Jang Nara on her new movie and its controversy
Bad news for Jang Nara: Her film company has decided to pull their recent film Sky and Ocean from theaters a mere twelve days into its run. The company says this is in response to the controversy the film has sparked, but no doubt the abysmal ticket receipts are also to blame.
For being a small, relationship-based music film, the film has been at the center of a lot of noise. Jang’s production company, which is headed by her father Ju Ho-sung, has battled accusations that there was unfair lobbying going on behind the scenes when the film was nominated for a best film Daejong Award.
Jang herself nominated for an acting award over more buzzed-about performances (like Ha Ji-won, who had two big films this year) when Sky and Ocean hadn’t even been released yet. (Su Ae won.) Note that the Daejong Awards themselves were roundly criticized for their puzzling winners; on top of that, the ceremony lacked a strong star presence and television ratings were low.
Jang’s side wrote a defense on her official homepage, saying that many films that are not screened theatrically go on to screen (and win) at film festivals, and asserted that all was fair and square. The company feels wrongly maligned by the press, and also blames the way the film was screened in the early morning and late night, effectively killing their chances of a successful run. In the end, they made the difficult decision to pull their film from theaters.
Jang, however, maintains a positive spin on things in the following interview.
Why have you focused on activities in China for the past four to five years?
“Initially, I hadn’t planned to stay active for a long time in China. The biggest issue was raising name recognition. As I went from region to region, time passed by. I thought, ‘Just a little longer,’ and I ended up spending more time there.”
In one year, how long do you stay in Korea and China?
“This year, I’ll be in Korea four-fifths of the time. People have that misunderstanding about me — even if I’m in Korea, they think I’m in China. It arose because I hadn’t been very active in Korea.”
You’ve returned to acting in Korea four years after the drama Wedding. You must feel very excited to be meeting Korean fans again.
“I’m not someone who acts in a lot of things, so every single project is really valuable to me. Since filming was delayed by four months during production and various problems arose, I’m just thrilled to have the film out and that I’m able to meet with fans.”
You’ve done guerilla concerts in various cities and made an impression as you promoted the film.
“I’ll do anything. I feel like stationing myself in front of movie theaters now. As I did the guerilla concerts and met lots of fans, I felt sudden bursts of emotion. The fans were so glad and happy.”
You sang the OST songs at the press conferences, stage greetings, and other places where the sound isn’t controlled.
“I’m thankful that I was able to sing in those places. Having fans nearby and being able to communicate with them was even more valuable. I’ve stood onstage in much worse conditions.”
You must have been hurt by the Daejong Awards controversy.
“It was inevitable. Criticism arose out of a few press reports before the movie had even been released. I’m sad about that. I’m easing my spirits by seeing the reactions of the people who have seen the movie.”
Your father Ju Ho-sung is the CEO of your management company. What are the pluses and minuses of being in business with family?
“There are sayings that doing business with family leads to ruin, but so what if it doesn’t work out? There are a lot more pluses to having a family company. I receive a lot of protection. These days, there are a lot of problems arising between agencies and celebrities, but I’m free of that.”
This is your comeback after a long time away. Why did you choose a savant character?
“As soon as I heard the story, I wanted to do it. Although the role of Haneul is really 24 years old, she has the intelligence of a 6-year-old. Her intelligence may be low, but she has particular talent for music and numbers, and she was an extremely positive person. I liked the script that showed her strengths. I wanted to show the beauty of someone like her, who doesn’t calculate everything.”
Your acting as a violinist seemed very skilled.
“I was most embarrassed about the violin-playing. I started taking violin lessons four months before filming began. It’s difficult to act like you do something well that you do poorly. Every time I had to perform with the violin, my heart would pound, and when we’d enter filming, I’d act like I was a good player. It felt like I was performing for real. I would act in sync to match the instrument and the music, and it was really difficult. In fact, on a day I was shooting a performance scene, the press was invited to the set. One reporter had majored in violin and asked if I knew how to play, which really took a weight off my mind.”
What are your plans for upcoming activities in Korea?
“Beginning next year, I plan to definitely be active in Korea. In particular, I want to focus on acting. Without being fussy about genre, I want to try lots of projects. Among those, I have a desire to try a horror or thriller project, or a crime investigation piece.”
Last year, there were rumors that you were dating Taiwanese actor Peter Ho. Have you considered marriage with a Chinese man?
“Regarding marriage, I don’t really care about a person’s nationality. My father is open-minded about that, too. When those rumors came out about me and Peter Ho, our communication wasn’t very free(?). We couldn’t communicate very well [with the language barrier], so how could we be dating? I can speak in Chinese for everyday conversation, but I’m not able to speak about more meaningful things.”