Holy cow, X-Man! I gave knee jerk reaction by clapping my hands as soon as Kang Dong Won chose X-Man for the character he wants. His 186cm lean body figure and unrealistic appearance prove that ‘God is unfair.’ And X-Man (a mutation different from human) seemed like the perfect fit for him. Moreover, many people have been bewitched by his undefined strange atmosphere. I shortly deluded myself thinking that this might be his superpower. I met X-Man Kang Dong Won who changed into priest Choi who fights against evil in ‘The Priests.’
Q. Why have you lost so much weight?
Kang Dong Won: Because of the movie, ‘Covered Time’ which I am working on now. I chose to do it. (Laughter)
Q. Don’t you feel sensitive to 1kg?
Kang Dong Won: Yes. (Laughter) I weighed 71-72kg when I took film of ‘The Priests’ and now I weigh 65-66kg. I lost some weight when I took film of ‘A Violent Prosecutor’ (will be released early 2016) and lost 3kg more. I’m going to maintain the weight now.
Q. I always feel that you lose your weight precisely with settled number. (Laughter)
Kang Dong Won: Haha. I divided the weight into 4 levels myself. 75kg, 72kg, 67kg, and the lowest level is 64-65kg. 1kg changes the face angle in the monitor, even though many of you would not feel the difference.
Q. Apart from the films, which level do you like the most?
Kang Dong Won: 74-75kg make me powerful. When I weigh about 64-65kg, I feel tired and cannot drink much. That is where I am now. I feel a little powerless. (Laughter)
Q. Yes, you look a bit tired. You looked very tired during the press preview.
Kang Dong Won: I couldn’t sleep well. It’s time to release the film and I had lots of things to do until now. I had some worries, but most of them are resolved. But I think I became somewhat fatigued. I didn’t feel well during the last production presentation on October 12th because I just came to Korea the day before from Europe. I stayed in Europe for a month after I finished ‘A Violent Prosecutor.’ I had jet lag. It’s like I had production presentation at 2am if I were in Europe.
Q. Did you have your own time in Europe?
Kang Dong Won: No, I had to take some films. I also had some other things to do.
Q. When do you get rest? You probably need your own time for rest.
Kang Dong Won: I don’t have that these days. (Laughter) If I say that I go abroad, they somehow find out about it and give me a lot of scenarios. They say, “Oh, I heard you go travel. I’m not finished with editing, but take these with you.”
Q. By the way, your choice of scenario is becoming more and more interesting. The genre, character, feeling from ‘KUNDO,’ ‘My Throbbing Life,’ to ‘The Priests’ are all different. Also for ‘Covered Time’ you are taking film of now. You seem to be not biased in choosing the scenarios.
Kang Dong Won: I don’t have bias. I don’t have repulsion if the scenario is interesting. I don’t calculate this and that… um, actually I do. Because I hate being awkward with the producer by how the movie is doing. So, I calculate that kind of aspect.
Q. During the interview for ‘My Throbbing Life,’ you told much about the worries regarding the vocal cords register. You said you have been trained to make various voices. So when I watched ‘The Priests,’ I concentrated listening to your voice on purpose. It was really different.
Kang Dong Won: I almost resolved the problem. It has been about a year and half since I worked on vocalization training. My acquaintances also felt the difference in ‘The Priests.’ They said I have phonetic change. My voice has more echoes. It became much easier to speak the lines. My vocal trainer is actually my friend. He is Joo Hyung Jin, a singer.
Q. Uh? Is it his music video that you made appearance? (Gang Dong Won made appearance on the music video of his high school friend Joo Hyung Jin’s ‘Let’s Break Up’ with no guarantee.
Kang Dong Won: Yes. (Laughter) He is a skilled musician, so I had went to meet him. I said, “I have this kind of worry. You make me change.” And we started the training, and I think I followed up quite well than expected. My friend also got to have desire to really change me and said, “Let’s keep going, keep going.” Our lesson became longer. I had two to three lessons in a week. They are stopped because I am busy these days.
Q. What can I say; you seem to remove your weak points one by one.
Kang Dong Won: If I fix and learn one by one, I believe it would be a huge asset.
