By Lee Hyo-won
Won Bin has cast off his pretty boy image to show off his knack for high kicks and dagger-swinging skirmishes in ``The Man from Nowhere.''
It's yet another testosterone-packed film by ``Cruel Winter Blues'' director Lee Jeong-beom, and made headlines for casting the heartthrob, who is better known for melodramatic roles that jab at women's maternal instincts.
``The media has mostly portrayed (Won) Bin's sensitive side and I thought his conventional image would work well in depicting the bond with a child. But Bin is very stoic and scary in the action sequences, and I think these two contrasting sides complement each other in the movie,'' the director told reporters in a Seoul theater, Thursday.
Won stars as Tae-sik, a former secret agent who, after losing his wife in a tragic incident, leads a reclusive life running a pawnshop. He begins to open up his heart however as he spends time with So-mi, a child who lives next door. But one day he is forced to face the world again when So-mi is kidnapped by a crime ring.
``I actually have no idea what kind of man he is,'' Won said, chuckling, about his mysterious character. ``He has a painful past but breaks out of this shell he had built around him in order to save a child. It's an action drama, but I was intrigued by how a man could risk his life for someone who isn't even family. I tried my best to deliver the desperation and urgency my character felt.''
So-mi is played by Lee Sae-ron, who appeared in the internationally acclaimed Korean-French co-production ``A Brand New Life.'' The actress, who turns 10 at the end of the month, drew laughter as she addressed Won as ``ajeossi'' (uncle) ― the film's original title in Korean ― and shyly said that she had no idea who Won was before shooting the film.
The 32-year-old Won, who is better known as the sweet younger brother in ``Tae Guk Gi'' or helpless son in ``Mother,'' said he preferred that the ajeosi image remain limited to the movie.
As this man-meets-child story garnered interest among netizens, parallels were drawn to films such as ``Leon'' or ``Man on Fire.'' Regarding the comparison, the director said, ``I wasn't offended at all; it's actually an honor. But my film also stands on its own since it is rooted in Korean values and features rather unconventional action sequences.''
Film clips showed Won engaged in dangerous action sequences, and in one fighting scene the camera was attached to his opponent to heighten the realism. Won said he trained for three months with a martial arts director and did many of the stunts himself.
``It felt like dying, doing wire action for the first time. But the dagger sequences were particularly dangerous since you could easily cut your eyes or face, and it's all about coordination,'' said Won. ``I think Bin was driven by a certain urgency or energy he already possessed. He's also very athletic, strong-willed and passionate, and I thank him for pulling off the difficult scenes,'' said the director.
In theaters Aug. 5. Distributed by CJ Entertainment.