I heard that you just came from Busan International Film Festival yesterday. What experiences left an impression on you?
It was my 2nd time going to BIFF after going there for <71:Into the Fire>. I’m shy so I couldn’t really socialize where there were many people but instead I drank wine at the hotel and went to cart bars. I met my close friend Lee SooHyuk there, and I like Busan because there’s a beach there. I guess it’s the vibe that the place gives off, I think that energy gets transferred to me too. It really hit me that I am starting to promote my movie <Alumni> and it also showed people’s reaction so I felt good.
It takes a few months to release a movie after shooting it, so some actors say that it feels like they’re meeting the movie again after a long time.
It was the end of January when the shooting ended. It’s been a while since it finished but the whole movie is inside my head. It didn’t really feel like I was meeting it again after forgetting it. It took some time getting out of that character and it was in me for a long time like a trauma. In long terms, it was like a character that I made for almost a year so it felt more like I was checking to see if I missed anything when I watched the movie.
How was it to see the edited movie on the screen?
It was serious and controlled and it was not a playful movie so I liked it.
I saw the trailer and there wasn’t a scene that you could relax and laugh.
You’ll see when you watch the movie but there isn’t really a common funny thing but there are little humors at unexpected places that could make you laugh.
You probably were more considerate on choosing your second movie, and the reason why you chose <Alumni> is?
I’m a musician and I’m not going to convert to be an actor so it wasn’t my focus to work on many movies. I was waiting for a movie that I could dedicate my youth from my age 27 and my emotions to express serious stories that I could connect with and my personal opinions. So I think that’s why I did a 2nd movie after 3 years from the first one. After looking at the scenario, I felt certain that I could express it well so I chose it.
What made you feel certain that you could do well?
Because of the character’s characteristics, the characteristic of the movie. And it was appealing that it wasn’t a character that is not too obvious. When I first got the scenario, instead of having detailed directions, it had brief directions. If I had to act according to what was planned on the scenario I wouldn’t have found it appealing.
Were Director Park HeungSoo’s acting directions like that too?
He was the type who let me decide many things. Something I asked whenever I was monitoring was, is it obvious (boring) or not. I tried to make every single scene more sharp and I wanted to show even normal things in a different feel.
Wasn’t it nerve wrecking since you were an actor that hasn’t had much experience? Wouldn’t it be easier for you to follow the directions or work with a director that guides you strongly?
I’m just someone who doesn’t really like to follow directions. Even when I’m doing music I think it’s more natural to go where my body wants me to go. Whether it’s acting or music, I don’t think it’s fun to look for the answers like how it is on the textbook.
I think there’s a similarity in the characters of <71: Into the Fire> and <Alumni>. They’re both boys and they have to sacrifice themselves for their country or their family.
The only similarity is that they’re both boys. That’s because I kind of have an obsession for a teenage role… (Laughs)
I want to do a teenage role until I can. And when I’m 30, I want to act as a 20 year old. (Laughs)
Isn’t that up to how an actor does? Han Yeri, who’s also in your movie, is 30 and she really pulls off the high school role.
Yeri nuna really has a baby face… I think I still have a heart of a Peter Pan. I think I like movies that show pure sides of a teenager instead of an adult role. To compare the differences of the two characters, in <71: Into the Fire>, I’m a firm person who strongly keeps my faith but in <Alumni>, Lee Myunghoon lives two different lives. In the morning, he disguises himself as a high school student and goes to school but at night, he’s a cold killer. The double-sided fate of the character was so appealing to me. If I act too expressively, it’ll become a fictional movie so I tried to express the character in a simple but deep way. Those things were hard but it was fun.
As I was looking at the synopsis, it reminded me of some other characters. Won Bin from <The Man from Nowhere> and Kang Dongwon from <Secret Reunion>.
They’re completely different from mine. The topic and the genre might have some similarities. A young man that was sent from North Korea could be similar to <Secret Reunion> and the action part of trying to save a girl could be similar to <The man from nowhere>. But if you think of it like that, you can make endless connections. You could even say that it’s similar to <Taken>. In similar topic, genre and setting, it’s up to the audience to evaluate how the story changes and how the director makes out the story. I tried to change the character’s characteristics a little and I wanted to show a character that wasn’t too South Korean. I chose the clothes and paid attention to even the tiniest details.
