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CJ ENTERTAINMENT Goes for the Gold with "AS ONE"

2012/05/24 | 2011 views |  | Permalink

Sports film based on a true story hits North American theatres on June 1, 2012

CJ Entertainment brings "As One" (aka Korea, original title) to North American theatres this summer on June 1, 2012. The film, based on a true story about the first ever united North and South Korean sports team, will be releasing in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Toronto, and Los Angeles (L.A. release on June 8, 2012). 

 A touching true story about the historic first Team Korea

"As One" recounts the dramatic tale of the first unified Korean team that competed at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan. South Korea's ping-pong star Hyeon Jeong-hwa and North Korea's LI Bun-hee have each suffered humbling defeats at the hands of China's formidable "Ping-Pong Witch" every time they reach the tournament's final rounds. Forced by politicians to suddenly team up as the first united team Korea, HYEON and LI experience only conflict and mistrust, and face the loss of their championship dreams. But game-by-game, the two begin to build teamwork and find a budding friendship. When political winds change again and just as suddenly an announcement is made to disband team Korea, the two young women must prove to their people and the world that teamwork can outshine the dark shadows of a painful history.

Starring top Korean actresses Ha Ji-won ("Haeundae") and Bae Doona ("The Host")

Ha Ji-won, famous for her charisma in the blockbuster film "Haeundae" and the explosively popular TV drama "Secret Garden", plays the South Korean table tennis player, Hyeon Jeong-hwa. Her North Korean counterpart, LI Bun-hee, is played by Korean arthouse queen Bae Doona of "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" and "The Host". In order to get into character, the two actresses underwent a training period of 4 months, where they worked to mimic the playing styles of their real-life characters, Hyeon Jeong-hwa and LI Bun-hee. Moreover, the real-life sports legend Hyeon Jeong-hwa made it to the set almost every day, coaching Ha Ji-won and Bae Doona herself to add to both character's realism.

Just in time to kick off the international feel-good wave that is the Summer Olympics, "As One" is a stirring reminder how a single game can change the course of history.  

Theater List:

Releasing on June 1, 2012

New York, NY – AMC Ridgefield Park

Chicago, IL – AMC Showplace Niles

Philadelphia, PA – AMC 309

Vancouver, B.C. – Cineplex Silvercity Coquitlam

Toronto – AMC Yonge & Dundas

Releasing on June 8, 2012

Los Angeles, CA – CGV Cinemas

 

Production Notes

Synopsis

A touching true story about the historic first

"As One" recounts the dramatic tale of the first unified Korean team that competed at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan. South Korea's ping-pong star Hyeon Jeong-hwa and North Korea's LI Bun-hee have each suffered humbling defeats at the hands of China's formidable "Ping-Pong Witch" every time they reach the tournament's final rounds. Forced by politicians to suddenly team up as the first united team Korea, HYEON and LI experience only conflict and mistrust, and face the loss of their championship dreams. But game-by-game, the two begin to build teamwork and find a budding friendship. When political winds change again and just as suddenly an announcement is made to disband team Korea, the two young women must prove to their people and the world that teamwork can outshine the dark shadows of a painful history.

 

ABOUT THE MOVIE

 

The heartwarming true story of the first ever Unified Korea team!

6 weeks to overcome 40 years of history!

"As One" is the cinematic retelling of the first ever post-war Unified Korea sports team, hastily formed to participate in the 41st World Table Tennis Championships in 1991.

Following the North Korean mid-air bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 in 1987, a Summit was held between North and South Korea to defuse the extreme tension on the peninsula. The summit ended with the agreement to form a unified Korean sports team; and table tennis, being highly visible and world-class in both countries, was chosen as the symbolic unifier. Summarily, the first-ever unified North-South team under the simple aegis "KOREA" was formed to compete in the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan.

"As One" recounts these dramatic events where especially two world-class players who had only ever met across the table as die-hard opponents must suddenly become a true partners and teammates in time for the biggest stage of the World Championships. Putting aside their individual ambitions, these women have to summon every ounce of grit and grace to defeat a dominating Chinese team that is vying for its 9th consecutive World Championship title.

 

ABOUT THE CAST

Ha Ji-won and Bae Doona, two of Korea's biggest box office grossing actresses transform into real-life national table tennis players!

