[PROFILE] Joong-Hoon Park - Actor
- Joong-Hoon Park's
True Hollywood Story
The South Korean actor's talent is revealed in the U.S. film, "The
Truth About Charlie," directed by Jonathan Demme
By Jimmy Lee
Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme sought out Joong-Hoon Park to
play the mysterious Il-Sang Lee in "The Truth About Charlie" after
watching the Korean film "Nowhere To Hide."
LOS ANGELES - When director Jonathan Demme ("Silence of the
Lambs," "Philadelphia") was putting together the cast for his remake
of the 1963 Stanley Donen film, "Charade," a movie he had caught at
the 2000 Sundance Film Festival popped in his head.
"I'd heard that this was a very innovative film, and saw this picture
and loved it," recalls Demme, describing the first time he saw the
Korean thriller "Nowhere To Hide," directed by Lee Myung Se.
"And at the centerpiece of the picture is this amazing character
called Detective Woo¦. It was a completely original character, a
genius performance," says Demme. "I'd love to work with that man some
Now Demme has.
South Korean actor Joong-Hoon Park plays Il-Sang Lee, one of three
shadowy figures following Thandie Newton in search of missing loot in
Paris, in "The Truth About Charlie," which is now in theaters. The
movie also stars Mark Wahlberg and Tim Robbins.
When Park got the call from Demme, one thought came to mind.
"Before I saw him, I thought he's a scary guy, because of 'Silence of
the Lambs,'" says Park.
There were other reasons to be afraid.
"Totally foreign movie for me, totally foreign language for me," says
Park, who speaks English well, but not fluently. "But [Demme] made me
Park is a big celebrity in South Korea, having starred in hits
like "Two Cops" and its sequel, and winning numerous Korean acting
awards. With a film degree from Chungang University and a MFA from
New York University, he has also hosted his own talk show and written
a newspaper column. Park even co-starred in a B-action
flick, "American Dragons" (the title on the U.S. video release
is "Double Edge"), a joint American-Korean production, with Michael
But that experience does not even compare to "The Truth." He
considers this his first true American film. "Such a great filmmaker,
Jonathan Demme, which means everything," says Park.
Demme reciprocates the praise. "The character that I was interested
in Joong-Hoon for becomes Mark Wahlberg's big adversary. And it was
important that we have in that part someone of exceptional presence,
and exceptional ¦ gifts," says Demme.
"And the way Joong-Hoon had the patience to low-key it, and play it
as a secondary character, and let the story give his character the
opportunities to emerge more and more and more as this formidable guy
is one of the things that pleases me very much about this movie,"
Park is not the only thing the director plucked from "Nowhere To
Hide." As "The Truth" reaches its climax, it features a running-chase
sequence with Park, similar to one in the Korean film. Demme makes no
bones about it: "I was looking for new ideas to steal" at Sundance.
The actor appreciates the gesture. "Those kind of scenes gave me a
lot of courage," says Park.
"Most Asian actors in American [movies] are kicking, (using) martial
arts and guns, or (playing) some serious guy. No sense of humor.
Those kinds of stereotypes," says Park, who's famous in Korea for his
comedic prowess. (Hint: Stick around for the closing credits of "The
"I wanted to show acting, my acting - as an actor who has blood, who
is a human being," says Park. "I'm not a martial arts guy."
Even with the support of the acclaimed director, Park felt a
responsibility to be more that just a good actor.
"I try my best to have the right [attitude], the right behavior on
the set, because I'm not only myself, I'm also representing Korean
actors. I'm always thinking Korean people are watching me."
And while Korean cinema is growing in prestige internationally, Park
makes a distinction between the two countries.
"Hollywood movies are like eating at a fancy French restaurant, with
a full-course menu and wine and dessert, and it takes three hours,
and it costs, like, $300 per person. Korean movies are like eating
well-made home pasta. It is not expensive. It just takes half an
hour, but it makes you oh-so-happy."
So he's inclined to work in both.
"I'm proud of being a Korean actor. I'm also proud of working in
Hollywood. I couldn't be happier."