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[Herald Interview] Jung Woo-sung finds directorial identity with ‘A Man of Reason’

Actor-turned-director avoids looking for references to focus on finding film’s true tone

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Aug. 13, 2023 - 13:45

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Jung Woo-sung of “A Man of Reason” (Acemaker Movieworks) Jung Woo-sung of “A Man of Reason” (Acemaker Movieworks)

Veteran actor Jung Woo-sung’s first project as director was a journey in search of his identity as a director, the actor-turned-director told The Korea Herald in an interview on Thursday.

“After the press screening, many told me that ‘A Man of Reason’ is very Jung Woo-sung-like. But I never reminded myself to make a movie that’s like me during the shooting. It was rather a process of finding out what being myself means both as a director and an actor, which I really enjoyed it,” Jung said.

“Of course it was also a process of continuously doubting myself whether it’s a right choice to put my color and language to this movie and how the audience would accept it,” he added.

“A Man of Reason” follows the story of Soo-hyuk (played by Jung), who has spent 10 years in prison in place of his gangster boss, Eung-gook (Park Sung-woong). After he is released from prison, Soo-hyuk tells Eung-gook that he wants to leave the gang and live an ordinary life after discovering that he has a daughter.

Eung-gook feels betrayed and refuses to let Soo-hyuk leave. Instead, he orders another member of the gang, Seong-joon (Kim Jun-han), to get rid of Soo-hyuk. Kim Nam-gil and Park Yoo-na star as the contract killers.

Jung said he told his staff and actors not to look up references for this movie, asking themselves to find the true tone and manner of the film.

“I wanted myself as well as our whole team to focus on the gut feeling after reading the scenario. Unlike many productions gather references from the pre-production stage, I thought all the images and concepts must be able to be found from the scenario to portray the true tone and manner, which I think our film has that unique and natural tone,” Jung said.

“A Man of Reason” (Acemaker Movieworks) “A Man of Reason” (Acemaker Movieworks)

Though the 50-year-old has decades of experience acting in movies, it was his first turn as director, but he already has in his mind what kind projects he wants to do next.

“It was challenging because I tried to put a twist on a familiar storyline to express ‘newness in familiarity.’ ... But the movie was a result of my endless contemplation on what being Jung Woo-sung-like is. I still didn’t get a clear answer, but the challenge itself was very meaningful,” Jung said.

Jung said he would delve into genres and concepts such as simple, bold action movies and psychological thrillers, but what aspects of “Jung Woo-sung” will be included would vary depending on the timing and story, he said.

The English title of the film is “A Man of Reason,” is not a direct translation of the Korean title “Bohoja” (guardian).

Jung said it reflected the way the film “looks deep into the decision-making process of Soo-hyuk who wants to live an ordinary life.”

“I think English title includes that concept and feeling,” Jung said.

“A Man of Reason” opens in local theaters on Aug. 15.