Cho Jae-hyun, left, Park Si-yeon, center, and Kim Kang-woo pose at a press event in southern Seoul, Monday. / Yonhap
By Lee Hyo-won
The upcoming film ``Marine Boy'' involves treading water, but it has nothing to do with the nickname Koreans affectionately give to swimming star Park Tae-hwan.
Written and directed by newcomer Yoon Jong-seok, this crime movie is about a former swimming athlete (Kim Kang-woo) who, desperately in debt, becomes employed as a ``body packing'' drug mule by a heartless drug lord (Cho Jae-hyun). After swallowing a 10-meter-long drug package, this ``marine boy'' must swim across waters between Korea and Japan. Among the many things that beckon death, an alluring beauty (Park Si-yeon) tries to seduce him.
``As long as there are drugs, there will be those who transport drugs. What makes this movie unique is not its subject matter, but rather, the name `marine boy.' There is something beguiling about its duality, how these criminals are called something that romantically calls to mind the popular cartoon ``Marine Boy'' or the star swimmer Park Tae-hwan,'' the director told reporters at a press event in southern Seoul, Monday.
``A friend of mine asked if the movie was about swimmer Park Tae-hwan. Park did in fact get to watch a rough cut of the film and liked it. But I hope people will view `Marine Boy' as a film with a life of its own,'' said Kim.
Like the film's title, the stars are also redefining themselves. Kim stripped down his soft, good guy image to play an ultra masculine athlete. The ``Le Grand Chef'' star had to conquer his fear of water and learn basic swimming strokes alongside toddlers. After a few months of intense training and dieting, he was boasting a chiseled physique and doing dangerous water stunts without a stand-in.
Throughout the press conference, Kim's co-stars and director praised his passionate effort. About her co-star's sexy makeover, Park (``A Love'') said Kim's fervent devotion to the vigorous training was ``much sexier.'' The screen beauty herself gives a new slant on her image, trading in her damsel in distress characters for a scheming femme fatale. The newly revealed film trailer featured a steamy love scene between the two, garnering much attention from the press. ``It was a bedroom scene but we shot it so vigorously I don't remember much,'' she said.
Cho (``Bad Guy''), known for both iconic villain roles and quintessential good guy parts, adds another bad guy to the roster. ``I actually feel more comfortable playing the more delicate, fragile roles,'' he said, teasing himself as being a softhearted man who often cries. ``But I believe that any given villain character, no matter how tough and masculine, requires a small portion of femininity,'' he said.
``Marine Boy'' marks a plunge into big budget filmmaking for the indie film veteran. ``Like the director said, I feel like I'm marrying off my precious daughter,'' said Cho about the film's upcoming release in February. ``I've married off many 'children' (movies) so far, but the weddings have been a disaster… I've also been very hungry, doing Kim Ki-duk's independent films,'' joked the actor, inspiring laughter from reporters. ``For the first time, I feel like I am marrying off my daughter to a loving, wealthy family,'' he said.
Coming to theaters Feb. 5. Distributed by CJ Entertainment.