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(Yonhap Interview) So Ji-sub: Filming 'The Battleship Island' was mentally tense

2017/07/24 17:02

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By Chang Dong-woo and Kim Hee-sun

SEOUL, July 24 (Yonhap) -- Before he was offered a major role in "The Battleship Island," So Ji-sub admitted he wasn't aware of exactly what he was getting himself into. Back then, all So cared for was the chance at collaborating with his long-time filmmaker hero, director Ryoo Seung-wan.

Only after agreeing to join the project and receiving the screenplay did So realize what he was about to face: an epic war movie about the atrocities faced by hundreds of forced Korean coal miners and sex slaves at Japan's Hashima Island during World War II. He suddenly realized this wasn't going to be a walk in the park.

Actor So Ji-sub, star of upcoming South Korean blockbuster movie "The Battleship Island," poses for the camera in a photo provided by the 51K Company. (Yonhap) Actor So Ji-sub, star of upcoming South Korean blockbuster movie "The Battleship Island," poses for the camera in a photo provided by the 51K Company. (Yonhap)

"I accepted the offer without even reading the screenplay because I wanted to work in a movie with director Ryoo Seung-wan. It was physically difficult, but more grueling was the pressures from the fact that the real-life Battleship Island was its subject matter," So said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Monday.

"After news came out of the film's production, the pressure intensified after Battleship Island itself became a big issue," he added, referring to the controversial listing of the site as a UNESCO World Heritage in 2015. UNESCO recommended Tokyo implement measures to explain its full history, but no action has been taken yet.

The actor said he asked himself, "Can I serve this movie, can I deliver my character well?" In his first acting job in two years, So plays Choi Chil-sung, a former gangster who ends up on Hashima Island as one of the hundreds of forced Korean coal miners.

The 41-year-old actor, who's first big breakout role was in KBS 2TV's "I'm Sorry, I Love You," said Chil-sung's character resembles that of his own. But the role was distinctive from his past works.

"Compared to my past characters who tended to have a cold heart and were mostly quiet, Chil-sung has fiery emotions," So said.

"It was cathartic to deliver a burning performance, but it seems as if there's not much left inside of me. It's as if I've coughed out everything that was inside."

   With an all-star cast, including Song Joong-ki and Hwang Jung-min, and a massive production, "The Battleship Island" is one of the more expensive South Korean films to date. Against a budget of 25 billion won (US$22.3 million), the movie has to sell more than 7 million tickets to break even.

"I hope the combined audience surpasses 10 million. It has to break even in order to produce similar movies in the future. I hope those who have worked hard on the movie can be compensated."

  

Actor So Ji-sub, star of the upcoming South Korean blockbuster "The Battleship Island," poses for the camera in a photo provided by the 51K Company. (Yonhap) Actor So Ji-sub, star of the upcoming South Korean blockbuster "The Battleship Island," poses for the camera in a photo provided by the 51K Company. (Yonhap)

When asked about his thoughts on marriage, So said he has no plans for the time being.

"Until a while ago, I was burdened with the pressure of having to get married. But being over 40 now, I'm finding my current state comfortable," said So, adding that he wants to find a person to date for now.

"The Battleship Island" is expected to make a strong opening day performance on Wednesday, becoming the most reserved film, with a 65.1 percent reservation rate, as of 2:30 p.m. Monday.

odissy@yna.co.kr

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