By Lee Hyo-won
South Korean heartthrob So Ji-sub is shyly knocking on the hearts of Chinese fans through ``Sophie's Revenge'' opposite superstar Zhang Ziyi.
The 31-year-old's first Chinese language film comes not long after completing the mandatory two-year military service and making a strong rebound with the 2008 box office success ``Rough Cut'' and hit TV series ``Cain and Abel.''
``After getting out of the military I wanted to challenge myself as an actor with new projects, and China is a new start,'' So told a packed press conference room in Seoul, Thursday.
``A lot of Korean actors are debuting overseas, but I hope people won't judge them by their debut piece, since it is a stepping stone,'' he said. ``People say that my role is smaller than they expected but I'm not well known in China, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked on a great project with a great cast and crew.''
The actor appeared chic in a simple black suit and a diamond stud sparkled on his left ear. He said starring in a lighthearted romantic comedy was a fresh relief from his usual hardboiled roles, but having to deliver lines in Chinese was a great challenge.
``Sophie's Revenge'' marks a new adventure for his co-star as well. Zhang trades in her martial arts moves and period costumes for slapstick, romance and producing skills.
The film is the ``Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' star's debut as a producer. Directed by Chinese helmer Evan Jin, the movie is about a feisty cartoonist Sophie (Zhang), who is heartbroken when her perfect fiance Jeff (So) leaves her for another woman ― not just any woman but the glamorous movie star Anna. She meets a photographer Gordon (Peter Ho), who is apparently Anna's ex, and she persuades him to be her accomplice in undertaking the perfect revenge.
Zhang said that producing was tough but enjoyable, and spoke about the reasons for casting So. ``So Ji-sub is obviously incredibly handsome. He was always diligent and hardworking, making commendable efforts to work in a foreign language. I've worked on English and Japanese lines before so I know how hard it is,'' she said. ``Even though his role wasn't very big I think it's the beginning of something. I would love to work with him in the future.''
She added that So was well received in China, and fans, including elderly female fans in their 60s and 70s, cheered for him at press events in Beijing and Shanghai, among other cities.
The project, moreover, was exciting for the 30-year-old actress since it marks her first romantic comedy in her 10-year acting career.
``It was a big change,'' she said, but also said her new character hit home base. ``Sophie's character coincides with my real personality about 60 to 70 percent. I can be bright and adorable, even though I played a lot of strong personas before,'' said the screen beauty, who was pretty in cotton candy pink like her cheerful character.
So, like many people, had to forget Zhang's onscreen charisma. ``I have seen most of her works so I had the impression that she would be strong and kind of rough, but she is very much like her character Sophie ― down-to-earth, cute and lovely in demeanor,'' he said, ``but she was charismatic as a producer.''
Zhang also showered her co-stars with compliments. When told that So is known as ``So ganji'' among Korean fans for being able to pull off any fashion style, she said that he was stylish in all his outfits in the film, in tuxedos to casual outfits, and in particular when he is wearing only a towel.
So, meanwhile, said it was regretful that his kissing scene with Zhang ended in one cut.
``Sophie's Revenge'' is coming to theaters Aug. 20. Distributed by CJ Entertainment.