1st London East Asia Film Festival Kim Jee Woon Interview THE AGE OF SHADOWS. Yesterday marked the beginning of a new film festival focused on East Asia called the London East Asia Film Festival. Festival Director Hyejung Jeon while starting the film festival said that ‘I had a dream last night in which I come to the festival and find out that no one has turned up, but I see a lot of people here today which is a relief.’ The opening gala of the film festival witnessed a large number of people queuing outside the Odeon Leicester Square tickets booth for the screening of director Kim Jee Woon’s THE AGE OF SHADOW.
The Age Of Shadow stars Song Kang-ho, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-min with Byung Hun Lee in a very special role. Coincidentally the opening gala coincided with the film premiere of Tom Cruise’s action packed film Jack Reacher. Director Kim Jee Woon in a very amusing way while introducing his film thanked the audience for ditching Tom Cruise to attend this prestigious film festival.
Actor Song Kang-ho and Byung Hun Lee were not attending the film festival but they recorded their message in which they both wished the best for the film festival’s future.
Damon Wise hosted the opening gala and at the end of the screening of the film asked Director Kim Jee Woon and Producer Cho Jae-won some questions.
Damon Wise: You’ve tried different film noirs before which include western and war, what made you want to make a spy film?
Kim Jee Woon: I’ve always wanted to make a spy film because i was very much inspired by the western spy films which include Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) and The Third Man (1949), therefore I made a decision that if I do make one then it should be based during the Japanese occupation of Korea. In the west, spy films have mainly been made showing the era of the Cold War which was a power struggle between countries which already were great powers. This one shows a struggle of people who have lost their country and are working hard to claim it back as they are under Japanese occupation. I have tried to get into the mind of a double spy agent in this film and as you have seen the film slowly gains momentum and until near the end it heats up. I’ve given this film a genre called Cold Noir, which is very new and has not been used before. The use of this noir has made this film a very unique one and I can proudly say that this is a very Korean film.
Damon Wise: Mr. Cho Jae-won, did Director Kim Jee Woon come to you with this idea, or did you go to him?
Cho Jae-won: I was the one who approached Kim Jee Won for this film because he was the first one who came to my mind. One reason was that he has handled nearly all kinds of genres in the past. The other was that we have worked together on the film The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008) which was a much bigger film than The Age Of Shadows budget wise which cost 18 billion Won. Kim Jee Woon seemed very enthusiastic which gave me a satisfaction and made me feel that half my job is done.
Kim Jee Woon: I was worried about the casting for this film, but Cho Jae-won did something very clever He came to me and said that Song Kang-ho is interested in acting in this film and at the same time he went to Song Kang-ho and told him that Kim Jee Woon is interested in directing this film. This clever little trick made Cho Jae-won gain us both for the film. I was also a bit uncomfortable because this film is based on actual events which is a part of the history of East Asia. I had to be very careful in tackling with the topic.
Damon Wise: What did you think when you made your choices in the cast?
Kim Jee Woon: We needed to show the paradox of time through the characters of the double agent and a secret spy. The film required two characters who were completely in contrast with each other. Therefore we knew that an actor like Song Kang-ho can execute the character Lee Jung Chool, who has a very complex array of emotional states. As far as the character of Kim Woo Jin was concerned, we needed an actor who could portray him with naivety, reasonable logic and with level headed manner. Therefore we chose Gong Yoo for the role.
Damon Wise: How faithful to history is this story. Did it require a lot of research?
Kim Jee Woon: The main narrative of the film was the last scene which you saw in the film in which a young man rides off towards the headquarters of the Japanese Police. The actual mission itself was a failure. The capture of the rebels at Gonjeung Station is based on true events, and even at that time, many of the explosives got through successfully which were hidden by a person in his home. That person was under suspicion of being a part of the resistance, therefore to take the heat off him, he gave those explosives to a very trustworthy person to hide, but unfortunately that person was a spy for the Japanese, therefore everyone got caught.
Damon Wise: Production wise Mr. Cho Jae-won, what kind of logistical problems did you face. Was it a difficult film to make or was it an easy one?
Cho Jae-won: We first started shooting in Shanghai as the set there is a very big one, and unfortunately we in Korea don’t have one that big in which we could show the times of the 1920s. Luckily, we got to work with the same Chinese crew which worked with us on The Good, The Bad, The Weird, and they helped us in finishing our shooting within the planned schedule. The train shown in the film is not a real one. The team came up with five carriages and the interior of those carriages were changed into those trains which existed back in 1920s. In order to show the train moving, the crew went up to the roof and on the directions of Kim Jee Woon, they would shake it hard and soft.
Kim Jee Woon:At first the crew members were a bit uncomfortable with the decision of standing on the roof, but as they experienced it, they got used to it and were even able to use their phones while shaking the train. They were also very helpful in keeping the continuation of the film intact when they would point out that if we shake it too much, it will not connect with the previous scenes.
Damon Wise: What significance do you think The Age Of Shadows has that you want to give the audience?
Cho Jae-won: It has a significance mainly for the Koreans. I want them to think about what it means to have your own country. As this film carries the brand name of Warner Brothers Korea, I wanted it to have the quality that would fit in that name.
Kim Jee Woon: I wanted the meaning to become the fun, and the fun to become the meaning.
Damon Wise: How well has it been received in Korea?
Cho Jae-won: Wehn we were screening this film amongst aourselves we were worried that maybe it’s not going to be fun enough because it doesn’t have that comical element in it and neither does it have that many commercial issues that make a huge box office success in Korea. When it was released in the theatres, we were happy to know that within two weeks, 6 million people had come to see it which caused the film to become a big success.
Kim Jee Woon: From a director’s point of view, it is very difficult to see your own film in the cinema because rather than seeing the good stuff I always see the bad stuff, or the things that I didn’t do so well. But with this film, as I was watching it, I was able to see some things that I believe can be improved in my next film. I am so happy to see that so many people enjoyed it. It was a lot more than i expected.
Damon Wise: You just mentioned about working on the next film. Can you tell which film you are working on next?
Kim Jee Woon: It will be a Sci-Fi noir. The original work is called Jin-Roh which is a Japanese manga and anime. I will make it into an action film with live actors. The real film was made by Japanese Director Oshii Mamoru, who is legendary and one of his previous films includes Ghost In The Shell.
Damon Wise: Is there any genre that you would not want to attempt?
Kim Jee Woon: Romantic Comedy!!!
Damon Wise: That is all we have time for. Thanks for joining us in this festival. All the best in the future endeavours.
The Title Image is property of CJ Entertainment. 1st London East Asia Film Festival Kim Jee Woon Interview
1st London East Asia Film Festival Kim Jee Woon Interview
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