Korean actor kwon Sang-woo and director Lee Jae-han attended a special seminar for their upcoming war film "71-Into the Fire" at the prestigious Stanford University Asia-Pacific Research Center on May 27 (U.S. time).
The two were among the seven speakers invited to speak at the seminar, held in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War and organized by the Korean Studies Program at the university.
The event featured a screening of the film followed by a panel discussion.
"It is significant that a research center that has expertise in Asian issues would hold a seminar about the Korean War", said Lee at the event.
Lee further explained that the Asia-Pacific Research Center had supported the film since its planning stages and he had promised to attend the seminar even before he started shooting the pic.
The director appeared satisfied with the partnership, saying "it will probably help the film enormously when it is shown in the U.S".
It is the second time that the Stanford Asia-Pacific Research Center had supported an Asian film -- in 2006, it had backed Clint Eastwood's film "Letters from Iwo Jima" about the battle between the U.S. and Japan during World War II.
Lee, who studied filmmaking at New York University, directed his first feature film "A Moment to Remember" (2004) which starred top Korean actors Jung Woo-sung and Son Ye-jin.
He is reportedly planning to make his debut in the U.S. through directing the Hollywood remake of John Woo pic "The Killer".
"71-Into the Fire", based on the true story of 71 student soldiers who fought during the Korean War, stars actors Cha Seung-won, Kwon Sang-woo, Kim Seung-woo and T.O.P (Choi Seung-hyeon) of idol group Big Bang.
The film opens in Korea on June 16.
Some things I didn't personally know before this event:
- TOP didn't audition, director John H. Lee was asked to meet with him by his producers and once he met him, he said he immediately knew he was the one he was looking for
- The character of Oh Jung-Bum is considered by director Lee as an "introvert" which he believes is like him and he cast TOP because he is charismatic and lively and would bring something different to the role
- Kwon Sang-Woo expressed that he helped TOP with his acting during the film, along with also utilizing his military experience for accuracy in making this movie/filming the battle scenes. One memory he expressed with fondness was how between takes he'd give demonstrations on how to properly load and shoot a gun
- Kwon Sang-Woo was asked why he took such a long break from films and why this film called him out of brief retirement; His response was that once he read the script he couldn't get it out of his head. He is drawn to characters that are imperfect and weak, instead of those that are perfect and strong. (This is a pretty accurate description of Gap-Jo's character)
- John H. Lee chose this film because he's a big fan of war movies and wanted to show his diversity in films. Favorite war films include Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago
- Documentary footage was used at the end of the film of soldiers who survived the battle of Pohang
- American Korean war veteran Lt. Col. John R. Stevens (who fought in many campaigns, including Pearl Harbor and Okinawa) was the commanding Officer of Able Company, 1st Bn, 5th Marines when the first Marine Brigade arrived in Pusan, August 2, 1950. He admitted that he did not hear of the battle at Pohang until he was made aware of this movie, but he did know student soldiers fought in the war and was very sympathetic to what they went through, explaining that the Americans had so much support when they fought in Korea but that these students fought with almost their bare hands was a complete act of bravery
- Kang Sang-Woo was someone director Lee wanted to work with badly, so when he received this script, he did a rewrite to make a character that would fit Kang Sang-Woo, because of his age difference between himself and that of the student soldiers
- The letters written by Oh Jung-Bum in the movie were half edited/half directly from the letters of Lee WooKeun to his mother, the character Oh Jung-Bum is based on (this question I asked John H. Lee directly and he was very nice about it!)
- The movie is not actually finished, there's still more CGI to be done and they apparently completely changed the entire score from the cut they showed Stanford
- There were more scenes of American soldiers in the movie, but they were severely edited out (there are only two short ones that remain now) because they tested very, very low in test screenings of young Korean audiences
- Test screenings were randomized and contained about 70% women and 30% males, all of the younger generation
- The movie is about two hours and forty-five minutes long, but it didn't really drag on for me, although it did feel like there was a lot of content in the film
- John H. Lee was very hesitant to talk about not only his own politics, but the politics of the film. He avoided speaking about it and even expressed once that if he spoke like this in Korea, he could get in some trouble
- John H. Lee did express however that he was disappointed in the lack of knowledge that even Korean youth have in this war, saying that some "youngsters" (as he called them) are still confused if the war was with Japan or China
- Considering the political climate in Korea right now, John H. Lee said that he expects that the audience reaction to this movie would possibly be applause, head shaking and some finger pointing
- It was expressed all around that the ultimate tragedy of this war is that hasn't been resolved/no one truly won the war
- John H. Lee considers the Korean War to be the most tragic event in the 20th Century
- Both Kwon Sang-Woo and John H. Lee were very amicable and were eager to sign autographs and take pictures with fans
- A lot of press was there, filming not only the panel discussion afterwards, but also taking pictures of the crowd/asking for interviews
- The cinematic techniques used in the film were excellent. There were some beautiful shots of the countryside along with some powerful and artistic images of the perils of war
- Very graphic and action oriented, the film doesn't take many breaks between the fighting and seemed to spare no expense in effects
- The storyline is different than I imagined it to be from the stills/reading articles. I thought it'd be a story of student soldiers training together and then ultimately fighting together over a long period of time, but the film's events only take place in the span of two days
- North Koreans were not all portrayed as one-dimensional demons, there was a lot of depth given to Park Moo-Rang's character, along with the humanization of North Korean soldiers, which is a departure from the propaganda movies made in the aftermath of the war
- TOP is in the most scenes, from the last to the first shot, excepting those that show the North Koreans/battle at Nakdong River
*NOTE: The movie, in my opinion, was excellent and it will definitely be a big blockbuster. I foresee it doing really well, especially if the changes/improvements are made for the final cut. I tried to be as vague about the actual movie as possible, but if you want to know more/have questions, I'm willing to answer them!
This is my first post so I hope I did it right~