[Interview] TenAsia – Ku Hye Sun: “Not that I have more talents than others, it is that I am more delayed than others.”
Ku Hye Sun is referred to as “all-around-beauty who can do anything” But she is also referred to as one who cannot do anything well. To all these references, Ku Hye Sun says that she is” developmentally about 10 years slower than others. I have not found my major yet.”
To find her major, Ku Hye Sun is diligently building her skills and talents. Already, this is her third feature length movie. But, it is her first time not only directing but also appearing in her movie.
you must be familiar by now with being called a director. This is already your 3rd movie.
Ku: I don’t have much thought about it. (laughter)
How did you think of the story?
Ku: Talking with married friends… (omitted as it has been covered in previous interviews/ articles)
Isn’t it your story?
Ku: No, it is not my story. There are some similarities. My parents tend to be strict and a bit of my mom is in it. Of course, if it was entirely my story, I think I would be tearing and having hard time talking about it.
It is not a usual mother’s love story.
Ku: I also grew up getting hit a lot. But, my mother does not remember. (laughter) It is because she does not think of it as using force/violence but a way to teach a child right from wrong. But, to a young child, it could be felt as violence and force. I wanted to portray how a same incident can be experienced differently through a movie. That is how I interviewed my friends. In the movie, the mother tells Sanyi that she will get hit 5x for getting one problem wrong. Many parents were like that while we were growing up. It may sound shocking now, but it was very common. It is common now too. The image of mother may change depending of the generation. Parents may also feel much pressure to raise a child well.
What kind of mother do you want to become? It was impressive to hear Sanyi say at the end of the movie that she wishes she would have a daughter.
Ku: It is not about what kind of mother I want to be. I have to wait and see when I am actually raising a child. That is what I mean. It is not about whether to forgive the mother or not. When that person (Sanyi) becomes a parent, I would think that she would not exactly become like her mother. But, that does not mean there will be no problems. What is definitely certain is that there will be many trials and errors. It is not because I understand it all, it is because I want to try to understand. It means that I want to find out.
The real Ku Hye Sun?
Ku: Before I become a mother, I want to be an independent person. I am not talking about having my own house on my own, but becoming a person who is self-reliant. (It might be an impossible situation.) Actually, to this day, I still depend on my sister a great deal. I want to be more mentally independent, but it is me who really do not wan to cut the strings. Anyway, when a certain man and I start a family independently, I think I can be a mom. But, when I have a child, I think I may need the help of my mom. It is just a difficult problem. I made this movie because I still stress over that too. I stress over whether I can really be a mom. Recently, I went into a blog with a gathering of moms who call themselves as “after mother’s virtue”. It was traumatic for me. It is because I was only very cranky to my mom. But, in a way, it is my hope that my daughter will think that way of me.” (laughter)
But, before you can become a mother, you have to get married and before that, you have to meet men.
Ku: Right now, I truly do not have one. But, suddenly, I can have one tomorrow. I live to this day still believing in something could happne out of the blue. I still have the dream of meeting that one fateful person and marrying him. My sister recently had a baby and she says that it is best to have the second one as soon as possible. I hear that it is best to have a first child in your 20’s. There was a time when I would feel pressure from hearing things like that. I went to see the baby but I had a very strange feeling. I was looking at my nephew but I must have gone to the Andromeda because I was thinking what if that was my daughter.”
Are you not making any effort (to meet men)?
Ku: I am definitely NOT an ‘iron wall female’. Please make a big headline for me. (laughter) Here and there, I continually dated. Recently, I have not dated. I have lot of thought as I turned 30. To keep marriage in mind is also a burden for me. Whenever there is a good person, I am ready to meet him.”
I am personally curious about your ‘vampire movie’. When can we see it? When you were releasing <MAGIC>, you mentioned it and when you were releasing <Peach Tree>, you talked about casting for it. I actually thought you were making vampire movie this time, but it wasn’t.
Ku: I could not get an investor. (laughter) Also, when the story is shelved for too long, it becomes rotten. I first talked about that scenario 5 years ago and it is hard for me to understand it now. When I take out that scenario now, I ask myself, Why, Why! My mind then and now are at different category now. If I decide to make that movie now, I need to revise a lot. It is my first time tackling a realistic story; there is definitely a change in me. I still love fantasy genre, but I can no longer understand that old story.
You usually cast your close friends in your movies. But this time everybody is new.
Ku: In the past, I have received so much help from friends and actors who believed in me. I may have been close to them, but I also cast them because they made good fit with the roles. Plus, they also read the script and made their choices. It is the same this time. I may not have any relationship with Shim HyeJin-sunbae, but I really hoped that she would agree to work with me. To be able to work with a sundae whom I have never seen before in person was also a challenge. But, I think it was a good thing. I even gained some confidence in promoting scripts to unfamiliar people. You may think that I, Ku Hye Sun would have easy time casting, but I was rejected many times. Fortunately, I was able to receive positive responses for from people fast for both <Peach Tree> and <Daughter>.”
