When you’ve been a star for over 20 years does a surprise global smash suddenly change everything?
That’s the question poised to South Korea’s Lee Jung-jae who starred in Korea’s controversial, violent “The Squid Game.” Now 49, Lee became a Korean movie star back in 1998.
As his twisty, slam-bang thriller “The Hunt” arrives Friday marking his directorial debut, Lee is set with the upcoming “Star Wars: The Acolyte” and a “Squid” sequel.
“Squid Game,” he acknowledged from London in a Zoom interview, assisted by a translator, “obviously got me a lot of world-wide recognition and allowed global audiences to know me. I’m grateful, I’ve been offered a lot of great projects.”
More importantly, that success means, “The gap between countries is shrinking globally. I’m grateful Korean content is getting this reception worldwide. But going forward, I would like that countries all around the world should be recognized and we will be able to have better communication globally.”
“The Hunt” arrives after Lee spent years honing a script inspired by actual events.
“This is based on things that actually did happen in the ‘70s and ‘80s, based on intelligence agency institutions that actually existed in Korea, like the Korean CIA that is in the film. In the early 2000s a lot of the atrocities they committed came to light and were revealed to the general public.”
As he revised the script, “I was noticing many countries of the world were dealing with a lot misinformation or ‘fake news.’ This was creating many instances of mistaken abuse around the world. Once I decided to include that in the script, it was much easier to proceed making the film.”
With virtually nonstop action, realistic violence, explosive shoot-outs and multiple vehicular crashes, “Hunt” is kinetic and spectacular, like a runaway locomotive running relentlessly down the track, faster and faster. How as a first-time filmmaker did he manage?
“From the first scene to the last, I storyboarded every single moment and shared that with my crew. Actually, my action stylist said he had never ever had to storyboard every single shot and moment before for the director.”
Lee is happy that “Hunt” has a mind as well as a punch. “For me this says it is impossible for a dictatorship to persist forever. It was the hope of Korea in the ‘70s and ‘80s to escape dictatorship and achieve true democracy — and Korea was able to achieve that.
“I want to carry this hope that this generation — and the next that comes after — would create a better world for us as a whole.”
“The Hunt” streams Dec. 2