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Jung looks to China beyond Hollywood
Posted on Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 5:44 am
by IDMA Editor

As Asia’s leading cinema event, the Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival (PIFF), whose 15th edition opened Thursday, most appropriately showcases the latest trends, including most notably the ever-expanding influence of Sino-cinema.

Similarly, superstar Jung Woo-sung has looked to China for his much anticipated overseas debut: He stars opposite Michelle Yeoh in the John Woo-powered epic “Reign of Assassins,” which is featured in PIFF’s non-competitive section Window on Asian Cinema.

Korean heartthrob Jung Woo-sung, right, and Michelle Yeoh in a scene from John Woo's "Reign of the Assassins." Su Chao-bin co-directed the film, which is showing at the ongoing Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival, before opening in theaters nationwide on Oct. 14. /Courtesy of SBS Contents Hub

"Hollywood is not my final destination," Jung told reporters Tuesday in Seoul after the press preview. While local actors such as Jun Ji-hyun (Gianna Jun), Rain or Jang Dong-gun have knocked on Hollywood’s door, So Ji-sub made his overseas debut in China with Zhang Ziyi.

"In Hollywood, Asian actors can assume lead roles continuously only if they master martial arts, like Jet Li or Jackie Chan… But I do have small hopes of becoming a noted actor in pan-Asian regions," he said.

This isn’t his first project to be fully based in China. He played the lead in Hur Jin-hon’s ``A Good Rain Knows,’’ which is set in Chengdu and co-stars Chinese actress Gao Yuan-yuan.

"Reign of Assassins," co-directed by Taiwanese writer-director Su Chao-pin (``Silk’’), premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month. "Mr. & Mrs. Smith relocate to ancient China in the dazzling martial-arts epic," according to the Hollywood Reporter, and indeed Yeoh and Jung play an ordinary married couple, each unaware the other is a world-class assassin. Guns, bombs and other modern spy gadgets are replaced by elaborate wire tricks and sword-swinging, while being peppered with dashes of comedy and romance.

The 37-year-old said it was a great pleasure working with Yeoh.

"When I first heard about the casting, it’s true I felt a little pressured but I didn’t mind the age difference," he said about his co-star, who is 11 years older.

"Ms. Yeoh is a respectable veteran actress and world-class star but she is extremely humble. I thought she was a beautiful actress who is aging with grace. I was the only foreigner on the set and so she paid a lot of attention and care, to make sure I wasn’t uncomfortable."

Working in a foreign language, however, was a challenge. "I was worried whether I would sound awkward to native Chinese speakers, but I’m glad to hear it sounds OK," he said, when a reporter complimented his pronunciation. "The romance is central to the film, and it was really important to deliver the lines with feelings of affection. I think I mastered the Chinese lines naturally while working with Ms. Yeoh."

Starring in a Chinese martial arts movie, moreover, proved to be a great adventure. "I always carried around a sword," he said. "Hong Kong cinema has adopted Hollywood-style system, and so it’s much more advanced than domestic filmmaking. We filmed for 12 hours every day and took mandatory breaks once a week."

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