When it comes to Kim Jun-seong, expect the unexpected.
After rubbing shoulders with Chinese starlet Tang Wei and hunk Hyun Bin in “Late Autumn” (working title), the actor reveals what’s next on his to-do list.
“I want to play a woman,” the 34-year-old said in an e-mail interview with The Korea Herald.
He could be joking. Then again, he might be serious. His unpredictable career path makes it hard to tell.
After studying philosophy and economics at North Carolina’s Wake Forest University, the collegiate tennis player settled for a job in finance. For a moment it looked like he was on a set path. Then he quit.
“I was taking some time off trying to figure out what to do with my life,” he explained. “And someone introduced me to the director of ‘The Rocky Horror Show.’ When we started performing, I felt a strange sensation of liberation and freedom.”
The year was 2001. Kim has been acting ever since.
For those who witnessed his riveting performance as a Korean-American thug in “West 32nd” (2007), Kim might come off like a natural.
He is the first to dispel such notions.
“Are you kidding me?” he balked. “Did you ever see my early works? My Korean sucked, my acting sucked.”
“I believed in my potential, but I was starting late, so I really started to work hard on my acting,” he added.
The hard work paid off.
After several stints as a rich kid, Kim tackled a broader range of roles, heating up the silver screen as an adulterer opposite Lee Mi-yeon in “Love Exposure” (2007) and crossing swords with Song Il-gook in SBS’ “The Lobbyist” (2007).
His acting breakthrough came with “West 32nd,” which was filmed prior to “The Lobbyist.”
“That’s when I really got into what people called ‘method acting,’ living as the character to prepare (for) the role,” he said.
According to “West 32nd” director Michael Kang, Kim “found real life counterparts” to his character and began hanging out with them while rehearsing in New York.
Kang revealed that Kim arrived in character and was “quite intimidating,” embodying “a street-level gangster from the get-go.”
“Now that I look back on it knowing what a sweetheart Jun is, I think it’s pretty funny that I was ever scared of him,” Kang wrote via e-mail.
Kim’s latest film, “Late Autumn,” may be more in synch with his gentle persona. In this remake of director Lee Man-hee’s 1966 original, Kim plays the heroine’s first love, a role he was happy to take on, partly because Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” actress Tang Wei was playing the lead.
“I didn’t hesitate to do the movie,” Kim said. “I get to play a Chinese guy first of all, which is really cool. I also get to act opposite Tang Wei.”
“Just acting with her, makes me want to do my best,” he said.
Of co-star Hyun, Kim said that he “didn’t have many scenes with” him and that he was “quiet at first.” Once they broke the ice, Kim discovered “he is a man’s man.”
“There is something very immovable about him, like a tree,” he said. “And it shows in his acting, because it comes off as very natural and genuine.”
The upcoming flick, shot in Seattle and slated to hit theaters worldwide in autumn, touches upon the pasts of Tang’s and Hyun’s characters.
“Kim’s character plays a big part in the history of Tang’s role,” said “Late Autumn” co-producer Yoo Eun-jung.
Now with filming over, Kim is in Los Angeles, trying to break into Hollywood under the moniker Jun Kim.
“I felt like I needed a change,” he said.
By Jean Oh (email@example.com)