E.T. stands for English teacher - but for a P.E. instructor forced to change jobs and become an English teacher overnight, E.T. is in the territory of extraterrestrial uncertainty.
However, this quirky role is a good fit for Kim Soo-ro
, a veteran actor who has built his fame through comic versatility.
In the movie "Our School E.T
", Kim plays Cheon Seong-geun, a P.E. teacher, whose job security is endangered. His job is easy and enjoyable, but then his school suddenly decides to hire another English teacher to help more students enter prestigious universities - at the cost of a gym teacher.
To survive, Cheon attempts to change his specialty and adapts to the new role of an English teacher. The only problem is that he does not speak English well; in fact, he has not spoken the language at all in the past 10 years.
The movie's basic comic set-up is simple enough, but since it's so straightforward, much of the comedy depends on the central character, and few Korean actors can match Kim Soo-ro
's ability to transform his image instantly and adapt to a new role.
"I'm just working hard to do my part to help find a turning point for the Korean film industry because I know our filmmakers are having a hard time", Kim told reporters at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday.
His passion for films is well-illustrated in his career. Since his big-screen debut in 1993 with a minor role in "Two Cops", Kim has expanded his cinematic experience at a steady pace, having performed in more than 20 films.
A turning point came in 1999 when he played an outlandish comic character in "Attack the Gas Station!
" When the movie became an unexpected hit and Kim's character drew attention, his status as a comic actor got a boost.
More momentum came in 2006 when he starred in "Vampire Cop Ricky
" as an eccentric creature of the night. This role was equally challenging because plenty of exaggerated facial expressions and slapstick were required. Kim loved the character. Due to the positive reaction from audiences, a sequel to the comic vampire film is also set for release later this year.
As with Kim's other comic films, "Our School E.T
" is expected to demonstrate his shapeshifting abilities on the silver screen.
"I wanted to play a teacher in the movie, but I had a clear picture about the role I would play", Kim said.
"I got several offers for a teacher role, but declined to join the projects because I did not see the picture I had in mind, but the role in 'Our School E.T
' was different and, more importantly, the character was exactly what I thought about a teacher role".
Kim said many of the offers he received involved comic performances, but comedy is not the most important factor in his career choices.
"Instead of meaningless laughter, I want to create laughs that come with a touch of humanity or warmth", he said, adding that "Our School E.T
" will feature a character that is engaging and appealing in many respects.
Kim said he never fails to visit his high school on Teacher's Day.
"I respect my teachers, and I believe their teaching affected my life in a big way, and perhaps that's why I finally got into a college, even after I had failed to pass the entrance exam four times", he said.
To play the role of an English teacher, he practiced speaking English a lot and even received accent training from a native speaker. But Kim said the movie touches on other areas besides English education.
"My impression is that not only English education but also the relationships between teachers and students seem to stress rules rather than conversations", Kim said. "In this movie, Cheon tries to close the gap with students through practical conversation rather than grammar rules".
"Our School E.T
", directed by Park Gwang-choon
, will be released nationwide on Sept. 11.
By Yang Sung-jin