Q. What are some of your weak points that you have removed until now?
Kang Dong Won: What I first started with was dialogue. What was the next? There are so many of them. Oh, I tried ‘not to be nervous,’ too. That’s why I don’t get nervous on taking films.
Q. Is it possible not to get nervous by practicing?
Kang Dong Won: Yes, it is. It is. There are many techniques. The first stage is to think ‘I am just crazy.’ (Laughter) The next is to get friendly with the staffs. After I get friendly with them, they laugh at me when I do something strange. When I’m not friendly with them, they cannot naturally laugh at me. Now, they just naturally laugh at me whatever I do. Therefore, I have more blunt confidence and vitality when I take films.
Q. Is it actor’s greed to aim for perfection?
Kang Dong Won: I want to be an actor for a long time. If I just stay where I am now, I will get behind. How would I get through those new actors if I just stay here? (Laughter) I need to work hard, continuously. And it is the period that actors in my age work a lot. I want to do new and various things that are different from what the senior generation had made. I think that is my duty, and it’s also greed as an actor.
Q. Director Jang Jaehyun of ‘The Priests’ and director Um Taehwa of ‘Covered Time’ are both producers who showed great potential in short movies.
Kang Dong Won: Yes, they are. I watched ‘12th Assist Deacon’(2014), the original short movie of ‘The Priests’ at Mise-en-scene’s Film Festival. I liked it very much. Director Um Taehwa’s ‘Forest’(2012) was exceptionally good compared to common short films. I think this was the prize winning film in 3 years of Mise-en-scene’s Short Film Festival.
Q. You work with talented rookies a lot. I think you are clever to work like that, in a good way.
Kang Dong Won: Such directors give me offers, so there is no reason for me to decline them. Director Jang Jaehyun of ‘The Priests,’ Lee Ilhyung of ‘A Violent Prosecutor,’ and Um Taehwa of ‘Covered Time’ are all at the same age with me. It’s also their first time to make films. Interestingly, the films are all new genres and new stories. That is what I find really interesting. I want to make them better, too. It would be not easy, but it’s fun when I have a goal. It causes me a desire to achieve.
Q. You talked about goal. I know that you have specific goals when you take films. What is your desired goal in ‘The Priests’?
Kang Dong Won: First of all, it was ‘vocalization’ that I mentioned earlier. And it continued to ‘A Violent Prosecutor.’ I think I accomplished intended goal to some extent. I also had a goal to ‘express strong’ with new emotions. I tried to express my maximized fear. And what is most important was the details. That’s still what I am working on. I consider how deep I will go through them.
Q. ‘The Priests’ is not a film that only cared about the visuals. What the evil aims for is eventually Priest Choi’s trauma (This answer may include spoiler.)
Kang Dong Won: That part was originally in the first scenario. I gave some ideas to the director. I studied the character before taking film by visiting a priest. At that time, the priest said, “How would an evil show up to you? Do you think the evil would come to attract you with sexy clothes and red lipstick on?” He said no. “It will come in the most desperate and poor way.” I sympathized with his words. I would be repulsed by too sexy woman. (Laughter) So, I gave some ideas and the director liked them. I tried to express trauma about a younger sister in a most desperate way.
Q. Priest Choi becomes weak in front of the evil’s attraction, but he also becomes strong by it at the same time. How is Gang Dong Won in real life?
Kang Dong Won: That’s one of what my mother believes in me. I get nervous in small things, but I become rather rational when I have big things. I become strangely rational. For instance, I was like that during the soccer match in high school. I was good at school match, but not at class match.
Q. What is the psychology behind that? (Laughter)
Kang Dong Won: Well, maybe because I get more concentrated.
Q. That would help when you act.
Kang Dong Won: Yes, it does. I cannot concentrate for a long time, but I can in an instant. When I read comic books, I would not recognize someone calling me. (Laughter)
Q. Do you have any preferred filming place, a place that you think suitable for you?
Kang Dong Won: Um, I haven’t actually thought about that.
Q. While I watched ‘The Priests,’ I thought you are an actor who looks very suitable in the streets. Streets appear in ‘M’ and you showed strange dance on the dark streets in ‘Duelist.’ Oh, the posters of ‘M’ and ‘The Priests’ look somewhat similar.
