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[Herald Interview] ‘Escape from Mogadishu’ took burden off my shoulders: Jo In-sung

Actor Jo In-sung (Lotte Entertainment)
Actor Jo In-sung (Lotte Entertainment)

For top actor Jo In-sung, “Escape from Mogadishu” was the movie that he could enjoy filming, as the burden of playing the sole lead role was lifted off his shoulders.

“In previous films, nobody told me that I should feel pressured but I felt responsible,” Jo said during an interview via Zoom with a group of reporters. “When filming a movie, there are things that the leading actors should take care of. They have to make sure that the staff is doing okay. They also have to be considerate of the production costs and so on.”

Since there were two other veteran actors -- Kim Yoon-seok and Heo Jun-ho -- with him to share that burden, Jo said he was able to focus more on depicting his character.

Set in 1991 in Somalia, the movie depicts South Korean Ambassador to Somalia Han Shin-sung (played by Kim Yoon-seok) and Kang Dae-jin (played by Jo), a spy agent of Korea’s Agency for National Security Planning, competing against the North Korean Ambassador (Heo Jun-ho) for South Korea’s membership in the United Nations. One day, a civil war breaks out and both South and North Korean diplomats have to cooperate to escape the country together.

Although the movie depicts a serious topic that is based on a true event, comical scenes are interwoven throughout.

“Mogadishu is a commercial film, so I wanted it to be like the Marvel movies which include touches of humor even in serious situations. The escape process is dangerous in our movie but when my character interacts with other characters I tried to show that he has a sense of humor,” he said.

Jo also pointed out that his new film does not include the overly emotional scenes that movies centered on South and North Korean ties usually have.

“I am not saying that movies with those scenes are bad,” he said. “The scenes are effective as they make Korean audiences react in certain ways. But director (Ryoo Seung-wan) did it differently and wrote the script and directed the movie more calmly and dispassionately. I think it will provide a different experience to the audience.”

When asked about the hardships he had experienced while filming, Jo said he tried to stay positive even in difficult situations.

“We had to fly to Turkey and then transfer to reach Morocco. Then we had to ride for three hours to get to the place where we shot the movie. It was not easy,“ the actor said. ”But I thought of the experience as an actor’s privilege. If I were not an actor I probably wouldn’t have a chance to experience all that.”

During the interview, Jo also shared his views on war.
A scene from Korean action film “Escape from Mogadishu” (Lotte Entertainment)
A scene from Korean action film “Escape from Mogadishu” (Lotte Entertainment)

“I only had an indirect experience through performing but I could see how devastating it is,” Jo said. “So many innocent people are being sacrificed in wars. Also, like in the movie, kids are running around with guns. I think it should never happen.”

“Escape from Mogadishu” attracted over 126,000 visitors and topped the domestic box office on Wednesday, the first day of its release.

Earlier in June, the Korean Theater Association, which includes the top three multiplex operators, decided to forgo ticket proceeds until sales reach 50 percent of the total production cost of “Escape from Mogadishu.” The theaters and film distributors usually split the ticket sales 50:50. “Escape from Mogadishu” cost around 25 billion won ($21.82 million) to make.

By Song Seung-hyun (