We're a mere few days away from the press screening of 무영검 (Shadowless Sword), one of the most awaited Korean films of recent memory. Awaited because director Kim Young-Joon seems to have learned from his mistakes in 비천무 (Bichunmoo), and judging from the promotional media that has leaked out so far, the film seems to be a vast improvement over the 2000 martial arts fantasy. Awaited because of its cast: Shin Hyun-Joon, whose last film 가문의 위기 (Marrying The Mafia 2) became the most successful Korean comedy of all time; Lee Seo-Jin, the talented TV actor from 다모 (Damo) who will try again to make an impact on the big screen, after the failure of his debut years ago; Lee Gi-Yong, a former model with great screen presence, making her film debut; and, last but not least, Yoon So-Yi, already considered one of the most talented young actress in the country. 'Shadowless Sword' debuts in theaters this coming November 18.
Lee Seo-Jin and Yoon So-Yi were recently the focus of one of Kino's (the print version of nKino) cover stories. Here's a few excerpts from their interview:
You play a female warrior protecting a man in the film, right? That's quite an unusual character in Korean films, so did that make the film more appealing to you?
Yoon So-Yi: I think I was driven by the fact there's only a few period films made every year in Korea, and yes, that it's a character with a very strong personality, a woman who protects men.
How does being protected by a woman feel? I heard the character starts as someone who's really weak and full of doubts, then he slowly changes into a stronger person.
Lee Seo-Jin: (laughs) You call that someone being protected? Well, at first he's someone who has no confidence and trust in other people, and the fact he has to become King creates a lot of pressure on his shoulders, so it's the burden that makes him run away all the time. Actually, just a small portion of the film covers my character's transformation into a King: there's like 2, 3 minutes at the end. Before all that, he distinguished himself on the battlefield as a prince, but living with that burden and trying to hide for 14 years made him forget all that. The confidence he had about his military achievements was starting to disappear... so that's how he ends up being protected by a woman (laughs). But as he begins to find his true self, all his memories slowly resurface, making him stronger.
I know you had to go through harsh action training for the film, but what was your actual training process?
Yoon: I learned wushu from action director Park Chan-Dae, for three months in Korea, then we left for China. To learn the 다찌마리 (Dajjimari, slang for the kind of action you use in films) - there's no other way to say it (laughs) - that would fit with the fencing I had to do warming up to build my body strength and also learned wire action from the Chinese stunt team. But while Lee Gi-Yong and I were a little awkward, the other guys [Lee Seo-Jin and Shin Hyun-Joon] looked like they were born to do this. Even when we were running in the training ground, they made sure we ran in front of them all the time...
Lee: The Chinese training was a little hard, but that was because there were a lot of action scene. Now people are more accustomed to that, their standards have changed, so you can't really use stunt doubles too often. We practiced hard, around six days a week?
I read in another interview you said 'Shadowless Sword' is not an action film, but a melodrama. What did you mean by that?
Lee: From the point of view of So-Yi's character, she's not simply someone who protects the Prince to make sure he'll be able to be crowned King, there's another reason behind that, something deeper. I think I felt the same about that. Then, there's something called social status, so she can't really show her feelings. Still, she protects my character, who's such a foolish person. She's not moved by simple motivations, but she has personal feelings for him. She can't give up on him, even forgetting he's the King.
I heard there's a big dramatic fight scene between Yoon So-Yi and Lee Gi-Yong in the film. It's hard to see two women fighting each other in Korean films, I can't wait to see it. Two women of your height and figure...
:Lee: Ahh... that's right. It's a battle of giants. (all laugh)
Yoon: Anyway, before the King (Lee) and his enemy (Shin) fight, Gi-Yong and I are the ones who end up fighting first [because the two protect those characters]. There are many fight scenes, and it looks like we hit each other pretty well. Gi-Yong and I are the same age, she's a former model, and she's really beautiful.
Lee: If you think of So-Yi's character as a soft and graceful female warrior, Gi-Yong's character fights with two swords, and she's also skilled with the spear.
You were in 역전의 명수 (The Twins) after 아라한 장풍대작전 (Arahan), but being in a film like 'Shadowless Sword' once again, people might identify with you as an action star. How do you feel about that?
Yoon: Since actresses don't shoot action films too often, I think it's a good thing that I've been able to differentiate myself through that. There's people who might think I'm focusing on my image as an 'action star' a little too much, but I think this character is different from my previous ones. 'Arahan' used a modern setting while 'Shadowless Sword' is a period piece, but since they both have action scenes with swords, some people could say I always do the same things. Once you see the film though, you'll understand it's a completely different character.
Lee: So-Yi's character in 'Arahan' looks her age, while in 'Shadowless Sword', her character is much more mature. Perhaps that's why acting the part was more difficult.
무영검 (無影劍, Shadowless Sword)
Director: 김영준 (Kim Young-Joon)
윤소이 (Yoon So-Yi), 이서진 (Lee Seo-Jin), 신현준 (Shin Hyun-Joon), 이기용 (Lee Gi-Yong)
Theatrical Trailer (Streaming, 700k, Windows Media)
Teaser Trailer (Streaming, Windows Media)
Production Meeting+Martial Arts Demo (Streaming, Real Media)
Making Of (Streaming, Windows Media)