Chungmuro/Film News
A Hard Day racks up ticket sales, Lee Seon-kyun reflects on its success
by | June 22, 2014 | 38 Comments

A Hard Day (previous working title: To the Grave), the action thriller starring Lee Seon-kyun, has held its own against an onslaught of Hollywood blockbusters, selling over two million tickets in the first three weeks of its release.

We’ve highlighted the movie before, but in a brief review: Lee Seon-kyun is the investigator Go Geon-soo, who kills someone in a hit-and-run accident and desperately tries to cover up his mistake. Jo Jin-woong (Full Sun) plays a mysterious villain who knows Go Geon-soo’s secret and threatens to expose the truth. While the latter actor has also received rave reviews for his part in the film (for his effort, Jo Jin-woong was named Top of the Top Villain of the First Half of 2014), A Hard Day has propelled Lee Seon-kyun back into the limelight, seven years after he first became a household name.

After his 2001 debut in the musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Lee worked for several years as a relatively unknown actor — until Coffee Prince Store #1 came along and he found himself at the center of the entertainment world. In the years since, he has vacillated between small and silver screens, working steadily but having neither huge successes nor big misses in either medium. Under the direction of frequent collaborator Hong Sang-soo, the actor has walked the red carpets of Berlin and Venice International Film Festivals, and the dramas Pasta and Golden Time were fairly well received. However, the public continued to associate him with Coffee Prince Store #1, and that he couldn’t surpass the success of that show had been frustrating.

However, A Hard Day may have changed all that, as the movie, director Kim Sung-hoon’s sophomore effort, is still racking up sales at the box office. At long last, it seems a new signature work may free him from being pigeon-holed as the benevolent music producer from Coffee Prince.

Lee said, “When I read the screenplay for A Hard Day, I thought it was novel and original. I liked that the script didn’t bother with a morally upright lead and eschewed unnecessarily melodramatic plotlines — I liked that the intent was to entertain, and that is why I decided to do the movie. When we finished filming and before the soundtrack got added in, we reviewed the rough cut, and I felt that we achieved what we had set out to do. I felt confident that at the very least, the audience wouldn’t get bored watching.”

On taking on the physically challenging role: “Of course, as an actor, I had a desire to extend into genre movies. I saw this as a chance to prove my ability and to build opportunities for myself in action films. Most of all, I really had high expectations for the movie because it is distinctively Korean. Its unique draw is that it combines the best parts of action and thriller films with comedy.”

Asked about filming action scenes for the first time, the actor said, “It was disgusting. I not only sustained a lot of minor injuries which caused my whole body to hurt, but when the cameras rolled, I found myself becoming Go Geon-soo instead of Lee Seon-kyun. It wasn’t until I heard the word ‘Cut!’ that I returned to my body and I’d find that I had terrible aches.”

The coffin scene is the movie’s signature moment. Within the narrow space and limited in his movement, the actor practiced that scene as if he were in a one-man play. “I wanted to portray a MacGyver who was just a little bit lacking. I also wanted to portray the desperation and tension of his situation. If I acted in a comedic fashion, I thought the movie would become lighter and that Go Geon-soo’s desperate situation wouldn’t feel as truthful. Above all else, I wanted to show the truth. That’s why, in the process of abandoning the corpse, I followed the character’s actions completely. I actually hit the lid of the coffin, and genuinely pulled on the rope. The audience might find the actions funny, but from my point of view in character, my head really hurt. Just like when you think really hard, your head starts to spin. I used all of my concentration while filming.”

Early in 2013, Lee hosted a short variety special (March – A Story of Friends) in which he and his friends walked a span of 300 km in ten days. On the show, he admitted that his recent slump had bothered him. However, he credits the trip with providing him strength, healing and renewed vigor, and he returned from his journey to throw his all into filming A Hard Day. “All my projects are meaningful and special to me, but A Hard Day is extra special because I felt the responsibility and weight of carrying the movie. I grew stronger after the experience.”

Just as valuable as keeping his career going was the people he had met. “The vibe on set was really great. Things can’t always be great on set but on this movie, the director and staff were in sync with the actors. The trust continued to build as we filmed, and the synergies grew. In particular, director Kim Sung-hoon listened to the actors’ opinions and trusted us.” He continued, “I’m most grateful that through this work I met a great director, hyungs and dong-sengs. I confirmed my faith in the director and Jin-woong-ee, and even though the project is over, I know we’ll be lifelong friends.”