From starring in one of the highest-grossing blockbusters in South Korea ("Haeundae") to being the leading lady in the beloved TV series "Secret Garden", Ha Ji-won has become one of the most sought after actresses in Korean cinema for her sexy charisma and tomboyish charm. With coaching from the real-life South Korean table tennis heroine Hyeon Jeong-hwa whom she plays in ""As One"", HA strove to embody all of Hyun's playing habits and techniques.

HYEON's North Korean teammate, LEE Bun-hee, is played by Korean arthouse queen Bae Doona of "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" and "The Host" fame. Unlike HA's direct training sessions with her real-life counterpart, BAE was unable to contact or meet with North Korean character, having to rely on videos and tutoring instead. To get into character, BAE underwent an intensive training period during which she not only learned to speak in a North Korean accent, but also switch her natural right-hand to her left in order to match LEE Bun-hee's playing style.

Just like the players whom they portray, HA and BAE can be seen as rivals on the silver screen, constantly upping each other with acclaimed roles in blockbuster films. They must capture the transformation of the two characters who start out as rivals and emerge as sisters in a trial by fire.


PRODUCTION NOTES


1. No stunt/body doubles, only blood and sweat from the real actresses!

The actresses started their training 4 months prior to the start of principal shoot. This was Ha Ji-won's first time playing table tennis, while Bae Doona played some back in her primary school days. Not only that, CHOI Yoon-young, OH Jung-se and other actors playing the South Korean players also trained together for a total of 7 months of intensive training.

In case of Ha Ji-won, she had injured her ankle during the shoot of Sector 7 and was in the process of recovery. Yet she still kept up with highly intensive training. It was no easy task for Bae Doona as well, training to the point where she lost toe nails. She also had the added disadvantage of playing a left-handed character, because she had to readjust to a new playing style. Even though LI Bun-hee's left-handed style was not well-known, BAE wanted to maintain high level of authenticity.

Because of the entire cast's efforts, there were no body doubles for the tournament shots. In addition to the grueling physical training, all the actors performing North Korean roles had speech lessons for North Korean accents where even subtle differences in regional accents such as LI's Pyongyang accent and YOO's Hamkyung accent were honed.

 

2. Faithfully recreating the tournament!

Because the tournament was a fairly recent event, the production received invaluable assistance from many of those who were actually present at the tournament, witnessing the events unfold, thus adding another layer of authenticity to the film.

In addition to current referees, the actual referees who made calls at 1991 tournament appear in the film to provide natural actions and reactions as well as to consult on set. Because the actors and even extras were so conscientious about recreating such a well-publicized event, the film captures the look and feel of the historical tournament and giving audiences something real to cheer for.

Aside from the main cast who trained for 4 months prior to the shoot, the production sought out many supporting roles and extras to play international-quality table tennis. From the Korea Table Tennis Association official players, where the real Hyeon Jeong-hwa is now Executive Director, to current national table tennis players of Hungary and France, top athletes appeared throughout the film for added realism.

3. Enduring the hardships of shooting for the final match!

The tournament games were shot at Andong University's indoor stadium, where a July heatwave was multiplied by the heat from lighting, raising the temperature to over 120 F degrees inside. Despite these hellish conditions, the actors continued to perform selflessly. There were constant minor injuries from slip and falls, as well as from performing difficult moves, and physiotherapists had to be on standby on the set at all times. Shooting the final game against the Chinese team was a culmination of the training and difficult photography, bringing all the players to genuine tears.


CAST & CHARACTERS

South Korea's top ranking table tennis player, Hyeon Jeong-hwa

"How can we play the game with them? We don't think the same thoughts, let alone speak the same words. It would be more productive to play with an African team".

South Korea's top ranking table tennis player, Hyeon Jeong-hwa is a fiercely competitive Olympic Gold medalist who plays to win. Despite her great skills and potential, she has always had to settle for silver when faced against the powerful Chinese team at the World Championships. As the 1991 Chiba tournament approaches, HYEON becomes more and more adamant to win the gold. But then comes the sudden news that North and South Korea will form a unified Korean table tennis team, and HYEON can only see how it will threaten her chances of winning the tournament. HYEON initially sees North Korean player LI Bun-hui as a threat and tries to one-up her, but soon realizes that their goals are ultimately the same, finding a friend and partner in LI.