When I watched the trailer, you looked like a Hong Kong movie character. Young, beautiful but insecure and tragic.
I have liked insecurity and tragedy. The student soldier of <71: Into the fire> was like that too. The character in this movie also attracted me because of that. I sometimes enjoy the insecurity and I think it’s a powerful thing if you can make someone who’s watching you to feel the same. And I think I have many emotions like that in me.
That insecurity can be seen from your eyes.
Since the beginning of the movie, I tried to start off by expressing the eyes of a boy who is in a pit of despair. So it was hard and painful for me emotionally.
You said it was hard to get out of the movie and many actors say that it’s hard to get out of a character after acting like an intense, emotional scene.
I suddenly became lethargic after the movie shooting ended so from January to May of this year, I didn’t do anything and I was lying in my bed the whole day. During the filming of the movie, I also had a BIGBANG world tour to do and the schedule was killing me. I filmed Monday through Thursday, staying up all night and then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I had to go overseas and do a concert and I would sleep in the planes and then get back on schedule again. I think I was mentally confused and my identity was being shaken back then. In the morning I was filming scenes where I was killing people and I saw blood and then in the weekends I had to show a strong performance in front of thousands of people. The splendor of the stage, and the situation of falling in to a bottomless pit in the movie were crossing and it was so frustrating and I became sensitive. And when the world tour and the movie filming ended at the same time, I couldn’t do anything afterwards. I just stopped and sat down for a while.
Did time help you to get back on track? I was lying in bed for 4~5 months and I felt like I would be ruined if I stayed like this. It was a time that I had to prepare for a solo album but I couldn’t think of anything and I couldn’t do anything at all. Slowly I forced myself to go outside and eat with people on the weekends and that’s when I started to really wake up. At that time, I could feel that I was turning into an unsociable person.
When people hear that a singer is acting and signing, they wouldn’t really think about all these difficulties.
One of the reasons why I don’t appear on lots of TV shows or release a bunch of songs at once is because I’m someone who has to focus solely on something that I’m working on. When I’m doing something, I work very hard and I dedicate everything. So after doing that, I am like worn out. When someone is completely worn out of energy I don’t think that his/her work, whether it’s music or a movie, will be energetic so there’s no point in working at that point. I think you should rest at times like this and that’s why I evaluate myself strictly.
Because it’s a job that shows yourself. But you can’t always stay in bed for 4~5 months every time you film a new movie (laughs). You’ll have to change the way if you continue to work as a singer and an actor or at least arrange the schedule.
Even when BIGBANG is resting and I have the time to film a movie, I can’t unless I have a movie that I like. So I have to sort of rely on fate and wait. Honestly, I’m kind of the dangerous type. When I’m deciding something, I go by my instincts. ‘Let’s choose this path because this is what I need now’, I don’t analyze and think like that.
Rather than using your head, do you go by your heart?
I go by my senses and instincts.
I think GD will be the type to use his head.
Jiyong just does many things randomly. (Laughs)
From a past interview, you said that you don’t like the image of “National Little Brother”
I can’t even be called that but I dared to say that (Laughs). I think this movie’s character is really unique. Since this is a movie about his identity, the viewers will be nervous watching the movie, to see if the character is making the right decision or not instead of loving this character. Because my character was someone who was having an identity crisis, it made me really sensitive too. After the movie shooting was over and when Bigbang were eating to gather as a 5, my members finally told me. That I was so sensitive that they couldn’t even dare to talk to me.
You said the same thing for the interview after <71: Into the Fire>
Ah, I did? I think I got sensitive because I had to see someone die all the time. Because… I’m actually very tender. (Laughs)
I guess it wouldn’t have been mentally comfortable to filming a movie with a deep, heavy topic.
It would have been easier if I just thought of it like ‘It’s not real’ or ‘It’s just like a game’ but at that time I couldn’t really think like that. I think I got really into it because I kept on thinking that I had to go deeper into this character.
But, you keep choosing to do hard genres of movies like that.
