Movie “Actresses” blurs line between fact and fiction
Talk about an all-star line-up: the new film Actresses [여배우들] features a whole slew of high-profile names, such as Queen Seon-deok‘s Go Hyun-jung and Hallyu princess Choi Ji-woo, pictured above, in addition to Lee Mi-sook (East of Eden), Kim Min-hee (I Like It Hot), Kim Ok-bin (Thirst), and Yoon Yeo-jung (The World They Live In).
Here’s the official description, which I think sounds GREAT:
Actresses: Christmas Eve. For a fashion spread in Vogue magazine, six top actresses are brought in spanning ages from their twenties through sixties. As expected, these ladies who are used to receiving the spotlight alone engage in a battle of wills, and tension fills the studio. It’s an unwritten law in the fashion world to schedule shoots to avoid actress encounters, so this experiment was playing with fire from the outset. The psychological battle starts with wardrobe choices and ends with the scandalous scene of [Choi] Ji-woo storming out at [Go] Hyun-jung‘s provocation. [Yoon] Yeo-jung suspects she was only called in at the last minute to substitute, and while [Kim] Min-hee enjoys the shoot, [Kim] Ok-bin feels the burden of being around sunbaes, wondering how far she has to go to treat them as elders. They endure an endless wait for the featured jewelry that doesn’t arrive. The staff is growing worried and the actresses are becoming more and more sensitive.
What events happened that night? What words were exchanged between these frank, bold women? Could they have really finished their shoot without incident?
Go Hyun-jung’s poster reads: “Scandal. Only talking about good things gets boring!”
Yoon Yeo-jung: “Pride. I was dumped by that ugly __!”
Choi Ji-woo: “Fame. You’re not all disparaging me since I’m not here, right?”
Kim Min-hee: “Jealousy. Men like me too!”
Lee Mi-sook: “Mystery. I have a birth secret!”
Kim Ok-bin: “Complex. I’m going to lose weight, I am…”
The description sounds fascinating on two different levels: First off, I love real-time-esque suspense thrillers that are more about building tension than flashy action or melodrama. I love feeling the uneasiness building in strained silences (Tale of Two Sisters and 2LDK are two great examples of this kind of storytelling). And second, there’s that meta thrill you get of seeing these actresses playing an exaggeration of themselves, using their real names as their characters’ names, leading us to wonder — is this all fiction? Or… not?
The film held its production press conference on November 17 at Seoul’s Coex Megabox. It will release in theaters on December 10.
From left to right: Kim Ok-bin, Kim Min-hee, Choi Ji-woo, Go Hyun-jung, Lee Mi-sook, Yoon Yeo-jung
Go Hyun-jung said of her co-star, “Choi Ji-woo is so beautiful that I felt envious of her in real life.” Choi Ji-woo said in return, “The first day I met Go Hyun-jung sunbae, we were shooting a fight scene. I was so nervous that I couldn’t control my expressions well — what you see onscreen wasn’t acting.”
Lee Mi-sook spoke up about the scene, adding, “At that time, Go Hyun-jung wasn’t famous yet for Mi-shil [in Queen Seon-deok] and Choi Ji-woo was a big Hallyu star. Watching Hyun-jung act, I thought they were really fighting. I was really shocked.”
The stars revealed that the fight was real: they began the scene right after meeting, which called for Go to glare at Choi and hit her forehead, “which actually made me angry.” In this instance, the director had only established the setting for his lead actresses and had a meeting with them, but didn’t shoot with a special script or scenario plotted. For that reason, the scene took on an even more realistic vibe.
Go said, “It wasn’t that she started the fight, but she acted sensitively. In the end, that angered me. At the time, I wasn’t acting according to a specific plan. Actresses can be pretty simple sometimes.” She added laughingly, “Because Ji-woo and I are similar heights, it was okay [fighting]. Even when I think back to that, I feel worked up.”
Meeting under those circumstances probably didn’t make it conducive to having a good relationship offscreen, and Go Hyun-jung said frankly, “We don’t have a bad relationship, but not having a particularly good relationship is the way of actresses. This is shown just as it is within the movie.”
Choi explained, “I was fighting with Go Hyun-jung in my first shoot and felt a lack of wits and other limitations, so I did feel some disappointment. However, as time passed, it became more enjoyable. Later, I felt regrets because I could have shown more.”
Choi’s glamorous image can sometimes contradict what fans know as a self-effacing personality. Yoon Yeo-jung said of her co-star, “I really thought Choi Ji-woo would be a ‘깍쟁이’ [a snob or brat], but she’s very easy-going.” Lee Mi-sook said called her “surprisingly modest.”
Choi has also been criticized for her acting in the past, and said of this film, “I want to receive praise as an actress now. I’ve started feeling that desire.” She said, “Even if the film flops, I won’t have regrets.”
Kim Min-hee also expressed a desire to be called a real actor with this role. Often noted for her bold, sometimes avant-garde fashion sense, the film staffers called her “the type that isn’t popular with men,” which made her feel envious of her co-star. She explained, “The staff members only told Kim Ok-bin that she is the style to be popular with men but not me, so I felt envious.” (Then again, perhaps producers were playing up the role of the actresses’ alter-egos in the film?)
Kim Ok-bin said she took on the role “because I didn’t want to lose the chance to meet these sunbaes. But with regard to acting, I wasn’t able to grasp the emotions quickly, which was tough. I wanted to act a part that was close to my real self. I was trying to show myself but the director told me, ‘I think we need something more,’ which was difficult.”
Meanwhile, veteran Yoon Yeo-jung said, “I was cast because I’m the only actress in her sixties that Director Lee Jae-yong knows. I made my decision after having drinks with Go Hyun-jung.”
Kim Min-hee said of Yoon, “I thought she would be scary, but the way she thinks is young and it was comfortable conversing with her.”