Cast Ha Ji-won | The actress who won over 10 million audience members with endless passion and diverse characters

From HAEUNDAE, which smashed local box office records and drew over 10 million people in admissions to the explosively popular TV series "Secret Garden", Ha Ji-won has truly become a mega star and a powerhouse actress. Not only is she a great actress, but she is one of a handful of Korean actresses who are considered bankable and has starred in consistently high-quality films over the years. She began pre-production preparation for "As One" as soon as she wrapped "Secret Garden" - "I was moved to tears when I finished reading the script. My body was completely beat down from finishing "Secret Garden" but I did not want to lose the chance to act in this film and wanted to play the role of Hyeon Jeong-hwa".

SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY

"Sector 7" (2011), "Closer to Heaven" (2009), "Haeundae" (2009), "BA:BO" (2008), "Miracle on 1st Street" (2007), "Duelist" (2005), "Secret Garden" (TV, 2011), "Hwangjin-i" (TV, 2006), "Something Happened in Bali" (TV, 2004), "Damo" (TV, 2003)

AWARDS

2010 46th Paeksang Arts Awards - Best Actress ("Closer to Heaven")

2009 30th Blue Dragon Awards - Best Actress ("Closer to Heaven")

CAST & CHARACTERS

Hyeon Jeong-hwa's rival and captain of North Korean national team - LI Bun-hee

"Living in my own country is more important than living in a rich one".

North Korean national player LI Bun-hee has always played against South Korean counterpart Hyeon Jeong-hwa at international tournaments. And even with the shocking news of unifying the two teams, she remains indifferent. While initially frustrated with the comparatively relaxed nature of the South Korean team, as the team begins to make progress, she does not hold back on giving advice and develops a meaningful friendship with HYEON.

Cast Bae Doona | Noteworthy South Korean actress from "The Host" returns after 6 years 

Bae Doona has an impressive track record of working with acclaimed Korean directors such as Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, and has worked with globally renown director Hirokazu Koreeda and the Wachowski Brothers, starring in their international projects. With "AIR DOLL", "The Host", and "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance", she has carved out a truly unique flair of her own. "As One" marks her first Korean film in 6 years following the "The Host". "I saw a photograph of [Li Bun-hee] and I knew right away that she was a soft and sweet person with a determined heart. Because I did not have detailed information about her, she felt mystical and left a lot of space for me to fill in", BAE recalls of her taking the role. BAE, who was a table tennis player in high school, began training for her role 3 months prior to principal photography, learning how to play left-handed in order to mimic Li's movements. Receiving much praise for her transformative roles over the years, BAE's performance in "As One" is sure to touch the hearts of many.

SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY

"AIR DOLL" (2009), "The Host" (2006), "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" (2002), "Take Care of My Cat" (2001) "Barking Dogs Never Bite" (2000), "Gloria" (TV, 2010-2011), "Master of Study" (TV, 2010)

AWARDS

2010 33rd Japan Academy Prize - Best Actress ("AIR DOLL")

2006 9th Director's Cut Awards - Best Actress ("The Host")

2002 38th Paeksang Arts Awards - Best Actress ("Take Care of My Cat")

2001 21st Korean Association of Film Critics Awards - Best Actress ("Take Care of My Cat")

2000 21st Blue Dragon Film Awards - Best New Actress ("Barking Dogs Never Bite")


The Director - Moon Hyeon-seong

Director Moon Hyeon-seong began his career in 2007 as the script supervisor for MAY 18, and then as an assistant director with YOGA. Making his feature debut with "As One", director Moon Hyeon-seong uses the foundation of true events to tell the story of a team that united a divided nation for the first time in its painful history.


The Coach - Hyeon Jeong-hwa

National South Korean table tennis player Hyeon Jeong-hwa brought about the golden age of table tennis to Korea. In 2011, she became the first Korean table tennis player to be inducted into International Table Tennis Federation's Hall of Fame. During 1988 Seoul Olympics, she led the South Korean team to victory against the unbeatable Chinese team and also helped the first ever Unified Korean team to win at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, In 1993 at Gothenburg World Table Tennis Championships, she brought home the first singles win, as well as mixed doubles and team event, making her the only Korean to achieve a Grand Slam.