People who enjoy that pain continue to do that. That’s the same with music. If I show something hardcore on stage, it’s really tiring when I come down from the stage. It’s like pouring out all your energy in front of people. But that’s the only way the people will feel your charisma or energy. After that I get exhausted but I enjoy the stage so I keep doing it.
Why do you struggle so much in your life?
So I can reach nirvana and live comfortably when I get old (Laughs)
I guess all singers who perform have those sides, but you look like you’re acting out a character called ‘TOP’ on stage. Isn’t it hard to show ‘TOP’ instead of showing your natural self?
I try to do that. I think you should do that. I think people will get easily sick of me if I show too much of myself. So I always think about change and I try to show the better ‘TOP’. It’s like a trick in a way.
At times when it was hard to approach people through the media, people liked classic stars like that but nowadays don’t you think people love celebrities that are friendlier?
I think it’s the opposite. That preference will comeback. Especially since our country is so small, the public will get sick of the celebrity who shows too much of him or her. Being a celebrity is like having a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Don’t you get sick of someone after meeting him or her for too long and too often? So I try to hide when I have to and show it right when I have to. Rather than showing something incomplete and awkward, I try to show something completely new.
You must be very strict to yourself.
I think how celebrities’ work is similar to how they love. Even when I’m dating someone, I always keep a distance to some degree. I always talk politely and I don’t meet up often.
Those kinds of guys make girls suffer…
It’s hard for me too (Laughs) I’ll miss her too.
But you think that’s better to keep the relationship?
I’m afraid that my lover will get sick of me.
Does the relationship last longer if you keep a distance?
I haven’t had much experience so I don’t know much either but it’ll keep you away from fighting. If you get too close, you’ll fight more. It’s like you could say something that you didn’t mean to say when you talk too much.
You have a unique voice when you’re acting or rapping. I think it’s a voice tone suitable for acting.
I heard a lot of people say that but I never really thought of it as a benefit. It’s actually not helpful when acting. It has too much base and it rings low so the pronunciation doesn’t sound as clear as normal peoples’ voices. People tell me that I have a good tone as a rapper but it’s really hard to transmit the lyrics. But making that tone sound good is what’s called skill. It has risks and benefits but how I use this voice is what I have to figure out. If I do like a comic movie and say a weird line with my voice, that would be funny. If I do a serious movie it could sound too serious too. After all, it’s all up to me to decide how to use my gift. It has risks but I will try hard to see how I can use it.
Then I guess you’re in the process of learning how to use your voice in acting.
I try to. Since I’m a musician, my ears sensitively detect everything I say. I do everything in a sensitive state.
What was the hardest thing about the movie?
The hardest thing were the action scenes. My body isn’t very sharp and since I danced on stage, I developed a habit of moving with the rhythm and the beat. It was hard to throw that away but I tried really hard to do well on my action moves.
You said you want to do teenage roles as much as you can. And is that because you didn’t get to enjoy a normal school life when you were a teenager since you were a trainee?
Not really. To be honest, I was a trainee for just 1 year. I went to YG a year before BIGBANG debuted and I was an underground rapper who performed at underground clubs since I was little. I was like a hyung who communicated with Jiyong and Taeyang in music. I don’t really obsess over teenage roles because I didn’t get to enjoy my youth but it’s like this. Rappers spend a lot of time sitting alone, thinking and writing lyrics. From that I was always insecure and unstable. My ego was too big and it was hard to handle it by myself. And that’s why I’m attracted to characters that are boys and have those insecurities. When someone who knows the power of that insecurity and the feelings acts out that character, it could transfer the tension to the audience more efficiently.
You said you want to act as a 20 year old in your thirties.
That was a joke (laughs). Now I want to dress and act as an old grandpa if I can. But I can’t so I don’t.
Isn’t it more important to see how much similarities you share with that character rather than the age?
I think it’s important to know how you can lead the story. When you ask me a question, I say what my emotions tell me to say.
I can see that you listened to music since you were very little, but what about movies? Do you have any favorite actors?
