‘Squid Game’ Star Lee Jung-jae Re-Edits Directorial Debut ‘Hunt’ Ahead of TIFF

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Lee Jung-jae, the Korean actor who has received an Emmy nomination for his role in Netflix hit series “Squid Game,” has re-edited “Hunt,” the film that marked his feature directorial debut. The new version will play at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival.

“Hunt,” a 1980s-set espionage thriller about rival agents from North and South Korea, had its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May. It played as an out-of-competition title in a Midnight Screening slot.

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Lee said Wednesday that, since returning home, he had changed some key lines and created some new exposition in order to help overseas audiences understand the plot and the insight into the turbulent politics of the era. This involved some cuts and having the actors re-record some dialogue. Lee also stars in the film, opposite Jung Woo-sung.

“When writing the script of ‘Hunt,’ I set younger generations in South Korea who learn about the era from history textbooks as the target audience. I thought foreign viewers would be the same,” Lee said, according to the Yonhap news agency. “But at Cannes, about 30% of foreign media reviews complained that it was hard for them to keep up with the story, as they didn’t know about Korean politics in the 1980s.”

Variety film critic Peter Debruge called “Hunt” “a twisty, action-packed political thriller — one that keeps you guessing even as it spirals into ever-crazier realms.”

The film’s international sales agent Megabox Plus M told Variety by email that the new international version will be used for the film’s North American premiere in Toronto. Previously, Megabox Plus M reported that it had licensed the film for distribution in over 200 overseas territories.

Korean audiences have greater awareness and understanding of the period politics. The original or director’s cut will be used for release in South Korea from Wednesday next week.

Yonhap reports, “since its press screening in Korea last week, the film has received rave reviews from local media for its well-rounded plot that weaves the rivalry between the two protagonists with Korean political incidents at that time and effective use of action sequences for an espionage movie.”

Lee’s involvement in in “Hunt” goes further than directing and starring. He acquired the rights to the project and set about trying to develop it. But, after failing to obtain a screenplay to his satisfaction, Lee took on the role of co-screenwriter. He endured similar pushback getting a greenlight and became its producer.

“When I was younger, I was curious about other trades, I wanted to see other parts of the world, try things out,” Lee told Variety back in September. “Just because I’m doing the director’s job on this film doesn’t mean I’m going to be giving up acting. I still like acting the best and intend to focus on that.”

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