roles, ideals, immersion, identity

Lover: It was a bit unbelievable I suppose, the way your character manipulated the hard-bitten detective, and basically got away with murder. It must’ve been daunting for you, as you played alongside a famous Korean actor, Ahn Sung Ki. But then you’d already been successful in School 2, a very popular series made in 1999. By the way, I don’t intend this to be a critique of all your roles. I’m more interested in Ha Ji-won herself.

Ji-won: Haha but maybe my characters are more interesting than I am. I haven’t murdered anyone, so far.

Lover: Mmm, that’s a question, how many people have you killed so far in your roles? What’s your body count?

Ji-won: Haha, I’m too embarrassed to say. Not so many. I wish I’d killed more, haha.

Lover: I read that you were given a difficult time by the director during that film. But it must’ve been exciting to work with Ahn Sung Ki, with whom you worked again in Duelist and Sector 7. I note that in a 2001 interview you referred to him as your ‘ideal type’, and this caused some surprise. Of course this was in response to an interview question which was probably designed to uncover your taste in boyfriends, so it was nice that you chose a veteran actor.

Ji-won: Yes, I took the question a bit differently haha, looking at the ideal person I’d want to be, an actor familiar with different roles and wanting to challenge himself, and also relaxed with who he is, confident, and supporting everyone around him. And fun too. I don’t know if I’ll ever be that person, but that’s what I try for.

Lover: You’re famous for pushing yourself really hard, immersing yourself in your character in a complete identification, losing yourself in the role even to a dangerous degree – for example you’ve said you needed help to get over your immersion in the character in Sector 7. So here’s a question you may not like. Have you ever thought that there may be a problem in this, in that the character, or the scenario, isn’t convincing or plausible enough to be worth that effort? I suppose I’m thinking from the perspective of a writer, so I often look critically at the screenplay or the scenario, rather than the acting. Though I admit that when you’re on the screen, that emphasis changes!

Ji-won: Really? What do you mean?

Lover: Oh, it’s hard to explain, I suppose I identify with you too much, I identify with you identifying with the character, and everything else goes out the window. But you must think in retrospect that some of your films or dramas have been better written or more artistically successful than others, leaving aside popularity.

Ji-won: Oh, yes, once I’m detached from them, but then I don’t tend to watch my old stuff or analyse it, I’m usually busy with my next project… I try to give my best at the time and once it’s over I leave it to others to judge. But yes when I’m working on something I sometimes criticise different scenes – we all do, really, if we don’t feel that a particular scene or speech works – it’s a team effort, though ultimately the director has the final say – it’s his project in the end.



food, time, work, fans

Lover: Thanks for your time, I’ve tried cooking this meal for you but I’m not sure you’ll like it. I can’t cook Korean – I mean I haven’t tried.

Ji-won: That’s so nice of you, it looks delicious. I like trying different foods. When in Australia haha. Is this potato?

Lover: Yes it’s potato au gratin, and this is chicken stuffed with avocado, takes me back to my restaurant days, years ago. I hope you like the sauce.

Ji-won: Mmmm, yes it’s – delicate. You shouldn’t have gone to such trouble, thank you.

Lover: I’m not vegetarian, I’m afraid. I don’t know if you are.

Ji-won: Ummm. Should I be? Would you like me to be haha?

Lover: Well, I’d like to be. I feel I should be. I’m waiting for the meatless burger to come to Australia.

Ji-won: The meatless burger?

Lover: Yes, it exists, but not here yet. Not for a long time I suspect. The meat industry is wasteful and cruel, you see.

Ji-won: Yes, yes I see. Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?

Lover: Well no, not really. I mean, I want to talk to you about everything. To hold your attention so to be with you. To dominate your time, shamefully.

Ji-won: Ha, I’m an actor, my time is precious. So many roles to play, to explore, before it’s too late. But I have time for you now. Is there anything you want to talk about first?

Lover: About you. I’ve been looking at your work, or trying to look at it, from the early days, but so much of it isn’t translated into English, and I know no Korean.

Ji-won: Haha well it’s great that we can talk to each other without any language barriers here, in the world of fiction.

Lover: I want to look at your work as more than just a fan. That’s short for fanatic you know.

Ji-won: You’re not a fanatic of mine? Haha how disappointing. What’s this all about then?

Lover: I don’t want to be a fanatic, and yet here I am. It worries me. Do you have any advice?

Ji-won: Mmmm, forget about me? Turn your back on me?

Lover: But you don’t really mean that Ji-won. You’re always exhorting your fans to watch your stuff, watch the next movie, watch the next series, tell your friends…

Ji-won: You think that’s shallow? Egotistic? I don’t want them to devote their lives to me. Just to watch my work. Occasionally. It’ll be fun. I do it for them.

Lover: They’re fans, Jiwon. Fanatics, remember?

Ji-won: Are we having an argument, haha? I haven’t had one of those in a while. I think the word ‘fan’ has changed its meaning. They’re not zombies.

Lover: Well, maybe it means something different in Korean. Okay, I’ve looked at Truth Game, your first movie, though you did one important series before that, and some appearances. Anyway, it’s the earliest work of yours available with English subs. Here in Australia. Welcome to Australia by the way.

Ji-won: Thank you.

Lover: Be careful of our sun, it might wreck your youthful skin.

Ji-won: I think we have the same sun in Korea hahaha.

Lover: Brilliant, you’re an astronomer! Truth Game wasn’t a bad film, and of course you were excellent.

Ji-won: Well, thank you, it was an important beginning for me in movies. I mean, sort of decisive, because it was a demanding role.