(Photo : Subway Cinema )
Director and actor Park Joong Hoon provides a candid interview on Korean entertainment and "Top Star." Director Park Joong Hoon was the recipient of The Celebrity award at the 13th New York Asian Film Festival.He is a fascinating person to talk to, with twenty-nine years of film acting under his belt.He made his directorial debut with the film "Top Star,” which recently screened at the New York Asian Film Festival.
When I interviewed Director Park Joong Hoon at the New York Asian Film Festival, the director provided insight into his transition from acting and the aspects which differentiate the Korean entertainment industry from the industry in the United States.
When asked about his motivation to pursue directing career he stated, “I decided to direct the movie four to five years ago.I was satisfied with being an actor and acting out from someone else"s script.However, four or five years ago, I decided that I wanted to say something unique to the world.”
His experiences within the acting world led Park Joong Hoon to co-write and direct the film "Top Star," which is a fictional take on what goes on behind the scenes in Korean entertainment. Park Joong Hoon is credited for writing, directing, and producing the film.
He explained the extensive work that went into the production of “Top Star” and what differentiates directors from actors.His very succinct explanation summarizes the role of the actor verses a director, “The job of actors is to get a reaction or agreement from the audience.The job of a director is to get an agreement from the audience for what they think.”
Park Joong Hoon noted that a director has more control over a film than an actor, even from the selection of the script.He provided a unique perspective with the statement, “As an actor, you are not the first person to choose the story or plot.You can pick a script, but that has already been decided by the producer and director who wish to cast you.”
"Top Star" features actor Uhm Tae Woong as Tae Sik, a conflicted manager who is tasked with doting on a popular film idol. Tae Sik aspires to become an actor and engages in activities such as practicing his award acceptance speeches, during his free time.
Uhm Tae Woong is the sibling of K-Pop vocalist and actress Uhm Jung Hwa.His career struggled in its initial stages, as he attempted to be viewed beyond his role the brother of an idol.
Park Joong Hoon co-starred with Uhm Jung Hwa in the 1994 film “How to Top My Wife.” This was one of her first starring roles in a film, which led to a friendship between Park Joong Hoon and Uhm Jung Hwa.
I asked Park Joong Hoon if Uhm Tae Woong incorporated aspects of this difficult situation for the role of Tae Sik.He remarked, “This is a struggle that is not only in the entertainment world, but often happens with siblings. Uhm Tae Woong is completely out of her shadow, now.They are wonderful people with a very nice family.”
Actor Kim Min Jun portrays Won Joon, a leading actor who opens the film at the height of his career."Top Star" marked the return of Kim Min Jun to acting, following a long hiatus.
Kim Min Jun agreed to participate in “Top Star” after he was approached by Park Joong Hoon.Park Joong Hoon noted that his hiatus from acting was due to the fact that, “He was tired of rumors regarding who he was dating, scandals, and the Internet.I met him and convinced him to play in my film, even if it was the last film he acted in.”
Won Joon appears to be morally bankrupt at the start of the film.The true personality of Won Joon is uncovered as he assists Tae Sik in his pursuit of acting, after an incident that places him within his debt.
Actress So E Hyun, who most recently starred in the SBS drama "Three Days," plays Mi Na. Tae Sik initially idealizes Mi Na but is leery of her secret relationship with Won Joon.
According to Park Joong Hoon, Mi Na is a symbol of success for Tae Sik.If he achieves his goal, he will gain popularity, money, and her.In his eyes, she is a trophy.It was a trophy love.”
Eventually, Tae Sik grows to resent the fact that Mi Na remains beside Won Joon, making him the second lead in her life.
So E Hyun was an interesting casting choice, as she is an actress who generally portrays the heroine.
When asked about his decision to cast So E Hyun in a role which she normally would not portray, Park Joong Hoon explained, “I directed her towards being able to portray this role, more than what she normally does. So Yi Hyun is really nice, she is not a narcissist.”
"Top Star" utilizes the very real tensions of the leading actors to generate a stirring on-screen account of life within the Korean entertainment complex.
During the course of the interview, the differences between the Korean film industry and Hollywood were discussed at length.Park Joong Hoon explained, “The Korean film industry is different from the American film industry.In the American film industry, there are a lot of actors. I have heard that choosing a good script and casting a nice star is not really that hard in America.”
This creates a situation which many K-Drama fans are very familiar with.It is looks like the same actors and actresses are constantly in the role of the grandfather or the grandmother; it is due to the fact that there are a limited number of seasoned Korean actors.
He went on to state, “In Korea, we have less than one hundred feature films.If you remove independent films, the number is closer to seventy or sixty.There are not a lot of popular Korean actors or top stars to choose from.”
In the Korean film industry, “Directors and producers end up having to kiss up to these top actors.The agencies for the actors know the situation.”
“Top Star” is a film which frankly approaches the trials and tribulations of stardom.As an actor, Park Joong Hoon has experienced a similar push and pull from the industry.He reflected upon his career wistfully, “I am now in my forties. I was nineteen when I first started in the industry, with people screaming my name.That can make you narcissistic. It is a basic human instinct.People can"t be humble when they are really popular.”
This sense of nostalgia is incorporated within the film through the usage of the American song “Always On My Mind.”I asked about him about the meaning behind the song, which is used during various points of the film.His response was, “When I was a teenager, "Always On My Mind" was one of my favorite songs.Whenever I listen to the song the feeling of the song helps me to regress back to that time.I am nostalgic for this song."Always on My Mind" helps to explain Tae Sik and his regret of the past.”
We concluded the interview with questions regarding the Hallyu Wave and whether Park Joong Hoon believed that the phenomenon exists.
He responded very enthusiastically, “I think the Hallyu Wave is a really amazing thing for Korea.In my country, we think that we have really beautiful culture.”
Park Joong Hoon noted the positive aspects of the spread of Korean entertainment throughout the world. “For a long time, no foreign countries were exposed to my culture. We have an idiom that Korea is like "a typhoon in the cup."Now, this is not the case.Foreign people are interested in Korean culture and the first time I saw this, I couldn"t believe it.”
The New York Asian Film Festival will continue to highlight the best in Korean and Asian film through July 14.
Thank you to The Celebrity magazine, Subway Cinema and the Film Society of Lincoln Center for the opportunity to interview Director Park Joong Hoon.