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[Rookies of 2014] Shim Eun-kyeong steps forward with ‘Miss Granny’

Actress Shim Eun-kyeong. (CJ Entertainment)
Actress Shim Eun-kyeong. (CJ Entertainment)

One of the most anticipated films in the first half of this year is “Miss Granny,” a fantasy film and a comedy about an old woman in her 70s who somehow regains her physical appearance from when she was 20 years old.

Playing the role is former child actress Shim Eun-kyeong, whose acting career in the past couple of years saw some dramatic highs, including roles in some of the most successful Korean films.

In 2011, the 19-year-old actress played Na-mi, a wacky teenager living in 1980s Korea in director Kang Hyeong-cheol’s hit drama film “Sunny.”

The film became the first movie to attract 5 million viewers that year, and became the second-highest grossing Korean film of 2011, following director Kim Han-min’s period drama “War of the Arrows.” Director Kang described Shim as someone “who is already complete as an actress.”

In 2012, Shim played a young court servant who meets a tragic end in box office hit period drama “Masquerade.”

In the film, top actor Lee Byung-hun played dual roles, as King Gwanghae, the 15th ruler of Joseon, as well as the fictional Ha-sun, a street actor who ends up standing in for the king when he is poisoned and falls ill. The film became the second-highest grossing film of the year. Though she didn’t play a leading role, Shim gave a memorable performance, especially in the scene where the character makes a very difficult decision to save her beloved, the endangered king.

Choo Chang-min, the director of “Masquerade,” is said to have sent the script of the film to the U.S. ― where Shim was staying at the time ― as he really wanted to cast her for the role. He was said to have been impressed by Shim’s previous performances.

Shim started acting at the age of nine, and appeared in numerous TV drama series as a child actress. When she was 12, Shim made a memorable appearance as the young Hwang Jin-yi in the eponymous TV drama series on the life of the famous 16th century Joseon courtesan and artist.

The upcoming comedy is Shim’s first leading role, after receiving much recognition for her supporting performances. She is known for her ability to pull off characters that present unique challenges. For example, Na-mi, the dorky teenager in “Sunny,” spoke in a Jeolla Province dialect with a very heavy accent. She was particularly praised for her delivery of curse words in the movie, in a way that was both natural and memorable. In “Miss Granny,” she is to play an old woman somehow trapped in a young body.

Director Hwang Dong-hyeok, who directed “Miss Granny,” said Shim was an actress who can pull off “any movie of any genre.”

“It’s hard to believe she is only 19, considering how well she delivers all kinds of emotions,” he said.

By Claire Lee (