I’m shy to talk about actors. I like famous movies of famous movie stars… Robert De niro’s acting. I especially liked <Taxi Driver>. Every time I watch this movie I get a different interpretation of it. When I was younger I liked the acting of Al Pacino but the more I look, the more I like DeNiro’s detailed acting. I love how he shows his unique and sensitive acting even when he’s just moving his hands instead of big, direct expressions.
I don’t really care about the genre. But I like movies about identity. Like <Gattaca> and <A.I.>… When I first saw the scenario for <Alumni> I thought it was similar to <A.I.> so I wanted to do it. I remember the cold eyes of the robot of the main character. Like that, I like the acting style that may look emotionless but that actually contains emotions. I thought I could maybe try to make an impressive character for <Alumni> if I work that detail out. It was a hard character because if I expressed too much, it would just be too much.
From what I’m hearing, you really dislike strong, excessive, greasy things.
It’s because the old me was like that. Like me in Bigbang’s first few stages. When I now see the unpolished singer TOP of back then, I can see that I was trying too hard to look cool and I didn’t know that everyone could see that I’m trying too hard.
Do you have a different attitude now?
I try to control things a little more and I try to polish a little more. I think that’s what’s called skill. Instead of showing all the skills you have at once, cutting them and showing them well is what skill is. Everyone can do excessive things, and once you start doing something for too much, there’s no end to it. I have learned that so I tried hard not to do that.
That’s something you learn after many experiences and after undergoing trial and error, do you think you can apply that in acting as well?
Sometimes you can really see the skills of some great actors in movies. At the worst situation possible, their faces look emotionless, but they can make the audience feel the tension. Like that, I want to be someone who can control and play with the situation. I don’t want myself to go out of the screen towards the audience, but I want the audience to come towards the screen because they’re curious and they want to see ‘What is he thinking about?’ Like, I want to move people’s heart even by just acting normally and then stopping. In that angle, I could like scream or cry but I try to control it. So my favorite actor right now is Ryan Gosling. He doesn’t have many lines in the movie <Drive> but his controlled acting was very powerful.
Have you seen Ryan Gosling’s recent movie, <Place beyond the pines>?
I’m going to save it and watch it later. I want to watch <Only God Forgives> first since the same director of <Drive> directed it. But Lee Myunghoon from <Alumni> is very similar to <Drive> in a way because the characters both don’t talk much and they both have to show their controlled feelings. After filming this movie, I decided that I would never do movies that require simple, controlled acting. I think that it’s really hard to act that out. When it looks like the character is going to talk, he has to keep his mouth shut and when it looks like the character’s not going to talk, he talks.
But didn’t you say that that’s why you chose the movie?
Yeah, because of my strange taste (Laughs)
Don’t you think that you’ll do a similar movie next time too, then?
No. I’m going to do something that’s more appealing to me even if it’s harder.
Looks like you’re the type that can’t leave yourself alone.
Being comfortable is not fun for me. I enjoy hard, painful things.
Are you a pervert? Ah, just kidding.
I guess I have some perverted sides so that’s why I’m doing those kinds of work? But my sexual preferences are not like that at all. (Laughs)
There were many interviews you did with BIGBANG members but honestly you didn’t look that mature even though you were the oldest.
I try to stay more comfortable when I’m with my members. I think my members liked that better since they were little and since the atmosphere is filled with tension when we’re working, it really helps if someone jokes and tries to cheer everyone up. I think it’s good for the oldest to do that job.
Maybe you do that because you guys are so close. But you don’t really do that at the filming scene, right?
I always joke around even during the movie shooting. I dance in front of the camera. We’re planning to make a making film and release it with <Alumni> photobook.
I heard that BIGBANG is coming back soon.
It’s time to work on our new song but we still haven’t done that since we’re all so busy. The date is undecided.
Recently you featured in Diplo (Major lazer)’s song ‘Bubble Butt’…
Without any specific topic or a guide audio, they asked me to do whatever I want to do. Since I’m Korean, I always have that Korean pride whenever I go overseas to do something. Foreigners say that Korean sounds stiff but I wanted to show how sexy Korean rap could sound by writing the lyrics. But to be honest, I’ve worked on that and finished that 2 years ago and it just came out.
I feel like you would have this thing where you want to do music when you act, and then you want to do acting when you do music.
