Lee Byun-hun, King of the Screen
There is something about Lee Byung-hun beyond his deep, intense eyes and commanding demeanor. Undoubtedly one of South Korea's top actors, Mr. Lee oozes charm on the big screen, as well as considerable talent.
Since his debut, the 42-year old Mr. Lee has starred in 20 movies and 21 TV dramas. His breakthrough was 'JSA: Joint Security Area,' directed by Park Chan-wook in 2000, a fictional account of how South and North Korean soldiers at the border become friends but face a tragic end after failing to overcome their distrust of each other and a deep ideological divide.
In his latest historical movie, 'Masquerade,' Mr. Lee pulls off a fine dual performance as Gwanghae, a Chosun dynasty king, and a commoner who impersonates the king. The movie has become a huge box office hit in South Korea, hogging top spot for five consecutive weeks. Since it opened on Sept. 13, the movie has attracted more than 9.3 million moviegoers and raked in 1.8 billion won in ticket sales.
Mr. Lee is also one of a few South Korean actors to have made a successful career in Hollywood. His overseas acting credits include G.I. Joe : The Rise of Cobra (2009) as Storm Shadow. He was cast again for G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation, which will be released in March next year. He's also in the process of shooting Red 2 with Bruce Willis, Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich.
In June, he became one of the first two Asian actors to leave his hand and foot imprints outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, a mark of global recognition. Following is an edited email interview with Mr. Lee.
WSJ: How did it feel to be asked to leave your imprints in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater?
It was an unbelievably great honor to be placed amongst some of Hollywood's greatest actors. I still recall a few years back when I went to the place as a tourist to take pictures. The event felt like a contract for me, a contract that will bind me going forward to push and challenge myself to become a better actor than I am now.
WSJ: You are currently shooting Red 2. How did you feel about being cast in the film?
The more I act, the harder it gets since I feel like I still have so much to learn. Whenever I embark on a new project, it always feels like the first time. If it were easy to me and I felt like I knew everything, my acting might have been different. I think the feeling of 'newness' keeps me on my toes and concentrated.
WSJ: Did you have any challenges during your acting career that made you want to quit?
The biggest challenge came at the early stage of my career. In fact, it was my first project. I hadn't had any formal acting training at that time. I had no idea what it took to be an actor. Then all of a sudden I found myself cast in a TV drama. The director was very harsh with me. One time, he told me this would be my first and last acting job. I seriously thought that acting was not the right career for me.
WSJ: What do you see yourself doing 20 years from now?
As an actor, I feel I am in a good position now. I am able to choose from many scripts and decide what I like the best. In 20 years I hope to be able to choose my roles as I do now. I wish I can be an actor whom people would like to work with and who is still in demand.
WSJ: What is your dream outside your acting career?
Just like other ordinary people, I want to have a happy family.
自首次出镜以来，这名42岁的影星已经出演了20部电影和21部电视剧，其中他在2000年主演的由朴赞郁(Park Chan-wook)导演的《共同警备区》(JSA: Joint Security Area)成为他的突破之作。这部影片讲述了韩朝边境地区的士兵结为朋友，但由于未能克服对彼此的猜疑以及双方在意识形态上的巨大分歧而最终造成悲惨结局的故事。
李秉宪也是少数几个在好莱坞闯出了成绩的韩国演员之一。他在海外的佳绩包括在《特种部队：眼镜蛇的崛起》(G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra)中饰演白幽灵(Storm Shadow)，并再次参演《特种部队2：复仇》(G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation)，该片即将在明年3月上映。此外，目前他正在与布鲁斯?威利斯(Bruce Willis)、安东尼?霍普金斯(Anthony Hopkins)和约翰?马尔科维奇(John Malkovich)合作拍摄《赤焰战场2》(Red 2)。
今年6月，他成为亚洲最早两位在好莱坞的格劳曼中国剧院(Grauman's Chinese Theater)外留下自己的手印和脚印的影星之一，这是他获得国际认可的一个标志。下文为经过编辑的对李秉宪的电子邮件采访内容。