It's funny, you always go back to your roots, one way or another.
For aging big stars, it often means trying to find that excitement they had when they just started. To experience again that nervousness, that fear of starring in what could be your last film, to earn the respect of your peers by climbing the ladder with hard work. But for people like Kim Soo-Ro, a 'nameless familiar face' since the early 90s, that ladder always seemed very high and dangerous. Examples of popular supporting actors getting a shot in the limelight and failing are many, as many as those of actors who work hard and perform well for their entire career, without ever being able to experience the popularity they deserved.
When he debuted at the age of 20, in Kang Woo-Suk's 1993 comedy 투캅스 (Two Cops), Kim had the smallest of roles. He was the young cadet greeting Park Joong-Hoon outside the police station, right at the beginning of the film. A blink and you miss it moment, for sure, but it was Kim's first chance as an actor. And while he never had the chance to star in a film as the lead, he always made the best of the opportunities given to him.
Playing a food delivery man in 주유소 습격사건 (Attack the Gas Station), pro wrestler Yoo Bi-Ho in 반칙왕 (The Foul King), high school thug Jang Ryang in 화산고 (Volcano High), and a Million other memorable little roles, Kim has become one of the most recognizable amongst those faceless usual suspects. And that always comes down to his hard work, to the fact he often stood out more than the leading stars, with the help of a natural talent for comedy and ad-lib, and an ability to act with facial expression alone which would give Jim Carrey a complex of inferiority. But that ability to make people laugh at the snap of a finger always came back to haunt him. He never really had a serious role, or at least one without nuances of comedy.
I remember someone like that... I think his name was Song Kang-Ho. People still remember his delirious supporting roles in Song Neung-Han's 넘버 3 (No. 3) and Kim Jee-woon's 조용한 가족 (The Quiet Family) from the late 90s, making him a cult icon, the most popular supporting actor in the country. Even when he starred in the smash hit 쉬리 (Shiri), and showcased great ability to mix the dramatic elements of his role with the usual comedy, it was still a supporting role. Enter his first two leading roles, 공동경비구역 JSA (Joint Security Area) and 반칙왕 (The Foul King), and here's your new most popular star in Chungmuro.
Both Kim and Song have a theater background, and they often crossed paths in their careers, but it's singular that both their leading debuts have something to do with things from their past (comedy), but also look in a new direction (drama). Yes, because Kim Soo-Ro has finally become a leading man, and this time it won't be only comedy. Vampires have never been associated with Korean Culture, but there's been a rise in the country's interest for the matter, particularly after the hilarious TV Sitcom 안녕, 프란채스카 (Hello, Francesca) became a cult hit. Lee Shi-Myung's second film after the 2002 blockbuster 2009 로스트 메모리즈 (2009 Lost Memories), the black comedy 흡혈형사 나도열 (Vampire Cop Ricky), will try to bank on this new trend.
Na Do-Yeol (Kim Soo-Ro) was a simple man on the surface, but he was actually leading two lives: passionate and energetic detective by day, scheming and corrupt bodyguard of conman Tak Moon-Soo (Son Byung-Ho) by night. But one day, while on assignment in Romania, he gets bitten by a bloodsucking mosquito, and life completely changes for him. He becomes a vampire! But wait... it's not what you think. Just biting a young virgin's neck will not do the job. Our vampire's peculiar talents manifest themselves anytime Do-Yeol becomes sexually aroused. Then, in a matter of moments he turns into a super human creature, able to defeat any foe, and save the world with the power of his libido. People around him start recognizing his talents, and even exploit that by forcing him to watch Adult Films, and become their new 'Superhero'. But his virtues are not eternal, and he'll have to deal with the fact that when the excitement disappears, so do his powers. But also the famous vampire hunter, Priest Bio (Oh Gwang-Rok), who will try to stop him at all costs.
Expected to be the first part of a trilogy of 'Korean Superhero Flicks', the 3.5 Billion Won black comedy 'Vampire Cop Ricky' will release in February. Here's a few snippets from Kim Soo-Ro's interviews with the press about the film:
"I got 200,000 Won for my role in 'Two Cops', so you can say I've come a long way. I think good luck has been following me all that time, even in this film I get to work with great actors like Son Byung-Ho and Oh Gwang-Rok. Just by looking at them, I always crack up laughing. You always end up making NG one way or another, but because of them I often got in trouble during the shoot. Yes, it's a fun film, but not the kind of comedy where you merely laugh. There are also parts where Na Do-Yeol suffers a lot because of his transformation into a vampire. You don't really need to practice anything in particular when it comes to comedy, you just learn by living. How many surreal and hilarious situations happen in our lives? I practice comedy as I live, every day. A while ago, while I was walking down the street, some little kid pointed at me and said "That's a comedian!". Man, I really felt bad after hearing that... how many comedians have a body like mine? (laughs)"
"It'd be interesting to become a vampire when I'm around my fifties, that way I'd enjoy eternal life (laughs). I guess my looks always fit with vampires since, weird enough, of all people they picked me to play Na Do-Yeol. At least in this case, pretty actors were cast off, and I ended up second place [This was an online survey about who'd be the best Korean actor for a vampire film. Jang Dong-Gun took the lead, with Lee Byung-Heon third]. I never really liked horror films, but go figure, I always liked vampire movies. I really enjoyed 'Interview with The Vampire' and 'Queen of The Damned'."
"Sometimes back I spent entire days hung head down from the roof of a 11 story building. For 'Volcano High', I trained with wires for an entire year, so thankfully the action wasn't that difficult. We usually spent nights shooting the film, so it was hard, especially because I had to wear lenses for 12 hours a day, which gave me an inflammation, and there were many scenes where I had to be suspended from a ceiling."