Was Shim HyeJin your first choice?
Ku: Yes. To simply put, it was because of “Hello, Francesca”. I loved watching it at that time. I felt strongly that no other actress can play my script character better. It is very difficult to make people laugh in a cold way, but Shim sunbae was able to do it. I felt that she can act any type of roles–she can be both a feminine woman and a mother. Warmth and coldness coexist in her. It is my first time experiencing such distance with another actress. I saw her walking from a far and saw this amazing aura about her. I have never felt such energy before. She never once lost her focus. If possible, I really and truly want to work with her again and again and again. But, of course, I cannot just wish it. So, I just need to do well myself.”
How was the acting for both actress Ku Hye Sun and actress Shim Hye Jin?
Ku: In the move, we did not have any scenes where we talked with eye contacts. I felt it was fortunate that I did not have to act while looking at her. If I have to look at her, I would have easily lost my concentration. Even so, it was really difficult for me to watch it through monitor and to see it in front of me. I did not want to make any mistake in front of her and so I was very nervous. I am sure that sundae-nim did not know how much nervous I was.”
You must have thought a lot about casting of child Sanyi. You had to choose someone who would go well with not only Ku Hye Sun but also with Shim Hye Jin?
Ku: There is something similar about the two of us. When I was little, I was told many times that I did not have a kind face. That is why I tried to smile a lot during my 20’s. It is my first time acting on a role that hardly had expressions. Then, I realized that when Seung Min does not laugh, she can look stern. Our expressionless faces are similar.”
She may be young, but she really portrayed child Sanyi very well.
Ku: This child is not a child. I almost forgot that she is a child. It is because she is so good. I would wonder if I could have such sense at her age.
I saw her in the recent drama, “Spring of My Life”.
Ku: I really think that kids grow up so fast. When we filmed <Daughter> she was 2nd grader in Junior HyeSun. When I saw her in that drama, I felt like I was watching a woman. I was also surprised. In that drama, Shim Hye Jin sundae and SuengMin come out together. That is why all the cast members of “Spring of My Life” came to the VIP Premier of Daughter. That is the day when Su-Young-ssi came with a hair roller stuck on her clothes. JoonHyuk is my friend and I even texted him saying, “Su-Young-ssi is really adorable.” (Laughter)
In <Peach Tree>, the theme was unique. In <Daughter>, it feels like the expression rather than the theme is unique.
Ku: Those who watched all my moves tell me that the surface may have changed but the inside is all the same. (laughter) But, like you just said, I may have told the story in a roundabout way in my past movies, but this time, I told the story directly. I really enjoyed doing it that way. Yes, that part has changed. In the past, I may have wanted to give a positive message, but now, I don’t feel that it is absolutely necessary. I think I had been trying to imitate commercial films so far. <Peach Tree> seems like an independent film trying to imitate commercial film. I realized that I felt that certain pressure to insert positive message/feeling in my movies in order to imitate commercial films. But, this time, I think I was able to be objective.”
You told me that you were very stubborn while making <Peach Tree>. How about this time?
Ku: I really had a good time shooting the movie without much thought. Fund was really low. The total budget was about 1-uk. It is a real low budget to make one movie. So, I expressed my sincere apology and gratitude to all the actors. I produced <Peach Tree> myself, but, instead, I appeared as actress for the current movie. I felt I had to do that to feel less guilty towards the investor. (Laughter) We only had 8 meetings to make the movie that there was no time to be stubborn. We absolutely could not afford any single extension that I wanted an enjoyable shooting without any overnight working. I think I lost too much by working too hard during my 20’s. That is why I felt hurt even at things that I shouldn’t have. So, I set my mind at ease and do what we can. That was my concept.”
I get the sense that there is a sense of calm about you that is different from last time. You keep on saying you are not working as hard, does that mean you have more “space” in your mind?
Ku: That is correct. I believe so. On the movie set, I would say to the staff, ‘uh~ you are working hard.’ then the staff would tell me, ‘today, I did not work hard.’ It is that kind of environment. We talked like that to each other. When I look, I see that they are all working really hard. They are passionate.”
Since it is your third time, you must be feeling very familiar with it all.
Ku: That is true too. When my diligently working hoo-baes (juniors) come to me and call me, “director-him~”, they are just so adorable.
I asked you in the beginning if you feel comfortable being called, director.
