Ji Chang Wook’s watch has never stopped. He has never run away from the variables in front of him and has kept running forward up until now, continuously emptying himself and replenishing without stopping.
Our lives are all full of variables. We can’t predict what might happen tomorrow and even the things that are happening today, we don’t know when a variable might suddenly appear. There is a fabricated world where these variables, which are difficult to predict, are controlled by (someone with) tremendous power. An ordinary unemployed man, who is trapped by the fabricated variables of that world, starts to fight. The movie ‘Fabricated City’, which is about to be released in February, is about an ordinary man who under a fabricated situation gets framed as a murderer and how he unravels the truth behind the case. Ji Chang Wook plays the role of ‘Kwon Yoo’, a leader who wins victory after victory in the gaming world, but who in reality, is an unemployed man addicted to gaming, tiding his meals over with cup ramen in the internet café.
For actors, all their past works could become a variable. Through ‘Donghae’ as a dashing youth and then as a weak emperor in ‘Empress Ki’, he became a strong hero in ‘Healer’. Then through ‘The K2’, acting as a mercenary turned bodyguard, he reached the peak of action acting. As he filled up his filmography with unexpected diversity, he became a star, receiving hot cheers from fans in Asia. The awkwardness from the label of ‘actor’ has passed; the experience of feeling lost and wondering if this road is the right one has now become energy for the present. Whenever he has a hard time, he gets the greatest strength from his mom and his friends (his pet dog is also a great source of support). Ji Chang Wook’s world is thus made up of diligently filling up those empty places with their comfort and support. And in that world, Ji Chang Wook is looking forward to a good life.
“Before I’m an actor, I’m a person. In the past I used to worry a lot over acting but my biggest worry now, as a person, is how I can live a happy life. As for the answer, I’m not sure. I still don’t know yet. I only know this. My happiness and unhappiness are determined by how my thoughts are.”
Today was the press conference for ‘Fabricated City’. As your first leading role in a movie you must have been nervous.
I was so nervous I couldn’t even sleep well last night. Above all, I was curious as to how the movie came out. There were quite a lot of comic book-like elements in the movie and there were scenes which did not come across clearly through the scenario text. I had to act according to my imagination and I want to see how those parts were implemented. There’s still some time before it is released. The CG has not been completed yet so I could not watch the final version. I’m even more curious because Director Park Kwang Hyun’s traits are so unique. The director was the reason why I decided to act in ‘Fabricated City’. Just reading the scenario I was not sure if I should choose this movie for my first leading role in film but I was persuaded after meeting the director and talking to him. I felt like if it was director Park Kwang Hyun, I would be able to do the first movie of my life in an exciting and fun way.
As an actor appearing in this movie, what kind of outcome would you consider as a success?
Just being able to complete my first movie filming safely, as well as meeting all the actors and staff members during filming; I consider it a success. Of course it would be nice if it was a box office hit as well but that’s just a wish. It would feel really good if the audience chose (our movie) and it moves their hearts. It would be great if it did well but I don’t want to be too greedy.
It must be a big burden for Director Park Kwang Hyun as well, as his first movie after ‘Welcome to Dongmakgol’. Perhaps the burden you both felt created positive energy.
Wouldn’t the director’s burden be much bigger than mine? The director is a really meticulous person. He devoted a lot of effort in order to materialize whatever was in his head. He would keep going without letting it slide until a satisfactory cut of every scene was completed, so when he gives the ‘Okay’, it also creates trust in him. It was my first time filming a movie so there were a lot of things I didn’t know but I just trusted in the director and looking at the other actors and staff gave me comfort as well so I could relax.
“Action” is the keyword again this time. From ‘Healer’ until ‘The K2’, at some point the word “action” is filling up Ji Chang Wook’s filmography as a keyword.
I’m actually surprised by that fact too. I didn’t do it intentionally. I just went with the flow and picked a project according to the situation and when I was selected for the project, my filmography was built up like that so it seems that way. If anything, I would like to stop (doing action) now. There are a lot of other things I would like to show besides action. There’ll be other things that’s more fun for me. I think it’s fortunate that I did action acting to my heart’s content while my body was just a little more sound. (LOL) There’s a gratifying joy to doing action. It’s refreshingly fun and looks fancy and cool. In a way, action is like a romance (t/n: ideal) for me. I remember watching ‘Fist of Fury’ when I was a kid and following the moves.
The joy of watching action movies is also about that gratification.
I hope ‘Fabricated City’ could also let the audience experience that gratification. Ordinary people are the leads in this movie. A man who gives up his athletic life doing Taekwondo because of a misunderstanding and becomes unemployed. Together with the people around him, he fights the higher powers and overcomes the difficult situations. The process of how he seeks to find justice will be pleasantly unraveled. I hope the gratification that the protagonist feels will be delivered to the audience, as well as the hope that the world is still a place worth living in.
Come to think of it, you’ve never played a protagonist who’s completely cool and perfect. You’ve always done characters that have some kind of lack or pain.
Those kind of characters aren’t attractive. I don’t think there’s anyone that’s flawless. Not lacking in anything can also be a flaw. Whenever I play a character I think about what makes him a flawed person.
What are you lacking in as a person?
Well, at some point I seem to have become a person lacking in love. Whether it’s giving or receiving.
