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[Herald Interview] Lee Byung-hun channels fear of flying for new role

Lee Byung-hun in “Emergency Declaration” (Showbox)
Lee Byung-hun in “Emergency Declaration” (Showbox)
Lee Byung-hun recalled the first time he read the script for “Emergency Declaration,” during an interview with a group of local reporters on Thursday.

“It was a whirlwind of tensions, like riding a roller coaster throughout. I thought, ‘This is going to be a strong movie,’” the actor said.

“The first time I watched the movie, it resonated with me so deeply, perhaps because we went through a long pandemic. It wasn’t intended, but I feel like this is a story that people can relate to and empathize with after going through the difficult times.”

Lee plays Jae-hyuk, a dedicated father with a fear of flying who boards a flight to Hawaii with his daughter.

Lee said he had experienced a panic attack on an airplane, similar to his aviophobic character.

“I had a panic attack on a plane in my 20s. I couldn’t breathe and I thought I was going to die there,” the actor said.

“But I thought I could express this phobia better than those who have never experienced it. I tried to portray Jae-hyuk’s condition -- the panic, anxiety and hyperventilation -- as realistically as possible.”

Actor Lee Byung-hun (BH Entertainment)
Actor Lee Byung-hun (BH Entertainment)

The veteran actor said the giant gimbal used for filming the in-flight scenes encouraged him to empathize with Jae-hyuk’s situation.

To create a realistic-looking set and dynamic aircraft turbulence, director Han Jae-rim employed a gimbal to rotate the mock plane 360 degrees with people inside.

“While filming inside the gimbal, all the actors and staff were nervous, although we were strapped so that we wouldn’t get hurt. ... It was easy to imagine that I was inside a flying plane,” Lee said.

“And because Jae-hyuk has a phobia, he is in a constant struggle, mentally and physically. To him, unexpected disasters and extreme situations just strike again and again. I put in the effort to convey his emotions and bewilderment, as they gradually escalate throughout the story,” he added.

Lee said he believes Jae-hyuk represents ordinary passengers, despite his fear of flying.

“I think Jae-hyuk is an ‘ordinary’ character. Although he has trauma, he felt very ordinary to me. He is a father to a daughter. He is easily frightened and scared by small things,” the actor said.

“But in the midst of a disaster, Jae-hyuk tries to find a way somehow and struggles to save his child.”

“Emergency Declaration” will be released on Wednesday.

By Hwang Dong-hee (hwangdh@heraldcorp.com)
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