AERA: It has already passed the scheduled time for the meeting and he still have not arrived yet. Then I heard that he was not feeling well that day, but he pushed himself to go to all the scheduled interviews. Then he finally arrived. Just as I was feeling relieved, he started to look through the AERA magazine that he bought himself and suddenly said, “I will go and get change”.
It seemed that the clothes he was wearing didn’t match the concept. I waited for a couple of minutes, then he came back with a stunning jacket on. He wore interesting shoes that looked like it had some nails hammered on them. When I asked for the brand, he said “Louboutin”. The Christian Louboutin that has been featured on such blockbuster films as “Sex and the City”. That was my first time seeing a man wear Louboutin.
T.O.P: Yes, these are my personal shoes. I chose the shoes to go with the clothes. I love fashion.
AERA: In fact, when he played the role of a cruel assassin in the drama “IRIS”, he was also concerned about fashion. He says that in “IRIS”, he put out ideas for himself and thoroughly discussed with the stylists. The black suit and trench coat made him look more like a fashion model than an assassin. From the 7:3 style to the loose perm, his hair changed a lot. He can surely be called a model after saying, “I wanted to create the picture of an assassin that everybody would imagine”.
The film to play the leading role for the first time, “Into The Fire”, starts off with this shocking line, “Mother, I killed people”. This spectacular action film is based on a letter that a 10th grade student soldier sent to his mother. T.O.P played the role of the student soldier leader, Jang-bum.
T.O.P: Before receiving the script, I never thought of myself being casted on a war film. However, this film is nothing like the other war films that I’ve seen before. This film is about sensibility and humanitarianism. It is about the 71 student soldiers who fought against the elite soldiers of North Korea.
With my music activities, I want to express to the world certain “sensibilities”, and I felt that I was able to express that by playing Jung-bum. That is why I participated in this film. I believe that those young Korean who are struggling to find a dream might be able to find one by watching this film. Also, I thought that if I participated in this film, a lot of young people might watch it and be interested in the topic.
AERA: He didn’t feel the pressure to play the lead role, he felt “responsible”.
T.O.P: I debuted as an actor in 2007, with the drama called “I Am Sam”. However, this time I had to show the people that I had grown in the three years. I felt responsible for that.
Of course I felt pressured. This film is based on a true story about the Korean war, so as a Korean, I felt the pain. I felt pressured to express that feeling in the film. However, I didn’t feel that I was pressured just because it was a film. In fact, if this was a TV drama, I would’ve felt pressured. With a film, it is released after the video and sounds are put together and everything is ready, but with dramas, the shooting continues while it is on air. That is why I felt that to show something new about me after three years, this had to be a film. I thought a film was something that could wow the fans and audiences. So this was a whole new challenge for me.
AERA: T.O.P is now 23 years old. He says to play a 17-year-old student soldier, he tried to think of what he was like when he was 17 and studied about the student soldiers of the Korean war.
T.O.P: The character of Jang-bum was born when the 17-year-old boy in the script and the 17-year-old me intertwined with each other. There is a scene where during the war, Jang-bum writes a letter to his mother facing a desk. When I saw the scene, I saw the 17 year old me in Jang-bum’s figure. When I was 17, I would sit in front of the desk and write what I felt in my heart as lyrics. Jang-bum wrote the letter in a tragic situation and I was writing lyrics with enjoyment. It seems so similar, but completely different. I was thinking about those things to form his character.
AERA: There is a weird tense feeling you get when you watch the scene where Jang-bum is holding two boxes of bullets with a cartridge case on him, and he is desperately running through the bombs. Like a puppy drenched with rain, the eyes of Jang-bum is filled with fear. T.O.P says that this particular scene was the hardest and yet the most rewarding scene of the film.
T.O.P: Lee Jae Han, the director, values reality in a film. That is why when I did the scene, I ran without being told where the explosives were. It was a dangerous scene, and if I did it wrong it would take a long time to remake the set again. It was as if we were in the real battlefield and I actually felt shocked with the amount of tense and fear around me. There is a scene where I fall and an exploding Jeep flies over me and I thought I was going to break my eardrum with the piercing noise. That time I actually wanted to run away from the set. However, when I saw the scene on the film, there was a young Jang-bum on the screen and not me. I felt proud of myself.
AERA: His acting skills were praised and in November last year, he was awarded with the best new actor award in Korea’s largest film festival. However, he seems to be cool about it. He says, “I want music as my main career, but I want to act as well. From now on, my music and acting activities are 5:5″.
T.O.P: I’ve been creating music since I was 11 or 12 years old. It might be that I’m quite satisfied with music already. However, acting is still a new field for me and I still lack in many things. In order to perfect it, I have to keep acting. If I start something, I seek for perfection. I have the greed to make my acting just perfect. That’s why I want to keep acting.