Veteran Korean actress Yoon Jung-hee [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: What did director Lee Chang-dong tell you about your acting?
Yoon: I really liked how he coached me on my acting. He wrote the script, directed the film and even offered various ideas of Mi-ja that he had imagined of. During my conversations with director Lee Chang-dong, I was able to see a side of Yoon Jung-hee that I had not known about. We talked a lot and got along very well, so we were able to work hard on the film. Even in the scene that I shot thirty-five times, I could keep immersing myself into the character because I had something in common with her. Like Mi-ja, I too sometimes lose myself and become self-absorbed. (laugh) Another similarity is that I don't take anything in life for granted, not even the smallest thing, and I can lose myself in the beauty of it.
Q: But Mi-ja's and your life look completely different on the outside. Your character is around your age but she is a very different woman. How did you try to approach Mi-ja as an actress?
Yoon: I didn't think about it in that way -- I just tried to approach her depending on how I felt about her, from moment to moment. Of course, I did all the research before the shoot but I think I was faithful to those momentary feelings on the set. When I stand in front of the camera, I fall into a reverie like I am dreaming. Maintaining that feeling really helped me a lot. I still live my life with certain delusions.
Actress Yoon Jung-hee [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Q: Delusions about what?
Yoon: About my age! (laugh) Of course, the gap between my mental age and physical age shouldn't be too wide. (laugh) But back when I was in school, I would read a book and totally become the character, feeling that I was her and swimming in my own thoughts. (laugh) In my debut film "Youth Theater", I first became immersed with the main character by reading the book, thinking she was a very charming woman. I think those kind of thoughts helped me a lot when I later shot the film.
Q: You said that your heart still pounds when you see a flower. Even back then, you were a sensitive little girl.
Yoon: Who doesn't like flowers? (laugh) And for me, my heart doesn't pound, I scream in joy. (laugh)
Q: So then have you ever written a poem yourself?
Yoon: Only when I was in school. (laugh) But I did give many recitations of poetry. I even put out a poetry recitation record where I recited [Korea's famous poet] Midang Seo Jeong-ju's poems. Sir Midang adored me and my husband so much and we wanted to repay him for his love. So my husband [famed concert pianist Paik Kun-woo] played the piano and I read his poems. Before we recorded the recitations, I studied the poems with Sir Midang. And when the record came out, he really loved it. His poems are so wonderful to read out loud. Before I went into shooting for "Poetry", I had ten poetry books beside my bed and read them. One of the poems that really touched my heart was a poem by the poet Kim Yong-taek. I loved it because the more I would read it, the more comfortable it felt and I was surprised when he appeared in the film. And I was also very surprised that he acted so well. (laugh)
Q: But most people, as they get older, find it hard to maintain that sensitivity which makes them feel moved when they read poetry. In that sense, I think you have lived a very different kind of life compared to other people.
Yoon: I think it is in my nature. Comparing my movie-making days in Korea and my current life in France, I don't think much has changed. Only the atmosphere of the country and my friends has changed a bit. Because even back when I was a movie star, I was only an actress when I was standing in front of the camera. When I walked out of the studio, I always went back to my real self and to my real name Son Mi-ja. That Mi-ja person has not changed in either country and I think I was able to keep that part of me all these years. If I hadn't, it would have been very uncomfortable.
Q: Most stars have to maintain their image as a star in their personal life.
Actress Yoon Jung-hee [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]
Yoon: That wasn't the case for me. (laugh) Even my acting days weren't glamourous at all. It was the fans who made me into a star and in my heart, I didn't even regard myself as a big star. My name is Son Mi-ja and there is a reason I made my stage name Yoon Jung-hee. Back then and even now, people think of acting as some incredibly fancy profession and I wanted to stay quiet and grounded even when I went into such profession. So 'Jeong' stands for tranquility [in Chinese characters] and 'Hee' stands for female. And I chose the last name Yoon because I had a friend who was really pretty and kind and her family name was Yoon. So I took her name without even asking for her permission. (laugh)
Q: It seems like you were dreaming of a life of your own, not a glamorous life as an actress. In one of your interviews, you said that you were determined to quit acting after five years, but then you did it for two more years and left the business.
Yoon: Being an actor was not my original dream. It just happened. I originally wanted to continue studying and become a college professor or a diplomat. I was going to do it for just five years and then go to the U.S. to study. But back then, it was the heyday of Korean films and I was able to shoot all these incredible movies. So it became very hard for me to leave so I did it for seven years. Then in 1972, I went to Paris with director Shin Sang-ok to track down a movie and that is when I realized that Paris is where I should be, not the U.S. I needed to go to Paris, where the Lumiere brothers made films.
Q: But you made your acting debut in the film "Youth Theater" where the competition for the lead actress was 1200 to 1. In a situation like that, don't you usually need to have a strong desire to be an actress? (laugh)
Yoon: My friends told me about the casting call for Oh Yu-kyung in the film "Youth Theater", so I just went in and auditioned. (laugh) Actually, they had a screen test at the end of the interview and I heard someone say that the producers had already decided to cast someone. And I happened to be an extremely proud person, which is one of my flaws. (laugh) So when I heard that, I just walked out in the middle of my audition. I was taking a walk by the Han River and somebody talked me into going back to finish the audition. So I went back, did the screen test and got the part.
Senior Reporter : Kang Myoung-Seok two@
Photographer : Chae ki-won ten@
Editor : Lynn Kim lynn2878@ , Lee Ji-Hye seven@
<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>
Subscribe to HanCinema Pure to remove ads from the website (not for episode and movie videos) for US$2.99 per month (you can cancel anytime).
The first step is to be a member, please click here : Sign up, then a subscribe button will show up.