Interview Part 1 - Kim Dongwan Wants to be Called an Actor
It doesn’t feel awkward anymore to call Kim Dong Wan a true actor, as he’s managed to leave a big impression as an actor in the minds of his audience through Deranged.
He says he’s proud to be a member of Shinhwa, the longest-running idol group in existence, but then, whenever someone starts to talk about acting, he puts on his serious face, though he denies that he’s ever serious.
Deranged certainly made big issues in the Box Office this year. Korean films, which had been squashed this year by the onslaught of Hollywood super heroes such as The Amazing Spiderman, The Dark Knight and Avengers, came to life again with the success of Deranged.
What’s more surprising is that it was a film like Deranged that announced the return of Korean films to the box office this summer.
In an age where films, Korean and foreign alike, aren’t considered blockbusters if they didn’t pour at least 10 billion won into production, this film garnered a success with just one creative idea and its ability to place its small funds and cast right where it needed them to be.
The most important element that made Deranged a success was the sharp eye that picked out a small urban myth that had been floating around a few years ago among young students. The current trend in film makes directors turn out bigger and badder films every year, but this film took a shot at the top with a story based on one good idea instead. The actors then helped the film along.
Kim Myung Min, of course, led the film, but Deranged can especially be called ‘a film by the actors’ in that it pulled out a strong energy from the unchecked actor Kim Dong Wan. Its use of extras in certain surprising scenes also supported the actors behind them.
And so we return to Kim Dong Wan. He already stood tall as a member of Shinhwa, the longest-running idol group, but he managed to stretch out toward acting little by little, and finally became a young actor rising fast in Chungmuro.
The actor Kim Dong Wan has an attractive smile, but as soon as the camera turns off he immediately lets loose his brand of charisma. We listened in to what this man, who still feels awkward about being called an ‘actor’ but enjoys acting so much, had to say.
Now it feels like you’ve definitely found a place for yourself as an actor. Why do you believe ‘Deranged’ was received so well?
I actually don’t know. Sometimes for singers, there are times when tracks other than the promoted singles in an album become popular, and it’s hard to figure out why. We’re just thankful it’s doing well. I was actually just aiming to learn a lot from [Kim] Myung Min hyung (big brother) and get to know him better, so I didn’t really care for the results, though I did work hard
What exactly did you want to learn from Kim Myung Min?
I didn’t only want to learn how to act. I was looking forward to being in this film because it gave me the chance to act in an environment bigger than before. I came to like Myung Min hyung even more while shooting. I like cool male actors, like Lee Jung Jae or Lee Byung Hun sunbae (senior). They really live like real actors.
I don’t like people who check themselves or only show their good sides because they want to be loved by everyone. I look up to actors who charge forth with their own convictions.
I heard some people tried to stop you from choosing ‘Deranged’.
Ah, not strongly, but a bit. (Laugh) Some pointed out that it didn’t fit with my original image, but actually, I ask for advice from everyone but then end up doing what I want to do.
People usually tell me to take the easy and safe way when they give their advice, but I’ve rarely seen people who have become successful after taking the safe way. There are times when you need courage and a daring heart. Even now I’m trying to decide on my next piece, and I’m thinking so hard I can’t sleep at night.
Oh, you want to know what it is? I’m sorry, the final deadline for the decision is tomorrow…. I’m sorry. (Laugh)
There were probably scenes in ‘Deranged’ that made you feel like you could’ve done better, and other scenes that you liked.
There’s a scene where there’s a big fire. Usually we shoot multiple times and decide on the final cut later after monitoring the shoots, so I wasn’t giving my all. I had forgotten that we had to burn down the set for the scene, and so that we couldn’t possibly shoot the scene more than once. Later, my friends told me I looked like a fool [in that scene].
Although the audience won’t notice, my friends’ eyes can be pretty sharp. The scene I like is the one where I ask Honey Lee for money in her lab. I acted out lines that made me look like a bigger loser, but they were edited out. I looked more like a loser because Honey was taller than me, too.
Celebrities usually don’t like it when they look like losers; this is surprising.
I don’t think I can act like I’m cool. It doesn’t feel sincere. They tell me to walk slowly or try to put on airs, but I just can’t do that. I plan to avoid taking up boss roles or other handsome roles.
Let’s talk about your first film, ‘Spin Kick’. It flopped in the box office, but I heard it was a meaningful piece for you.
I worked hard, and I learned a lot. I’m sad that it’s used to make fun of me in variety programs. I laugh and agree because I can’t help it, but I think of the officials that worked with me back then, and how bad they probably feel at that.
I’m really thankful for that piece. I’m still sorry I didn’t live up to expectations. I chose to act when I was in my heyday as a singer and as an idol. You need to prepare a lot of things when you stand onstage as a singer.
I do love my group, Shinhwa, and I love our songs, but when you’re onstage you have to care for the other details, like whether my clothes are all right or whether I look nice.
When I’m acting, though, I don’t have to care even though my hair gets all tangled or I look tired. I can’t talk about this in more detail, but anyway it feels like when I’m acting I’m free. I feel some sense of freedom.
’The Peak’, a piece you starred in last year, helped you clear a place for yourself as an actor.
I was given a lot by that piece. There were a lot of officials that told me they cast me for the film because of that piece. It was so hard to film at the time. Shoots were often cancelled because of the situation at Umyeonsan during rainy season, and director Lee Sang Yeop continuously made us get together for script readings.
One time, while I was just sitting there, I thought maybe at this rate, Mr. Lee Yuk Sa would come to see me, or that he would possess me. (Laugh) [Seo] Hyun Jin and [Yoon] Ji Hye also worked hard. I think I just rode on the wave and mingled with the great actors. The same goes for when I’m in a group; I think I chose to blend in naturally rather than stand out for acting, too.
Why is that?
Like it is for groups, dramas and films are put together through the efforts of more than one person. And that’s how I usually am, too. You can’t be the only one doing the physical work, using your head, playing the guitar and playing the drums at the same time, right?
It’s more effective to hand out to other people what he or she does best. I don’t try to do more than what I can be good at. It’s not that I want to play safe; I do try to be daring by throwing myself in pits of fire, but I try to find pits with fire that I can bear.
I don’t like being confident with nothing to base the confidence on, and I don’t like quotes like ‘If it doesn’t work, make it work’. (Laugh) If it doesn’t work, wouldn’t it be wise to find another way to do it?
I’ve gained more than I’ve lost by staying in a group, and I’ve tried out singing solo and acting, so I have no regrets. There are singers that can’t sleep on nights before their concerts, but if you’re in a group, you feel more stable and you can depend on each other, so your heart feels lighter.
Kim Dong Wan definitely now has his wings spread wide. Shinhwa is soaring with Shinhwa Broadcast and its Asia tour, and Deranged handed him the official title of ‘actor’.
This is how Kim Dong Wan takes step after step forward as an actor.
Editor: Shin Yoo Mi, Contributing Writer: Park Ji Ho, Styling: Park Ji Young, Hair: Che Che by Culture and Nature, Makeup: Kim Yeon Jin by Culture and Nature
Photo credit: Lee Sang Yeop