The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Actor-director Kai Ko uses experience to guide actors

By Kim Da-sol

Published : July 4, 2023 - 14:56

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Kai Ko (Harvest 9 Road Entertainment) Kai Ko (Harvest 9 Road Entertainment)

A decade after Taiwanese acting heartthrob Kai Ko, also known as Ko Chen-tung, attended Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival for the first time, he is returning this year not as an actor, but for his directorial debut.

“I’ve been to various film festivals around the world but I really like Bifan’s vibrant and dynamic mood as well as its concertlike opening ceremony. As I have visited this time as a director, I feel like I’m showing my baby to the world,” Ko told The Korea Herald in an interview held at the Koryo Hotel in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, on Sunday.

Ko’s film, “Bad Education” (2022), a crime action flick, is being screened in the Bucheon Choice feature section at Bifan, which kicked off June 29 and ends the coming Sunday. Ko, who debuted with the hit romance flick “You Are the Apple of My Eye” (2011), first came to Bifan with “When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep” (2012).

As a formidable actor with an established record in the Asian cinema scene, what made him turn to the world of filmmaking?

“Due to the pandemic, many projects had to be stopped in recent years. So as I was going through many meetings for scenarios and choosing projects, this film ‘Bad Education’ caught my eye. If I were to search for a director, it would take another year and no one knows what will happen in the future. So I decided to take the lead,” said the 32-year-old actor-director.

The film was released in Taiwan in November and received six nominations at the 59th Golden Horse Awards. One of its main actors, Berant Zhu, won best supporting actor.

“‘Bad Education’ tells that there is really no boundary between someone nice and someone bad. What separates them is really ambiguous,” Ko said.

“There are only few extremely good or extremely bad people. We don’t call someone is super bad just because that person violates the traffic signal and litters. I wanted to talk about that through the film.”

The movie begins with a narration and follows three friends. It later shows how one bad decision leads to a chain of events beyond their control. The film is separated into three chapters which show how their friendship is tested and the young men contemplating on the nature of a good and a bad person.

Kai Ko (first from left) poses with the cast of “Bad Education” during an opening ceremony of the 27th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival on June 29. (BIFAN) Kai Ko (first from left) poses with the cast of “Bad Education” during an opening ceremony of the 27th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival on June 29. (BIFAN)

Actors Kent Tsai, Edison Song and Berant Zhu, all in their early 20s, were chosen after rounds of interviews which included hearing about their school days, Ko said.

“I approached my actors not as a director with specific directions, but as an actor who knows what is difficult when it comes to doing emotional acting. I know their pains, so it was easy for me to approach them with detailed advice,” Ko said, adding that his acting background was useful in fixing details in their acting.

As a director, Ko said he prioritized making the shooting location and atmosphere comfortable and lighthearted.

“After working with dozens of directors, I have experienced working in uncomfortable, very tense environments. Filmmaking and acting are very graceful processes of work. For me, the majority of my works that became box office hits were those with a comfortable shooting environment,” said Ko.

Adding that he wishes to make more films in the future, Ko said it's not about challenging himself or doing more to impress others.

“I’m not worried about myself having to do something different in the future to show different images. As I grow older, I’m sure that different characters will be suggested for me, so I want to do what I can do best now, just like melodrama or romance flicks,” Ko said.

Should he get the chance to work in Korea, Ko said he wishes to collaborate with singer-actors IU and Yoona.

For this year, Ko said he wants to take it slow.

That being said, Ko still finds time for acting projects, pointing to a finger-sized Band-Aid right above his left eye: He is recovering from an injury sustained last year in a drone explosion that occurred during a shooting for a Taiwanese Netflix series. He said he had 30 stitches done.

A scene from “Bad Education” (Harvest 9 Road Entertainment) A scene from “Bad Education” (Harvest 9 Road Entertainment)