Aww, how cute is it that he name-drops Jo Jin-woong informally now? I love how earnest the actor sounds and the effort he put into the film. It had already been on my summer watch list, but I need to get on this, stat!

Via Sports World, SBS FunE

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38 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. petmink

    Wow this looks good. I might check it out.

  2. mary

    Wow. I didn’t know he felt he was in a slump.

    He always seemed like an upbeat, confident, capable guy. It’s really hard ti predict who makes it or not in entertainment industry…

    I’m glad this project has given him recognition. :)

    • 2.1 madame kim

      That part surprised me too. I always felt that he turned out rather well after Coffee Prince (even more than Yoon Eunhye who has not produced any single hit since). He’s had a couple of hit dramas and consistently been in and out of projects, projects that gained a some international acknowledgement. Glad to see this film as a success. Hoping he wouldn’t completely cross over to Chungmuro tho.

    • 2.2 John

      mary ~

      I enjoyed his performance in Miss Korea, that drama was sweet.

      • 2.2.1 Malory

        Miss Korea may be slow at the beginning but it stays solid to the end. Criminally underrated it remains one of the best dramas this year.

        • 2.2.1.1 bd5

          Not only one of the best K-dramas of the year, but also one of the best K-romcoms period.

          Same goes for “The Man Who Can’t Marry” starring Ji Jin-hee.

      • 2.2.2 dfwkimchi

        I enjoyed Miss Korea lots. Through this drama i got to know about LSK and looked up his other work and because I was also enjoying Let’s Eat at about the same time as Miss Korea i was thrilled to dig up the movie ‘Romantic Island’ starring LSK and Lee soo Kyung, Lee Mun Ki (with a bad perm) and Eugene and Lee Moon-sik. That was a cute movie!

        LSK does a good job with characters that are ‘less than pure’ heroes. In the first half of Miss Korea i was left wondering if i liked his character.

        I have put Pasta on my watch list.

        • 2.2.2.1 kk123

          Agree bout Mis Korea. LSG acting was great. He really is a good actor. And the whole drama never let down, despite the bad ratings. I love “Pasta” too, even though there are huge loop-holes in the script and it is nowhere as good as Mis Korea, but the lead couple makes up for all. GHJ just cannot help having good chemistry with her lead men.

  3. lee_june

    I’m exited!

    • 3.1 Jen

      I’m entranced! Lol!

  4. lee_june

    I’ll be waiting for this!

  5. Rou

    Korean thrillers rarely disappointed me so I will surely give this one a try.

    • 5.1 Lord Byron

      Everyone I know in Korea tells me this is a great movie.

      But a surprise this summer they say is that three noir movies now playing (including High Heel, which got a lot of exposure in this forum) are all tanking in the box office big time, while imports are doing really well.

      I know next to nothing about the three, other than that they push the envelope in on-screen sex, language and other x-rated come-ons.

  6. Sam

    How about All about my wife? I think the movie is also a huge success

    • 6.1 Malory

      It was a huge success, with over 4 million tickets sold, I think. It even gets adapted onto stage. But I guess his role there is not one what would propel any actor into the limelight.

    • 6.2 dearly

      It was a success but it further propel Im Soo Jung and Ryu Seung Ryong (They were the highlights of the movie and they shine more). Lee Sun Kyun is an awesome actor but his role in the movie is likable and forgettable unlike Soo Jung (funny and talkative heroine) and Seung Ryong (who can forget his seductive skills?). In fact, both Soo Jung and Seung Ryong received nominations for their role in this movie unlike Sun Kyun.

    • 6.3 gg

      And what about Hwa Cha? The mystery thriller about a guy looking for his fiancee that mysteriously disappeared? I thought that was quite a good movie.

  7. John

    Thanks awcoconuts. The movie sounds interesting.

    I’ll take this moment to remind people to watch Full Sun. Show didn’t get enough love. Jo Jin-woong was excellent.

    Plus , Full Sun was recapped by gummimochi. So , if you’re in a summer drama slump, give Full Sun a try.

    • 7.1 kanz

      Oh yes, please everyone!!
      Full Sun is a good melodrama. The acting and story is excellent…

      I rarely like melodramas nowadays but this one is really good. Better than Secret and Nice Guy IMHO. I mean, it doesn’t involve sick and and forceful leads.
      Jo Jin Woong is really good as gray character too :))

      • 7.1.1 andie

        Full Sun/Beyond the Clouds was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Yoon Kye-Sang and Jo Jin Woong are great and even Han Ji-Hye did a good job with her rather flat character. It’s a shame that it was so underrated.