With astounding eagerness, she became involved in the making of "As One" since its very beginnings, and coached the actresses Ha Ji-won and Bae Doona on-set. Her presence adds an extra layer of authenticity to the film and helps transform the two leading actresses to become national table tennis players on the silver screen.

CAREER

Hall of Fame Inductee, International Table Tennis Federation

Executive Director, Korea Table Tennis Association

Table Tennis Director, Korean Racing Authority

Head Coach, South Korean national team

AWARDS

1993 Gothenburg World Table Tennis Championships Team - Bronze Medal

1993 Gothenburg World Table Tennis Championships Mixed Doubles - Silver Medal

1993 Gothenburg World Table Tennis Championships Women's Singles - Gold Medal

1992 Barcelona Olympics Women's Doubles - Bronze Medal

1992 Barcelona Olympics Woman Singles - Bronze Medal

1991 Chiba World Table Tennis Championships Team Event - Gold

1988 Seoul Olympics Women's Doubles - Gold Medal


INTERVIEW WITH Hyeon Jeong-hwa

Q. What was it like to join forces with LI Bun-hee, whom you've always faced off with at tournaments?

A. She always had to play fatalistically, and she had an air of arrogance to her. She was much more famous than I was and was an international player, so I knew she was a rival I had to beat. Because of this mindset, it was very hard for us to become friends in the beginning.

Q. Was there a certain point in time when the two of you started to open up to each other?

A. While we were training together, I realized that I was constantly being proven wrong. We were all very serious at that time and had our own biases about each other, but looking back, we were all really just naïve, young men and women in our 20s with the same thoughts and goals.

Q. The atmosphere must have changed quite a bit as the days passed.

A. Standing in front of the table, your mind goes blank because you become a team when you're standing there side by side. At first we saw each other as rivals. 'I have to play better, I have to train harder'--I thought this way in the beginning and I think this perceived rivalry drew out better results.

Q. As the tournament progressed, when did you finally feel like you became a single team?

A. While we were training, by chance, I found out that LI had hepatitis. Because of it, she became tired easily and she could not complete the entire duration of our training sessions. I really felt terrible for her. LI had to train as her team's leader, and I, too, had to train to lead my team. But seeing her in such vulnerable state allowed me to open up to her out of sympathy.

Q. What did it feel like to win the team event?

A. When we won, I cried my heart out. I've won many tournaments and medals, but I've never cried even after winning gold. That day, I cried as if we had just won 7 gold medals. There were around 100 reporters there and for the sake of security, the four of us were escorted backstage, where we huddled together and cried some more.

Q. How do you remember LI Bun-hee?

A. She was such a beautiful character. She always tried her best to be responsible for any situation she was in. And her table tennis pose was a stunner. North Koreans frequently uses the word 'comrade' but she liked that I treated her like a sister. During the match she was a stone-cold player but outside of it, she was warm, and felt more like an older sister.

Q. How did you react to the casting choices?

A. I actually recommended Ha Ji-won to play me. HA took on the role naturally, just as I had hoped. She began training for the role as soon as her recent TV drama wrapped, so it must have been very difficult for her to adjust, but she worked very hard not to fall behind. She was a true professional. Even the umpire exclaimed, "How did you teach her to play the game? Her poses are exactly the same!"

I had a really good feeling about Bae Doona when I heard she was going to play LI. Because LI is left-handed, BAE also had to train with her left hand. She worked so hard to pull that off and I'm very proud of her for making it work. LI's backhand smash is world-class and BAE even managed to copy that on-screen. Both of these actresses worked very hard to become us.

Q. What did you feel during shooting on-set?

A. Passion. Not only for the two leading actresses but also for the other actors who appear in the film. We, the real players, thought 'these actors are genuinely playing their roles with everything they've got, we should be working harder'. They taught and motivated us to become better players. We took time out of our schedule to come to the set and teach the actors, but we ended up learning from their passion, sweat and effort. It felt good to meet these fantastic actors and have a deep emotional connection.

Q. At the time of the tournament, did you think that the Unified Korean team would win the title?

A. I never thought we would. But I knew we would at least reach the finals since two teams, that have always maintained second and third place came together to become one. But because the Chinese players were so powerful, I didn't think we'd win. That being said, I think the Chinese felt our determination during the match. Even though I was competing, it felt like it wasn't me that was standing there. It felt as though someone or something was leading me, so I did not want to lose.

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