Ku: Maybe? I learned through news that Director Lee Dong Gu who made “Dizziness/Vertigo” is my age. My uniqueness is disappearing. I was the ‘young director’, but now that is not true either. There are many female and actress directors now. I should be doing better now. (laughter).”
You not only directed, but you also appeared in the movie. It must have been strange.
Ku: I really wanted to do it. Luckily, I have always played the lead. I am telling you for the first time here, but I have always wanted to be a leader of some sort, so I thought a lot about how to become one. That is how I simply thought of becoming a movie director. I thought about it at very young age and I had no idea that it would come true. Except for the result, I do feel that I have accomplished something. It feels like I have carried out my goal. I once told myself that I am not going to direct and act at the same time, but I did not know that I would. I also did not know that it would be by debut work. But, now that I did it, I feel refreshed.
You must have changed because you told me once that you are not going to write a script that would make you a lead in your work.
Ku: Well, there was the issue of production cost. But, as we said before, there were many changes in me. To be honest, in terms of appearance, I always felt uncomfortable exposing feminine side of me. That is why I kept my hair short and thought that I can minimize it. Then, I became known as an ‘ulzzang’ as a teenager and the photographer advised me while making a shoot that I needed to smile because I am too stern looking. That is why I always smiled and laughed in public. But while doing nothing for 2 years I hardly smiled. Then, I acted a role that hardly smiled. Some aspects were difficult to implement, but I am not a difficult person to deal with for me.”
Do you like who you are now?
Ku:These days, I feel Ok. When I was shooting, I did not like it. But, after editing, I said, “Oh, not bad.” (laughter). You see, it is the power of the director to make the actors look good. (laughter).”
Maybe you were ready to look at your acting more objectively. You had to judge your own acting.
Ku: I thought I was ready. That is why I did not want to get too close to the staff. But, we became close very quickly. (laughter) I was afraid that someone might laugh while I am acting, but fortunately nobody did. Film-director controlled the setting so that I could focus. Lighting-director said Cut and OK. While I acted, everyone became directors. It is embarrassing to look at the monitor but nobody was. They were all very serious. Because of them, I was also able to be serious. Rather than my being prepared to act in my movie, I really believe it was the staff who were different. I wondered if I ever worked so collaboratively with anyone while acting before.”
Is it different when you are acting in dramas as opposed to this movie?
Ku: Because I have only done dramas, I felt this pressure to do something continuously. The movie screen is much bigger so there is a difference in subtlety. Even if you do nothing and stay still, you must be able to transmit the right emotion. I did <Angel Eyes> after I completed <Daughter>. People tell me that something feels different. They are not saying I did well.”
You also made the music for the movie. You seem to make all the details of the movie.
Ku: There was a song that I made to insert into the movie, but when the movie came out, we took it out. So, I released it as a single. But, because the song has a link to <Daughter>, I name it <Daughter>.”
The fact that you want to do everything by yourself can be seen as being greedy.
Ku: What you start as a drawing can become a novel if you insert writing into it. Then, that can become a scenario which can become a movie. The root is the same but someone had to arrange it really well. (laughter) This is my recent thinking. It is not that I have more talents than other people, but I think I am slower than other people. I have yet to decide on my major. That is why I still go to college. I was entered college in 2003 and re-entered college in 2011. Right now, I am not even thinking about graduating. Compared to others, I am developmentally slower by about 10 years. ‘Junior High School Disease’ came at my 20’s and I experienced adolescence into my 20’s. I even became rebellious fir the first time in my 20’s. What I should have experienced in the 20’s I am going through it now. So, my mental age is 20’s. I was told that I started to talk very late also. Also, my energy level is different from when I was actually in 20’s. I don’t think that I could have made debut as a director at age 40. I would not have the guts and I think I might have really felt crushed and I am not even sure if I would have the courage to stand up again. I invested into <Peach Tree> and incurred damage, but feel so fortunate that it was in my 20’s. If I did that in my 40’s, I think I would be totally crushed.”
Now you are entering your 30’s. What do you see.
Ku: 30’s…actually, all my dreams have come true already. I dreamt of having exhibitions for my drawing when I was young, and I did. After acting, I wanted to be a main leader and I did. I guess I just have to set up new goals. But, I think that my young dreams have already materialized. Personally, I really want to find peace. Rather than wanting to win over someone or becoming a director who sells out million seats, I just want to enjoy my time as long as I do not cause harm to others. I thought I did well because I am special, but I am really a small person. One layer of skin fell off as I entered 30’s and, so, I am thinking that I need to get prepared. I am talking about getting prepared in mind by shedding the old. I believe that my 30’s will be about practicing just that. The fact that I am thinking that way means that I am saying bye-bye to unhappiness/misery. I am hopeful.
Translation by cheerkoo @ soompi