I really do feel like that. The reason why I don’t get lazy is because when I’m working on music, I want to work on a movie and then when I’m working on a movie, I want to work on music… I think it’s that energy that changes every time. But sometimes I feel like I use that strength the wrong way.
Then you must feel the need to be on stage as soon as possible.
I want to meet my fans with music as soon as possible. I feel sorry for those who have been waiting and for those who had faith in my musical sides and my talents. So I want to prepare well and comeback like I’m giving a gift to them.
That’s what you said about dating too.
Don’t girls like it when their boyfriend gives shoes with rings rather than giving just rings?
You have a desirable view of love.
If I were the type who is always good, it wouldn’t be like that. But I want to be a guy who sometimes prepares a sincere event for my lover.
You talked about the age 30 earlier, what do you think you’ll be when you’re 30?
It’s so soon… It’s just 3 years away so don’t you think that it’ll be pretty much the same from now?
But if you think about 3 years ago from now, isn’t there a difference in you?
Now that I think about it, I think I used to be tender and soft 3 years ago and I think I now became more skillful and firm. But things that were too sharp back then are now softer, and now I stopped clinging to little things and became stronger so I think I would have learned how to balance myself more 3 years later. I’m expecting to become a veteran in controlling things and showing only the good sides of me and also making new things and polishing them. And I think I’ll become braver.
How are the other BIGBANG members doing now?
GD is busy as always doing many things and Taeyangie’s album is coming out soon. Daesungie also did many concerts in Japan and Seungri became the MC on a Japanese broadcasting channel. I think fans know more than I do about what my members are up to.
What are you interested in right now other than working?
There’s not really anything now. I used to collect art toys but I graduated from doing that. My mom said there’s nowhere to put them so she put them all in my storage room and told me to stop. I’ve liked collecting furnitures since long time ago and I’ll keep collecting them. I really like the modern chairs of the 60s designed by Antonio Citerrio, an Italian industrial designer. I like it because it looks brave and bold. I think it gives me inspiration. It’s like BIGBANG. It reminds me of young BIGBANG’s brave, bold characteristics and I try to get inspirations from it. I also try to get energy from it. I think I graduated from Ettore Sottsass’ style. I like something that’s more classy now. Long time ago, I used to want to try many different fashion styles but I kind of ended up wearing them for only once or twice. So I think it’s a common change for people in their thirties to go back to the basics and wear something simple. I guess the age thirty is approaching me now. I think it’s because I’m the type that gets sick of things easily. When I like something, I see the end of it and that’s why I get sick of it so easily.
In <71: Into the Fire>, you had an opposing character to Kwon Sangwoo’s and it worked out well for both of you guys. In this movie, how was it to work with other actors?
I think we all had positive relationships. Every actor in this movie has a similar amount of scenes where they meet with me. The biggest pathos of the movie will be my relationship with Yoo Jeong but the amount of scenes I meet with Yoo Jeong in the movie is the same as the amount of scenes I meet senior Yoon Jemoon, so it’s not too much or too less but unique. But it was a hard to act out the character since the character had to form an ensemble with all the other actors. When I’m with different actors, the different sides of the character show. I think it’ll especially be good on the scenes where I’m with Han Yeri.
You said you’ll go back to basics and stay classy with fashion but are you going to stop tying out new bold hair colors?
I want the fit of my clothes and the style to be classic but I’m going to go for more primary colors for my hair. Just like my hair, I want to look young and sophisticated while being classic instead of looking too neat and tidy. I think I came to not really like avant-garde fashion style.
Favorite designers are?
I like Tom Ford. I love Saint Laurent but I don’t think it suits my body type. I think Hedi Slimane is good too but I really loved the designer Yves Saint Laurent. When I become an old granpa in the future, I want to be someone like Laurent. I want to play a specific role for public culture and I want to be left in people’s memories.
Have you seen the documentary <L’amour fou> that talks about Yves Saint Laurent’s life?
It’s a movie that I really love. The movie was impressive and his personalities were very similar to mine too.
Yves Saint Laurent had a partner named Pierre Berge.
I have Charlie.
He’s my dog and he’s a cocker spaniel. When I die he’ll put all my furniture that I collected up for auction.