Kang Dong Won: Oh! Come to think of it, there were streets in ‘M’ and the poster, too. (Jokingly) Hey, how did you print out the poster draft? (Everybody laughs) I’m not sure, but I think it’s my strong point to some extent. I fit into dark streets and modern places, too. I don’t know how it’d sound, but I think I tend to fit into many places. Somebody told me this. “There are different groups in film, and you are strangely in between them.” At that time, he told me this as a compliment.
Q. I will second that. In many places, you define yourself saying “I’m a commercial movie actor.” But I think what you say of commercial movie is somewhat different from what we say commercial movie in general.
Kang Dong Won: What I mean by a commercial movie is a movie that is well received by the audiences. A well made movie is a commercial movie. Making a big success is not that important. However, I think that a commercial movie that I make appearance in should not be doomed. It’s kind of responsibility. There would be no problem if I take the film with my money, but it’s not. It does not matter if it is an experimental movie. I think that kind of movie does not have a standard to be doomed. Actually, ‘M’ was somewhat experimental movie. Some people who criticize the movie say that it is a doomed movie. Well, I actually think ‘What is the standard?’
Q. I think this is why you have broad range of film selection.
Kang Dong Won: Some people ask me whether I long for a big success. But actually my films turned out to be quite a success. There’s actually no film that did not turn out to be a success, so I don’t really long for it. (Everybody laughs) It’s only ‘M’ that did not turn into a quite success. But that movie was kind of experimental work as I mentioned earlier. If you still want to ask me whether I want a huge success in movie, well, I think that is what the heaven determines. I am satisfied with what I have.
Q. I clearly see what you think about a commercial movie.
Kang Dong Won: What I think of commercial movies is never a big hit movie.
Q. Everyone always talks about your appearance. I think you are little deprived of an opportunity to be correctly assessed rather than your acting is undermined by your appearance.
Kang Dong Won: My close directors often say something like that. What can I do about it? That’s my reality. I hear ‘rediscovery of acting’ for every film. How low anticipation they have towards me? (Everybody laughs)
Q. Don’t you feel disappointed by that?
Kang Dong Won: You could say like that, but I don’t care much about it. I just need to do better.
Q. When you are like this, you seem very laid-back. (Laugher) Director Lee Myeongsae’s ‘Duelist,’ and Yoon Jongbin’s ‘KUNDO’ dissolved your maximized image in the films. It seems like that not a few directors who work with you want to realize ‘A kind of fantasy’ that they have thought of. (Laughter)
Kang Dong Won: Hahaha. The directors often feel it’s unfair to be treated like that. They say, “Did I make the camera more tight for you than him? No, I did not. I prepared same light and took the same way. Why are you doing this to me?” (Laugher) During taking film of ‘KUNDO,’ somebody said, “Why do you sprinkle the petals only to Gang Dong Won not Ha Jungwoo?” (Everybody laughs) But the petals were sprinkled all the time. And I remember that the director answered, “Am I crazy? Why would I sprinkle the petals only to Gang Dong Won?”
Q. Maybe that’s because you are an actor with an atmosphere. I think that’s a great charm. It’s not what anyone can get.
Kang Dong Won: I also think positive with that. It’s better to be an issue than to be nothing. But if someone takes wrong with that, I have no choice but to work harder. Actually, the answer is simple. Instead of saying ‘No, no,’ I just need to do better. The answer is already given, so I don’t need to worry about it anymore.
Q. I can see your big greed at acting. Is there any movie that you wanted to make appearance except your movies? It can be Korean or foreign movie.
Kang Dong Won: Actually there is one movie like that. Only one. I did not have something like that but I happened to have it since some time I don’t know. I wonder how it would be like making appearance in Bryan Singer’s ‘X-Men.’ (Everybody laughs)
Q. Oh, what kind of X-Men do you dream of?
Kang Dong Won: Quicksilver (Evan Peters)? The one runs fast. He is really attractive. While I watched the movie, I thought ‘Wow, it’s fun. I really want to play that role. I think I also can do well.’ (Laughter) I said to my acquaintances, “I want to do X-Man” and they said “It would be nice.”