The past few years have passed by busily, without rest. You were also active in China.
I worked constantly. Whenever I was exhausted and depleted, I would recharge myself (in a continuous cycle). Whether it’s emotionally or physically. It was a fight between how much I recharged myself and how much I spent (of myself). Whenever I had periods of rest when I was younger, I thought I had a lot of time in my hands. But now that time is not enough, I want to use that time for myself. For example, in the past if my friend said “Come out, let’s go do this”, then even if I didn’t want to do it, I would follow because I had nothing else to do. Now, I take a little more initiative and suggest doing something first. Thankfully my friends follow well.
How are you replenishing your depleted self recently?
It was the yearend when ‘The K2’ finished filming so there were a lot of drinking parties. (LOL) I indulged in drinking for about 3 weeks and then I slowly started to drink tea instead of alcohol and went out to eat. Now I’ve eaten all I wanted and I’m dieting. There are a lot of movie promotions scheduled. I tend to gain weight when I rest. I don’t do it deliberately, it’s just that I like eating so much so I don’t regulate what I eat. Lately I’ve been drinking tea instead of alcohol and I’ve only been eating two or three meals a day. (LOL)
Meanwhile, the actor Ji Chang Wook has undergone a great change. How did such a change affect you?
To be honest, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to such changes. In any case there’s no difference in my life. I still meet the same old friends and life hasn’t changed dramatically in any way. But not long ago I met a friend I haven’t seen in a long time and he said he thought I would be a kid forever but I’m grown up now. I thought the same too but I was a little saddened by my friend’s words. Even as I get older I wanted to live in a child-like way.
In the past, you impulsively decided to go to Jeongdongjin, got in a car and fell asleep at a rest stop?
That’s right. It was midsummer. I slept at the rest stop then went to Busan.
You don’t have a lot of time these days so it would be hard to just leave like that.
Although I can rarely do it, I did go to Japan with my friends a few days ago. My friends and I felt a little stifled so we thought about how to change our moods and we left for Japan on a whim and came back yesterday. We went to onsens, ate delicious food and also went sightseeing. The fact that I have friends who can do that with me, who can take off with me like that, I’m thankful. Everyone has ups and downs. As an actor, there are times when I wonder whether I can do this well but there are also other times when I’m happy just because I’m acting. That loneliness you feel as an individual, I didn’t want to feel it again but it deepened over the yearend. That’s why I went to Thailand with my mom. It might be my last trip with my mom before I go into the army.
Was it a good thing you became an actor?
Definitely. There are still more painful moments but once I get through those moments, if I can get in sync with the other actors and stand on stage, I experience a moment of catharsis. Like an orgasm. If I just imagine that moment, I can overcome the pain from working hard through the night, working out and practicing hard for the project. The filming site is also a lot more comfortable now as compared to the past. When I was a newcomer, in order to concentrate on my role, I would stop seeing anyone from 2 days before I need to go to the filming site. The character I played in ‘My Two Perfect Sons’, ‘Mipoong’, is the opposite of my actual character. He’s feminine and liked knitting. In order to portray that character, I shut myself in my room and thought about if I was Mipoong, I would do this or that. Now I think it’s impossible to become the character in the project. It’s just that I have to pretend really well in order to make it seem like that person. Even if I’m not sad, I have to be more detailed in calculating how to make it look even sadder. Every moment that I’m acting has to be sincere and true.
How do you feel looking back on your twenties?
I lived intensely and worked really hard. When I turned thirty I wondered when I was able to rest completely during Christmas; how many times did I not spend my birthday on set; when was I able to stay at home through the yearend and not do anything but rest; I thought about it but there were not many.
You said you wanted to ride a Harley Davidson and travel before your twenties went by.
Actually it became my hobby to ride my bike. Although I did not do any big trips, I rode my bike in spring, early summer and autumn. I went to the outskirts of Seoul with my friends and also rode bikes when I travelled in Italy.
Even when you have no schedule and you can rest and not do anything, you still seem to be doing things.
Even if I look like I’m doing something I’m actually not doing anything. Though I ride my bike and meet my friends, when I meet them I don’t do anything and we just spend our time in the café.
Your time seems to be filled to the brim.
It’s probably because I did performances for the musical ‘The Days’ even when I was filming for ‘The K2’. During that time I also did a chimaek (t/n: chicken & beer) fan meeting at Han River. I wanted to do a fan meeting that wasn’t filled with performances or events and just spend time with my fans comfortably eating chimaek while watching the drama on a big screen. Thankfully I was able to do it this time. Actually it was a bit overboard to include ‘The Days’ in my schedule but it’s a musical that I have affection for. More than anything, I have great affection for the people involved. I’m thankful for the teams of ‘The K2’ and ‘The Days’ for being considerate towards my schedule. It’s actually quite a complicated feeling. I feel sorry, but also happy and blessed.
You’re going to the army this year. You might feel uneasy because it will be a big gap of time.
Wouldn’t it be more comfortable to go? I’ll be able to experience something new with these young friends. Of course there’ll be all kinds of people so there might be people who might pick on me over nothing as well. Even though there’s a big age difference, if anything, I think I will be able to experience more by watching them. For now, before I enlist, I want to do one more project that I can really enjoy and have fun.