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Lee Je-hoon returns to big screen as witty royal tomb raider

“Collectors” (CJ Entertainment)
“Collectors” (CJ Entertainment)
Lee Je-hoon is returning to the big screen as a witty tomb raider in the upcoming comedy-crime “Collectors.”

“Looking back at how I have been selecting my characters, I tried to choose movies with social messages or ones with a unique genre. But we all have experiences of having a truly good time after watching a movie that is not thought-provoking, don’t’ we? I do too and I’ve been wishing to do that kind of movie,” Lee said during the press conference Wednesday that followed a press screening. “I think ‘Collectors’ is exactly that.”

Lee plays Kang Dong-goo, who works with an expert in ancient tomb murals known as the “Korean Indiana Jones” (Cho Woo-jin) as well as legendary shoveling expert Sabdari (Lim Won-hee).

“I did not have to use other references or analyze the character too deeply. I just follow the script and tried to go with the natural flow,” Lee said.

“My personality is nothing like Kang. His humor is what I took away from filming this movie,” he said, explaining how his friends noticed he had become more talkative after. “I think I found a side of me that I did not know before.”

The movie’s story develops after Kang meets an expert in ancient art named Ms. Yoon (Shin Hye-sun). Kang starts a dangerous job of stealing the Korean version of Excalibur in the royal tomb Seolleung in Seoul, along with the two other robbers, for Ms. Yoon’s boss.

Lee was not the only actor trying something different in “Collectors.”

“I was worried that intent on making people laugh I would overdo my Dr. Jones character,” Cho said. “I prepared improvised lines for almost every scene. Lots of them were edited out. There was a scene where Dr. Jones exaggerates his saga with Kang. Most of the lines in the scene were improvised and I was worried about that scene being edited out because nobody laughed after filming it. But today, I was relieved to see that scene made it in the movie.”

Director Park Jung-bae added that he really liked the scene, but could not laugh at the time due to the exhausting weather.

At the press conference, Park also praised Shin, who played the only female main character in the movie.

“I was surprised at how fluently she spoke Chinese and Japanese for her role,” Park said.

Shin also revealed the know-how of playing a trilingual character.

“I do not speak any foreign language. So I kept on listening to my teachers’ recordings like I would music and memorized the whole flow,” Shin said. “For Chinese, I got some help from my sister who majored in Chinese. I had private tutoring with my sister and her university friends at home.”

Concerning the shocking scene at the beginning of the film where the main character Kang is nearly killed in a robbery as a child, the director said it was created based on their research.

“We found out that some collectors used kids to steal relics,” the director said. “We also found out that there were people who killed those kids after forcing them to take part in the robbery to avoid leaving any evidence. This story was not included in the initial script but was added it later.”

“Collectors” will hit local theaters on Wednesday.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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