[INTERVIEW] Ryu Seung Bum, The Shy Guy

Ryu Seung Bum always manages to add his own color to any role he takes. Even the blandest of all characters dances into life when it goes through Ryu Seung Bum.One filmmaker once chose Ryu Seung Bum as “the actor that can put on the best mocking act in Korea.”This Ryu Seung Bum has again met his match, through the film The Berlin File.

In The Berlin File, Ryu Seung Bum appears as Dong Myung Soo, the son of a high ranking North Korean executive. As director Ryu Seung Wan′s characters always are, he also has his own reasons for being underhanded.

Dong Myung Soo and his father need to continue the power they enjoyed with the old government to the new one, and so they frame Pyo Jong Sung (Ha Jung Woo) and Yeon Jeong Hee (Jun Ji Hyun), who are active in Berlin, as traitors.

Ryu Seung Bum was always the outgoing type, but he seemed more so while talking about his most recent film.

Everyone has been expecting so much from ′The Berlin File′. Are you pressured by the attention?“I′m trying to enjoy it. I′m worried some will be let down because of all the high anticipation, but it′s not often you get to appear in a piece that′s anticipated. I realized it really was a highly anticipated film only after finished shooting it.”What kind of film is ′The Berlin File′?

“It′s in a genre within director Ryu Seung Wan′s style. It′s just bigger in scale and has more chances for publicity. I believe those who like the 007 Series and the Bourne Series will like it. It does appeal to other audiences too. Some think of its as a film about North and South Korea, but that′s just a setting in the film; the story isn′t about that issue actually. I think it would be nice if people just thought of it as an entertaining film. It′s just one you can enjoy like a roller coaster.”

You had to act in a North Korean dialect. Did you have to study a lot?

“I interviewed a lot of people from North Korea. I also watched a documentary on industrial spies.”

It seems the North Korean dialect isn′t easy.

“It was difficult. I also had to speak in German and English. I kept asking the Germans whether they could understand me. Fortunately, the lines were short. I felt respect for those actors who act in foreign languages.”

Your English was unexpectedly good.

“No one knows it, but I can do some English. (Laugh) It was hard though because they wanted a British accent. They said North Koreans shouldn′t be using American English. British English isn′t easy, so I just mixed American English with British English.”

It doesn′t seem to fit Ryu Seung Bum′s image. You seem to go well with such Southern European countries like Spain.

“I like those countries too. I look completely Spanish in my passport photo. I wish I could show it to you.”

You also shot a lot of guns in the film.

“It was fun because it was my first time with a gun. The thrill from the sound and its feel in my hand was awesome.”

Did you hit any difficulties while filming?

“I fit in well with director Ryu Seung Wan. I was happy I could act alongside such actors. There were no difficulties.”

Your ensemble with the other actors must have been perfect.

I met Ha Jung Woo a few times before we started shooting, and I found out some things I didn′t know about him. He′s actually very funny, and likes to talk a lot. He talks really fast, and I learned for the first time that there are people like him who just won′t stop talking. He′s interested in a lot of issues too. I′m actually the shy one, and I rarely talk on set and stay at home when I don′t have to work, but Ha Jung Woo cares a lot for others and is very outgoing. He showed some great energy for the film. It′s not every day you get to act with the biggest actor in the Korean box office. It was great.”

How were Jun Ji Hyun and Han Seok Gyu?

“I met Jun Ji Hyun for the first time through this film. I once briefly passed by her at a fitness club in the past. I′ve never seen Han Seok Gyu sunbaenim (senior). There′s this weight that seems to follow his name. I′m happy I was able to act with Han Seok Gyu sunbaenim. It′s a great honor for B-level actors like me. It seems like a unique ensemble.”

B-level actor? Ryu Seung Bum actually wields great influence in the Korean box office. Ryu Seung Bum is the best actor you can get if you want a bully role. You even made a prosecutor look like a bully in ′The Unjust′.

“Someone did tell me that I make every character I lay my hands on a bully. It′s like I go around saying, ′Give it to me, I′ll make them all bullies.′”

It would mean that it′s in your nature to be so, when you′re so good at being a bully you′re called the best in Korea for such acting.

“That′s right. I′m a punk. I want to be the kind of punk that people want to be around. I′m not really a bully though. I want to be a person people think they′ll have a good time with.”

Ryu Seung Bum the punk actually hasn′t been in much trouble.

“It′s because I′m honest. I think people just pass everything by since I just show it as it is. I have no more new things to show. I′ve shown it all. I don′t go well with mysterious images.”

You′re actually a very faithful Christian though.“The reason I don′t go the wrong way is because of my religion. I lower the threshold for churches, don′t I? Since people like me go to church too, it means church can be a very comfortable place. I go to church with sleeveless shirts on, showing all my tattoos, and people pray for me and show concern for me. I still remain bold and continue on my style though. I′m Christian, but I′m interested in Asian philosophy and I recently enjoyed Monk Hye Min′s book.”

Ryu Seung Bum is very popular among men. Do you know?

“Yes, I do. I have a lot of male fans. I think they think of me as a substitute for their dreams. I like actors like Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro. They just live their lives according to their own values. I think that′s why I have so many male fans. I don′t even receive skin treatments, though I′m an actor. I recently went to see the dermatologist for the first time in a few years. I just pop my own zits. It′s so thrilling.”

That′s why you′re always mistaken as the valet. (Ryu Seung Bum recently said on broadcast that he′s often mistaken as the town′s valet.)

“It′s because I usually go out in a comfortable jacket. Sometimes when I stand with my back turned, people come to me with their car keys. I believe I give people hope somehow, since I show that people like me can be actors too. I started the Renaissance of hope and dreams. (Laugh)”

Why won′t you appear in dramas? Your last drama appearance was in 2004.

“I don′t want to make viewers feel uncomfortable. I don′t like it when I′m on the small screen; what would viewers think? I can′t curse or use slang in dramas also. I feel locked in.”

Still, you need to be in dramas to become a hallyu star.

“I′m not very jealous of hallyu stars. I′m never really jealous of anyone. There are hallyu stars, and then there are people like me who manage to stay on.”

You don′t want to win awards, either?

“No. I did receive some, but I don′t even keep the trophies at my home.”

Have you watched any films recently?

“I watched Namyeong-dong 1985. It was sad. My hobby actually isn′t in film though. It′s in music.”

You like music so much; do you have any plans to release an album?

“There are people who would give their lives for music; I don′t think it would be good for me to release an album when I just listen to it as a hobby. Music is holy to me. There′s so much music to listen to out there; there′s no need for me to start making music. These days I′m into North European music.”

What are your plans for the future?

“I have many big hopes and dreams. I don′t think anything would make me happier than being able to remain on film as I grow old.”

′The Berlin File′ has premiered. Do you feel you could have done anything better?

“I feel if I had acted for it now, I would have done better. It′s always like that when we finish. Still, I don′t think I would have made it perfect even now. I just need to live today at the fullest with such thoughts in my head.”

What does ′The Berlin File′ mean to you?

“It′s a great and new experience. Since it′s a commercial film, I hope it′s successful. It won′t change my life, but if a commercial film becomes popular, I think it would feel great since it means the movie was used for its original purpose.”

Photo credit: Kim Byung Kwan

CJ E&M enewsWorld Oh, MiJung

Translation Credit : Erika Kim