Korean movie star Lee Jun-ki made use of his martial arts skills in "Fly Daddy Fly," top.
More than just a pretty face
Model-turned-actor Lee Jun-ki looks for diverse roles that test his limits
Korean star Lee Jun-ki is appreciative of his female fans. He said that directly to one lucky fan club member who was able to finagle her way into last Thursday's press conference at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival.
That fan might have been the only one to get any face time with the megapopular actor, thanks to the bodyguards his manager hired for his brief stay. When he arrived Wednesday, some witnesses said, women were upset, even crying, when he was whisked away without so much as a meet-and-greet.
Such is the public life of an Asian celebrity. Lee was in town as a guest of the festival -- recipient of the inaugural Rising Star Award. Two of his films were shown at the film festival: "May 18," a Halekulani Golden Orchid nominee, and "Fly Daddy Fly."
Both these films allowed Lee, a 25-year-old former model, to prove he is more than just a pretty face, and he says he hopes to take on more such diverse roles and to become a legitimate actor.
Speaking through a translator, Lee said playing an androgynous street performer in the 2005 Korean box-office hit "The King and the Clown" was "the first role that brought me fame and happiness as an actor."
Fans wait for a glimpse.
He attributes its international success to appealing to "people's desire for individual freedom. ... It's part of basic humanism. Anyone could understand the gestures that the clown was conveying."
THAT BREAKOUT role lead to television work, with Lee starring in the '06 drama "My Girl" and this year's police drama "Time of the Dog and Wolf," in which he plays an undercover agent with amnesia who thinks he's actually part of the criminal gang he's infiltrated. (Jeff Chung, president of Korean-language station KBFD and a HIFF board member, said that because of the popularity of "My Girl," he is in the process of securing rights to show "Time" locally.)
Lee said he considered "Time" to be "a Korean version of (film) noir, made to also bring in a male audience." At the same time, the film "May 18" gave Lee a double dip of success, doing well at the box office in his homeland. With Lee part of an all-star cast, the film tells the story of everyday people in the southern city of Kwangju caught up in a democracy movement that would be brutally suppressed by the military regime of Chun Doo Hwan on that fateful date in 1980.
In "Fly Daddy Fly," Lee was able to show off his martial arts skills as a student who tries to help avenge a brutal attack on a young woman. "It was more of a family-oriented film," he said, "in the sense that it was more about relationships, and my character was more complicated, more in depth."
Lee said he has wanted to act since he saw a stage production of "Hamlet" as a middle-schooler. "The bigger the dream, the better," he said. "This is my life's vocation, and I will do it until the day I die."