In Squid Sport, lead character Seong Gi-hun is a down-on-his-luck playing addict given a harmful alternative to win a fortune and switch his life round by taking part in lethal kids’s video games in opposition to 456 different cash-strapped no-hopers. Lee Jung-jae, who performs Seong, has nearly nothing in widespread together with his alter-ego: he’s considered one of South Korea’s greatest stars via movies equivalent to Ship Us from Evil and the Together with the Gods franchise and reveals Chief of Workers and Triple.
He’s humble about his alternative after the present’s surprising world success and the glut of awards nominations he garnered afterward (together with turning into the primary male TV performer to earn a Display screen Actors Guild Award nomination for a totally non-English language position). “I nonetheless don’t really feel like my life has modified dramatically,” he says. “However I do look ahead to having extra alternatives to work with nice individuals on extra tasks.”
Lee had no illustration within the U.S. when Squid Sport broke via, creating the state of affairs the place an in a single day Netflix star emerged and not using a direct line into Hollywood. That quickly modified when he signed with CAA in February. “After a number of conferences, I got here to the conclusion that we might be good companions,” he says. “I’m already getting numerous help from them. I’m actually grateful.”
Lee now has the toolkit to copy his enormous Korean success within the U.S. and he believes the way in which audiences interpret tales lately provides him a fair higher likelihood to make an impression. “We now dwell in an period the place the flexibility to specific feelings is extra essential for an actor than the linguistic abilities,” he says. “I’m not fluent in English, however I don’t assume it would forestall me from speaking the feelings of my characters.”
Lee will probably be on the Cannes Movie Competition at a Midnight Screening together with his directorial debut Hunt, through which he stars reverse shut buddy Jung Woo-sung as a Nationwide Safety Company operative. Whereas the movie, which he’s additionally writing and producing, is a spy thriller with a Nineteen Eighties-set storyline addressing the paranoia and worry behind the decades-old battle between North Korea and South Korea, it really facilities on themes of “stopping warfare and violence,” he says.
“The themes could be fairly critical, however I did my greatest to make the movie as entertaining as doable. The organizers of the Cannes Movie Competition took a good view of the intentions behind the movie and the weather of leisure it brings. I’m honored to have the ability to have my directorial debut screened on the pageant, and I look ahead to the dialog with the viewers after the premiere.”
Trying past the French Riviera, Lee sees a vivid future for Korean content material. He notes that the central themes of Squid Sport—equivalent to class, monetary woes and overcoming loopy odds—resonated all over the world and proved how tales from the nation can drive the worldwide dialog. “There’s numerous Korean content material that’s simply as entertaining as Squid Sport, so I’m assured we are going to see extra hits prefer it,” he says. “There are lots of collection and movies presently in manufacturing throughout all kinds of genres that haven’t been tried earlier than. These collection and movies will transfer and entertain audiences in lots of different international locations.”
If Lee is correct, Okay-pop quickly received’t be the one Korean leisure export driving tastes within the West.