        • 7.1.1.1 John

          andie ~

          I agree, it was Han Ji-Hye’s best dramatic role, (after suffering through I Summon You Gold and May Queen).

        • 7.1.1.2 Waiting

          Agreed, this did not get enough love. The cast was great,.

          • 7.1.1.2.1 news

            I really like both Yoon Kye-Sang and Jo Jin Woong but am just not that interested in melos. I never finished Secret or Nice Guy, but I’ve heard so many great comments about Full Sun that I may just have to check it out.

        • 7.1.1.3 fab

          Agree with everyone in this comment!

    • 7.2 pogo

      …and to watch Miss Korea. Though the real revelation there was Lee Yeon-hee, it was awesome.

  8. traintoseoul

    the movie sounds good. liked him eversince the fantastic miss Korea!

  9. birdscout

    I’ve enjoyed Lee Seon-kyun’s performances in everything that I’ve watched with him in it, and this looks great, too!

    I’ve only seen Jo Jin-woong as the gruff but lovable Brutus in Sons of Sol Pharmacy House. He looks so different now!

  10. 10 Malory

    I can’t thank you enough for writing all that for us. I am a huge fan of LSK and have been following him since two years ago. Just before the release of this movie article after article were written about him but of course all in Korean and you know how nonsensical google translate does its job. This is such a gift.

    I have tremendous respect for LSK. Like some have expressed here, it is surprising to hear that he feels trapped in the Coffee Prince role, because to me he is foremost Chef. He seems to be the guy who always throws himself 100% into whatever he is playing, whether it is an arrogant head chef, an incompetent intern, or a meek husband too afraid to ask for a divorce. I once read that Gong Hyo Jin approaches her characters the same way, she becomes her character the moment the camera rolls.

  11. 11 laden

    I’m just happy he’s happy
    Mr Creamry butter voice :D

  12. 12 Kristy

    Have always loved Lee Seon Kyun,and loved his acting so it is surprising to know that he is not that big of a name in korea.Well happy for him

  13. 13 judepps

    I’d never watched any of his drama but I’ve watched All About my Wife and I really enjoyed watching it, that I even keep recommending it to my friends who wants to watch rom-com.

    He’s a good actor and i love his voice..soo cool!
    I will definitely check this movie of Him since its seems tailored to my taste. I’m not so good at watching melo drama/film>.<

    Talking of the movie just done watching Gong Yoo's movie " The suspect".. its an action full packed movie. Its my 1st time seeing Gong Yoo in an action film/drama yet Im not sure if it did well on movie theatre.

    Im still waiting for CSW movie High Heel

  14. 14 Aigoooo

    He’ll always be CHEF to me! Seriously though, the guy is a great actor. He may not have the body of a Gong Yoo or the face of a Lee Min Ho but he makes up for it with that awesome voice and a boatload of charisma. He may not be as popular as some of the other actors out there but I bet he’d outlast them when it comes to getting steady work and longevity in the industry.

    • 14.1 dearly

      That was how I got to know Lee Sun Kyun. “Chef”. :D Love “Pasta”.

      I never found Min Ho attractive so I’m glad he doesn’t have his face. I think Lee Sun Kyun is attractive and much more versatile (which I prefer).

  15. 15 Chiaki

    This news is very surprising. I thought he was kinda a huge star in Korea…so weird that he isn’t. Anyway I am really happy for him that he is moving ahead to success. I knew Miss Korea wasn’t that well received in Korea so I am happy that he finally hit the jack pot. Well done my good, sexy sir!

  16. 16 Ann

    Don’t forget to watch “Helpless” if you haven’t before. LSK stars in this excellent thriller and he is great in it.

  17. 17 Malory

    Dramabeans already reported last month that this movie was invited to the Cannes’s sidebar Directors’ Fortnight. All the reviews from the festival came out very positive and I am sure that plays a part in the success of this film. Here is one such review:
    http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/cannes-review-twisty-inventive-hilarious-korean-cop-thriller-a-hard-day-is-a-total-blast-20140518

  18. 18 azkiya

    love him, his acting and charisma :)

    weird, i don’t think he stuck in coffee prince role, he was great in Pasta, and of course I put Miss Korea as a drama over YFAS in the first week of their airing due to him only, and was pleased that the story and acting were great too in that drama.

    oh, I was even rooting for him in Taereung National Village (felt like to hug him over his ‘failure’ as an athlete) over Lee Min Ki, HA.

    Stay great, LSK!

  19. 19 Rach^^

    I Loved LSK when he did the Best Friend Special in 1N2D.

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