[Zenith News=Koo Hyun Kwon reporter] The Korean film industry is spending the steamy summer with the movie Along with the Gods. Strictly speaking, it’s already the second time. The first movie released December 2017 brought more than 14 million audience, flashing green light to the success of its sequel. Along with the Gods: the last 49 days (a.k.a. Along with the Gods 2), released on August 1st, is breaking the records for fastest box-office success every day.
While the prequel highlighted Tae Hyun Cha and delivered the story with Dong Wook Kim as the true hero, and the sequel highlighted Dong Wook Kim, and Ji Hoon Ju stood as the true hero. He stands at the center of history of the three afterlife guardians and adds humor in collaboration with Dong Seok Ma, house god of the living world. He takes cares of the action and drama of the past scenes and of humor in the present scenes. Literally, the whole film acts as a stage for Ji Hoon Ju.
Ji Hoon Ju is spending summer that is hotter than ever. Coincidentally, he meets audiences through two different movies just in August. Summer season in Korean film industry is the most competitive season with the “hottest” movies. In other words, Ji Hoon Ju is top-trending nowadays. Zenith news met with Ji Hoon Ju, whom couldn’t be interviewed after the release of the first movie due to his schedule, in a coffee shop in Palpan-dong, Jongno, Seoul. I’m here to share the gratitude he expressed for the success of the prequel, the story of the sequel, and the joyful conversations.
Q: The reputation of Along with the Gods 2 is very good. Some says it completes the whole story.
A: I’m so glad to hear that. I already knew that there is a big gap between the prequel and the sequel, because I had seen the first and the second movie together when I participated as an actor. Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds DVD was placing first in the VOD chart before releasing the sequel. I’m very thankful that people are showing that much interest in the movie. While I watched the prequel, if you haven’t watched the first movie, I think you could watch the sequel without much problem. Most people know the concepts of afterlife and afterlife guardians, and there are many historic scenes already familiar to us. However, if you watch the prequel first, it will be more interesting to find details in the movie.
Q: Along with the Gods series is a work that has tried many things for the first time in Korean film history. The prequel and the sequel were filmed together, and the shooting itself took 11 months.
A: It felt like a military camp. In one set, people were together for 11 months. It was exhausting physically and mentally. Along with the Gods used so many lights, even in the broad daylight. One day, it was really hot so I checked the temperature. It was 42 degrees Celsius. When I shot a scene of the past, it was negative 15 degrees Celsius. It felt like negative 20 degrees Celsius. Under the armor, I wore underclothes and attached hot pack inside. If you do that, you sweat a lot after just one take of an action scene. I think it was more because I concentrated a lot than feeling hot. The idea that I could hurt other actors was very stressful. When I went back home after those scenes, I would find low temperature burns on my body.
Q: I can feel the vividness of hardship.
A: But I enjoy these hardships. When I was little, my mother worked on farms as labor exchange. Farming is a really hard work, but the difficulty feels different when singing work songs. Working out to lose weight is different from working out to play ball with your friends. Maybe it’s the same idea? I don’t remember anything being strenuous during Along with the Gods. It was definitely a hard work, but I enjoyed it. This is why everyone said that they would do it when they mentioned third and fourth movies are being planned.
Q: The first and the second movie have different moods; it must have been difficult to shoot both of them simultaneously.
A: It is a pain to shoot the first and the second movie simultaneously. In the first movie, the three afterlife guardians only have functional elements in the first movie. It’s more of the introduction of Ja Hong and of the hells. But the guardians come to front in the sequel. That gap between two movies was difficult. It was like eating cold food in midst of eating hot food. The sequel has a strong dramatic story, which I was really excited about. The first movie was harder for me. I had many lines of introducing the hell in the first movie. In actuality, those lines are meant for the audience. But in the movie I had to say them to other actors. I had to act naturally while and delivering the message clearly to the audience. It was not easy, but the experience was fun; it was a meaningful work for me.
Q: There must have been parts difficult even with technical acting since it is a fantasy movie.
A: That’s right. First, there are many special equipment, which means there are many parts disturbing acting. There were big fans to give outdoor sound effects to the set and the camera dolly was really loud, so my voice came out louder than my usual acting tone. I didn’t notice when I acted. Actors didn’t know, and the director didn’t know. At the end, we had to do post-synchronization for many parts.
The film was completed under many strict promises. Even when delivering the bubbly scene of Hyun Dong’s home in the living world, there were no improvisation. We couldn’t improvise since there was a lot of computer graphic works. In that sense, Director Yong Hwa Kim is a mad genius. It means he has the whole movie edited in his brain already.
Q: He could’ve managed directing for 11 months because he is a mad genius.
A: He is a very successful director, so he could’ve been arrogant. But I found myself wondering, “How could anyone be so gentle and humble?” Instead of being on his high horse, he is very humorous and bright, and does difficult things easily. It means he solves difficult things in a positive way. I learn many things from him not only as a director, also as my senior. He actually lives just across from my house.
Q: You are mostly active in the living world in the present. If the past and the afterlife pass by fast, Hyun Dong’s house is a space where the audience can take a breather.
A: I also really liked it. It felt nostalgic, like I had gone to my grandmother’s house when I was little. And my grandparents actually collected waste paper, so those images felt familiar and warm. I also liked when family members bickered around. To be honest, even though all family members love each other, they are not affectionate for 24 hours. You fight and turn around to text each other “I’m sorry”. That is family. So I felt energized when I filmed on that set. It was really warm.
Q: What kind of work would Along with the Gods become for Ji Hoon Ju?
A: I think it let me know that while there may be inevitable difficulties when approaching difficult and unfamiliar things, I can overcome it if I approach with a positive mindset. I actually had prejudice before filming Along with the Gods. I thought I can act lightly in an “audiences-friendly” movie. But I learned that every genre has its own virtue if the film is a well-made work. I realized that I shouldn’t easily judge something which I’ve never experienced before.
Photo= Lotte Entertainment
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