[INTERVIEW] Lee Joon Elle Interview
translation: @iamoutoftime (thank you)
It’s not an exaggeration to say that „Heard It Through The Grapevine” (from here on, „Heard It”), by director Ahn Pan Suk and writer Jung Sung Joo, creators of „Secret Love Affair”, was a field of discovery for starring and supporting actors alike. That was the case for Lee Joon as well. Playing the character of Han In Sang, who leads the rebellion in the rich house of his powerful father, Lee Joon neatly re-arranged his title from „acting-dol” to „actor”. In all honesty, the „acting-dol” label is like a stigma. It raises accusations of getting easy opportunities having a fandom and leads to prejudice on acting skills. Eventually actors have to break through the gravity of prejudice by demonstrating their qualities. With „Heard It”, Lee Joon sent his possibilities as an actor floating weightlessly above that gravity. “I was unsure at first. Han In Sang is pure and and quite correct though repressed, whereas I think I’m care-free and a bit mischievous. However, I thought this was an oportunity to grow and if I succeded it would benefit me personally. Of course there were difficult aspects too, but in terms of results, it was a good choice”.
His greed as an actor also grew. “There’s always greed but up next I want to do even better than I did in ‘Heard It’. I don’t know what my next work will be, but I hope I won’t go backwards even for a bit. I also want to have more and more experience and more time to be able to think”.
Lee Joon always wanted to be an actor. Early on he had hoped to attend an art school where he could study drama. And even after his counseling teacher told him to his face “If you get to study drama, I’ll eat my hat”, he sought the way to what he wanted. Yet at the time the only possible path was through dance. That’s how he started attending a dance school. Dancing with friends fitted him well so he thought he could do it. He got in Seoul Arts High School but there was no drama department there. Nevertheless, he continued dancing. And that’s how he got in the Korea National University of Arts. Then suddenly he took a leave of absence from school. “All of a sudden I thought to myself ‚What am I doing?’. I’m the type to fall deeply for one thing so without even realizing it I’d been dancing for 4 years. At that moment, I remembered that acting was what I wanted to do. And so I took a break from school immediately. If I think about it now, it was an incomprehensible behaviour (laughs). I just left without having any guarantees”.
For a year, Lee Joon earned pocket money doing part time jobs, went to auditions whenever he could and got turned down repeatedly. „Not having had the chance to learn acting systematically”, he didn’t know if he was ever going to get a job. And then he met Rain by chance and went to Hollywood with him. There they filmed „Ninja Assassin”. Not even Lee Joon could have predicted he’d make his acting debut in Hollywood. „I received quick tutoring. The acting teacher and the English teacher were close so I got personal classes too. I can’t speak English but my pronunciation was rather good. I think I could have succeded with cramming (laughs)”.
You could say he was lucky. But it wouldn’t have been possible for Lee Joon to pass a 6 step audition simply with good English pronunciation. Hollywood is no easy place either. In the set there were lots of long time supporting actors. They saw Lee Joon’s acting and told him: „You are really like a child that never learned about acting. This moment is like a shining jewel. This will be your advantage”.
For Lee Joon, who doesn’t really know what acting is, it’s all about basic „quality”, and he doesn’t know if it’s talent he’s got. „When I danced, I didn’t have an answer to what dancing was. And it’s the same with acting. And since I still don’t know well what acting is, I feel I don’t know exactly what acting well would be either. So I just think ‚If an actor is capable of delivering sincerity onto an audience, doesn’t that make him a good actor?’. Is there any sort of consensus to declare someone formed as an actor?”.
Indeed, Lee Joon has always thought about the common ground of consensed acting. Even if he didn’t know the first thing about it, wanting to act so badly, he enrolled in his own acting training just „playing along”. It was nothing extraordinary. He’d look for scripts on the internet, read them his way and question the actors feelings. „I wondered how I could get in an angry mood when my mood was fine. So I would make myself angry alone, even if it sounds a bit strange (laughs)”. So while he didn’t know wether the training helped him learn the craft, at least it formed a sort of consensus to understand the feelings actors use. That’s how Lee Joon became such a scrutinous actor. „When I finish a job, though there are satisfying parts, the regrettable parts stay in my mind for long. The time I spend worrying wether I can get better keeps getting longer. In fact, when I was a child, I never used to think much, so now that I think so much I wonder if it’s a problem even. Still, if I keep doing it like this, it seems to me that thinking can become simpler again. With my car too, when I finished tuning it, I said ‘It’s pure now’ (laughs)”.
Lee Joon first got attention as an actor with the movie „An Actor Is An Actor”. Then found his path with „Gapdong”. And „Heard It” revealed the diverse possibilities of actor Lee Joon. He proved himself suited for ordinary everyday characters and not only the intense ones. He knows that better than anybody. And without making other calculations, he knows the importance of trying his best every time like he’s done until now. „Making calculations is tiring. My head is not good for that (laughs). Essentially, whatever it is I’m doing, I don’t think in what will come next and just devote my whole energy to this moment now. And the same with the next thing and the next thing. When I’m working, in each and every scene I invest all the energy that I’ve got. I try to do it so. That’s how I am when I do something”.
Not knowing the way to harm, he disciplined himself in the ways of no harm. Maybe that’s how he found the fastest road. In the set of “Heard It”, he often heard director Ahn Pan Suk say „You should stay in tension”. „It wasn’t so much because we weren’t concentrated that he’d say that. What he meant is that while in the set, the atmosphere always needed the tension. Without a doubt, if you don’t feel the tension, acting becomes weird. I always make the effort to grab the strap of tension”. This need to stay on alert isn’t just his responsibility as an actor. „Since there’s no way of knowing wether things will always go well in this job, in order to survive, you need to keep your mind clear”.
After experiencing economic difficulties during childhood, due to his father’s failed business, Lee Joon knows better than anybody about the value of giving yourself an oportunity. „Instead of blaming others, you need to admit your failure to ble able to make a change. After all, my life is my decision and if I’m going to live that way, it’s important that I know I have to assume the responsibility accordingly”. In any case, Lee Joon has just started his first chapter as an actor. Now is the time to forge the story in full scale. The way he’s being doing it until now, with ridiculous honesty and absolute clarity.