As if making it in the film business isn’t hard enough, try making it in another country. This year, we’ve selected a few greats for overcoming the language barrier (or at least mastering the accent) and becoming well-known in both their native country and in America.
Jang Dong Gun started out as a South Korean actor and musician. Jang made his first debut in the Korean drama, Our Heaven. From there, he won multiple Blue Dragon Awards (Korea’s Oscars) as an actor in Korean films. In 2005, he broke into Chinese cinema in the movie Wu Ji (The Promise), starring Cecilia Cheung. Now in 2010, Jang made his debut in the American film industry with the recent release of The Warrior’s Way. Jang has managed to make his name known not just in Korea, but all over Asia and now the States. We’ll have to wait and see if he’ll become a household name in the States like predecessors Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Ken Watanabe.
Wonder Girls are a South Korean girl band group. They debuted in 2007 with their hit song “Tell Me” in Korea. They entered into the American market in 2009 with the single “Nobody.” “Nobody” was the first song by a Korean group to have entered the Billboard Hot 100. After a successful run opening for the Jonas Brothers on the Jonas Brothers World Tour 2009, the Wonder Girls went on a world tour of their own in 2010, hitting more than two dozen cities in the U.S. and Canada. They also released the EP/single “2 Different Tears,” with a video starring Korean American comedian Bobby Lee. MTV Korea premiered a reality show that introduced the Wonder Girl’s everyday life in the United States, and on October 18th, the Wonder Girls’ management company JYP announced that the Wonder Girls were shooting a television series about five talented Asian pop stars crossing over to the United States that would be broadcast in the States.
Where do we even start with Jay Chou? Not only is he a musician, but he is also a singer, film producer, actor, and director. Oh and by the way, he’s won awards for these things too. In Taiwan, he is most known for composing all of his own songs, as well as for other artists. In 2005, Chou decided to break into the acting field in the movie Initial D, in the hope of expanding his exposure to Asian countries beyong Taiwan and China. Now that he had all that exposure, Chou went in full speed ahead and is about to make his American film debut in the highly anticipated film The Green Hornet. Chou stars as Kato, the Hornet’s partner, a role previously played by Bruce Lee (perhaps the greatest crossover of all time).
Archana “Archie” Panjabi is a British Indian actress who was first recognized in the United States in the film Bend It Like Beckham. In 2007, she appeared in the movie A Mighty Heart with Angelina Jolie, based on the book by Mariane Pearl. But 2010 was Panjabi’s breakout year, with her Primetime Emmy win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role of Kalinda Sharma on the CBS critically acclaimed television series The Good Wife.
Last but not least, BoA. If you don’t know who she is, listen up. BoA stands for Beat of Angel and is basically the Korean Britney Spears in entertainment. She has gone above and beyond in languages. She not only knows her native tongue, but she is also conversational in Japanese and English. Think those languages are hard to learn? Try learning Chinese. Oh wait, BoA did that too. BoA also recorded songs in Mandarin Chinese. In 2008, SM Entertainment announced her debut in America with the single “Eat You Up.” There was also a remix of “Eat You Up” featuring rapper Flo Rida. In 2010, BoA released her newest album, “Hurricane Venus.”
Last week we showed you some photos from the red carpet premiere of The Warrior’s Way, starring Korean superstar Jang Dong Gun, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush and Danny Huston.
Here, check out Audrey‘s red carpet interviews of Jang, Bosworth and Huston below:
The Warrior’s Way is playing in theaters now. Check local listings or the official website.
Video by Kelly Li, edited by Allen Lee.
Last week, the red carpet screening for The Warrior’s Way starring Korean superstar Jang Dong Gun was held in Los Angeles’ CGV Theaters. Check out the photos here:
Check out Audrey’s red carpet coverage of the film below:
Photos by Audrey Cho. Video by Kelly Li and Allen Lee
It was 11 years in the making.
New York University-educated Korean director Sngmoo Lee first penned the script a decade ago, a story about tragic love in the midst of extreme violence. Initially, that love was written as one rather unconventional for its time – male-male love. This was before Brokeback Mountain, after all.
Fast forward to today and the love story first imagined by Lee is still considered unconventional, albeit now altered to one of Asian male-Caucasian female. Odd that after a decade, homosexual relationships on the screen have garnered more mainstream acceptance than that shown in Lee’s debut American feature, The Warrior’s Way, releasing in the U.S. this Friday, December 3.
For a film that some thought would never get made (even Lee originally envisioned a low-budget El Mariachi-like indie), The Warrior’s Way has the star power and backing of some of the biggest names in entertainment around the world. The film is Korean superstar Jang Dong Gun’s American film debut, and also stars Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth and Danny Huston. Backed by Barrie M. Osbourne, who produced the incredibly successful The Lord of the Rings franchise, and Korean mega-producer Jooick Lee, and featuring the talents of three-time Academy Award winning costume designer James Acheson (The Last Emperor, Dangerous Liaisons), and original music by Javier Navarrete of Pan’s Labyrinth, The Warrior’s Way truly is an international collaboration. (The film itself was shot in New Zealand, almost entirely against green screen.)
Jang stars as Yang, introduced as “the greatest swordsman in history … ever.” Since birth, he has been trained to kill every last member of the enemy clan. But when he confronts the last remaining member – a wide-eyed, gurgling baby girl (played by an Asian New Zealander) – he can’t do it. Instead, he takes the baby and flees to America.
There, in the American Badlands, Yang creates a life among a hodgepodge, Fellini-esque cast of circus performers. He takes over the laundry business of a long-lost, now-deceased friend. He grows a garden and for the first time in his life, experiences the joy of creating rather than destroying. And as reluctant as he is, he is drawn into training the revenge-seeking Lynne (Kate Bosworth) in the art of sword fighting.
