The two lead actors of screenwriter Hong Won-chan’s directorial debut “Office” proved their acting chops in the thriller genre long before this year. Ko A-sung rose to fame as a child actress in 2006’s “The Host” and made her international mark with 2013’s “Snowpiercer,” while Park Sung-woong’s big break was his role as a tough gangster in 2013’s “New World,” which he followed with a serial killer role in “The Deal” early this year.
They brought those past experiences with them to create an eerie ambience in “Office,” in which a murderer returns to work after killing his family and seems to haunt his colleagues, putting a terrifying twist on the everyday workplace environment. The Korea Herald sat down in group interviews with both actors to talk about their roles in the film, which enjoyed a warm reception at the Cannes Film Festival’s Midnight Screening and opened in local theaters Thursday.
Ko A-sung (4 Doors Entertainment)
Ko A-sung -- Feeling Mi-rye’s despair
Ko A-sung plays Mi-rye, a lowly intern at the sales department of a gigantic food and beverage company whose only goal is to receive an offer for a permanent position. Mi-rye is meek and insecure, with few qualifications that set her apart in a sea of applicants.
Ko said that she was surprised at how much she was able to relate to Mi-rye’s sense of desperation and self-bashing despair, given their very different backgrounds and career paths.
“People around Mi-rye say that they wish she’d have a bad personality, because they can’t even hate her,” Ko said, citing the difference between “working hard” and “just working hard (with no results).” “I found out that I was like her as well. I started asking myself some basic questions like ‘What do I have other than my diligence?’”
Although Ko had many references for her character around her including her friends and her older sister, she says that she couldn’t feel the pressure of office life until she was actually on set.
“Sometimes, it would get so suffocating that between takes I would go to the bathroom, take off all my clothes and just breathe,” she said.
Ko says that the realistic setting of “Office” is what makes it appealing as a film. “It wasn’t intentional, but I tend to choose movies with some kind of message,” she said. “Looking carefully at ‘Office,’ I liked that there was a violence in corporate life that people couldn’t see because it was so deeply ingrained in them. I want ‘Office’ to bring that to the surface.”
Ko A-sung will bring the intensity down in her next project with the unofficial title “Oppa’s Thought,” opposite singer and actor Im Si-wan.
Park Sung-woong (Yonhap)
Park Sung-woong -- Stepping back from the action
Park Sung-woong was trained as an action star at Action School, an organization known today as the provider of action choreography for major Korean films. Although he was never officially trained as a stuntman, that experience made him a unique asset for films requiring vigorous action.
However in “Office,” Park is rarely seen in an action scene despite his role as detective Choi Jong-hoon -- and he says it was a nice change.
“I’ve always done tough roles. When I first got offered the role, I wanted it, but more importantly it was something I could do well,” he said. “I’m good at tough characters, but it was always a bit uncomfortable. The role of Jong-hoon was easy and comfortable for me.”
“It was still a detective role, but a different pattern,” he said. Rather than hurtling through obstacles and jumping on roofs to chase down a perpetrator, Jong-hoon’s role in the film was to anchor the gory story of the office to reality -- unexpectedly making him the most ordinary and relatable character in the cast.
“He pretends to be righteous and good, but in the end he compromises out of self-interest,” Park said.
He said he especially liked a scene in which Jong-hoon is being berated by his superior for investigating a powerful firm. “Jong-hoon feels his own kind of corporate pressure,” he added.
“I also often heard that all of my tough roles were similar. I wanted a change,” he said. “I chose ‘Office’ not so much because it wasn’t my style, but rather because I wanted to show some variety.”
Park says that he wants more than anything to do comedy, but for now his next project is the upcoming crime drama “A Violent Prosecutor,” alongside actor Hwang Jung-min.
By Won Ho-jung(email@example.com