel comfortable. That way they can perform to their full potential.”
Even for a veteran actor like Lee, playing a character around 30 years older than his actual age was a challenge.
“I had a lot of pressure about changing my appearance. I did not want to stand out when performing with actors who are actually in their 80s,” Lee said.
During the filming of “Remember,” Lee tried to walk and talk like a man in his 80s, even when not on set.
“I tried to talk in a raspy voice and to breathe differently. Also, my posture was different. During filming I felt like I had some cervical disc symptoms because I maintained a crouched posture,” he said.
As an actor with around 30 years of experience both on the stage and in front of the camera, Lee talked about what keeps him going.
“As a young actor, I was often asked ‘why are you working as an actor?’ because it was so difficult. At the time, I could not answer the question,” Lee said.
“As I got older, I learned why I am doing this. It is because this job keeps on challenging me to improve. It is also why I took the role of an elderly man for this movie. It made me curious as to whether I could pull off this challenge.”
“Remember” hits local theaters on Oct. 26.
By Song Seung-hyun ([email protected])