And therein lies the love story. It’s a romance set up less with word than with sword, says Lee. A hero who wants to stop killing versus a heroine who wants to kill. It’s a formula for sexual tension and tragedy if ever there was one.
Since this is Jang’s first English speaking role (his accent is reminiscent of Ken Watanabe’s in The Last Samurai), the unspoken chemistry between the actors was vital. But this was not Jang’s first time on a foreign set. In 2005, he starred in Chen Kaige’s Golden Globe-nominated Chinese film The Promise with Cecilia Cheung. It’s not as difficult as you would think, he says. “When I work with someone from a different background, the connection we feel as actors is more important than culture.”
Jokes producer Michael Peyser, “And of course, these are two seriously unattractive people.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Wild West without a gang of terrorizing bandits, this one led by a leather mask-wearing psychopath obsessed with good teeth called the Colonel (Danny Huston). But that’s not the only thing Yang has to worry about. His clan hasn’t forgotten his betrayal and they’re willing to go to any lengths to find and kill him.
Which is another cool thing about the film. Rarely does one see ninjas fighting cowboys. Wuxia-style acrobatics versus good ol’ fashioned firepower. All in a setting of ever-saturated sunsets, stuntwork done mostly by the actors themselves and, as Huston calls it, “an exquisite ballet” in what Osbourne terms “an incredible vortex of violence.” The melding and clashing of so many contrasts (who knew Jang grew up watching his dad’s favorites Clint Eastwood and John Wayne?), including the East-West collaboration behind the film, makes it groundbreaking in many ways. — Anna M. Park
Here, Audrey Magazine sat down for a one-on-one, first with Jang Dong Gun and then with director Sngmoo Lee.
Audrey Magazine: You’re here in California doing press for The Warrior’s Way. How was your time in California this time around?
Jang Dong Gun: I feel bad because this used to be a place where I would rest and have fun, and this time around, I don’t get to do any of those things. So if I do have a day off I would love to do the things I usually enjoy — shopping, hanging out. I like the weather here.
AM: What was it like working with American film stars?
JDG: When I first heard that Geoffrey Rush and Kate Bosworth was going to be in the film, I was half excited and half worried because judging from what you hear in the tabloids, you develop a prejudice to Hollywood stars. But once I met them, I discovered that they’re wonderful people. They’re really sincere in their work and their acting and I discovered that despite the cultural differences, no matter what our culture is, we work for a common goal in the film. In the case of Kate, I just saw her [again] after a long time and she looks great. I think she looks even prettier.
AM: The film was shot in New Zealand over many months. Were you very homesick?
JDG: Yes, obviously, but the production team was really considerate and they got me a place to stay by the ocean, which was really nice. Because I was there alone for many months, that made me feel even lonelier, but there were some great Korean restaurants and I tried to just focus on the moment and enjoy the time I spent there.
AM: Your character is very awkward handling the baby in the film at first. Has the experience helped you with your new baby?
JDG: Because I shot the film first, now that I have my own child, it’s actually easier to hold him.
AM: Previously, you’ve had to learn Mandarin, and this time you learned English. How do you adopt a language in such a short amount of time?
JDG: When you’re shooting a film as an actor, there are times where you have to give and other times, when you start learning things. This time, I learned a new language and it’s great because I could work and learn at the same time.
AM: How much better is your English now?
JDG: [In English] Only a little. [Laughs.] I haven’t spoken for a long time – since filming. My English has been reduced since I haven’t spoken it for a long time.
AM: Depending on the success of this film, you may be doing more work here and in English. How do you feel about this possible transition?
JDG: Of course I will continue to study English and that’s something that, since this experience, is much more important to me now, to continue learning. It doesn’t mean I’m going to relocate, per se, but what’s more important than where the film is made is what it is. If it’s a great film, I want to work on it.
AM: How has the fan reaction been of the movie here in the U.S. versus in Asia?
JDG: I really don’t have a fan base here yet, but I hope that will continue to grow. And the support that I’ve been getting from my fans in Korea and Asia gives me a lot of encouragement.
Audrey Magazine also spoke to Korean director Sngmoo Lee.
AM: What was the entire process like getting this story to the screen?
SL: I wrote the script a long time ago. It was very new and fresh and that means it was not easy to get developed. [Potential producers] want something stereotypical and I wanted to combine drama and action together so, in that sense, it was well received, but financially, it was risky for them. So it took a lot of time for them to take this film into production.
AM: How long did it take?
SL: Ah, you don’t want to know. [Laughs.] Ten years altogether from the beginning. And then, some producers got in and we were able to get the best cast possible and from then on, everything was a blast. I really enjoyed the process and I’m really happy about the final product so … happy ending. At least for me. Regardless of the success of the movie, I am very happy that I ended up with a product I had written 11 years ago and it turned out much better than I first envisioned.
AM: There really hasn’t been an Asian hero with a Caucasian female love interest in American films. Why do you think developing that storyline was necessary?
SL: I did not originally think about that in the beginning, but I did want to show an Asian male that had a love that was more multidimensional. Because there have been many Asian male heroes, but their role was very limited to the great fighter. I wanted to push the presentation of Asian men as very sexually attractive. Because this kind of love story has never been presented on the big screen in this way before, that was very challenging for me and for the actors. And because it’s groundbreaking, I didn’t have any references. So I had to start from scratch. But the chemistry [between Kate and Dong Gun] was great so when we first met, I really didn’t have to worry about it anymore. After that, it was an automatic process. You wouldn’t view it as, “Oh, she’s Caucasian and he’s Asian.” You would just view it as two great actors loving each other onscreen. — Janice Jann
The Warrior’s Way releases in theaters on Friday, December 3. Check out the official website for more information.