Byung-hun Lee has become one of the first South Korean actors to make headway into Hollywood. After making his American film debut as Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe movies, he appeared in RED 2 and Terminator Genisys and most recently The Magnificent Seven.
Speaking at the Busan Film Festival on Friday, the star, however, expressed interest in taking part in more indie film projects, both at home and abroad, and expressed hopes that his upcoming Warner Bros. Korea production will add to the diversity of film genres.
"It's been an incredible journey, from presenting an award at the Oscars to hand-printing in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theater [as the first Korean actor to do so]," he said during a Q&A session with critics and fans during the festival. "It was also great to be able to play a hero [in The Magnificent Seven] in a film industry where Asian actors are often limited to playing a villain."
The 46-year-old actor, however, said he is also interested in doing smaller projects. "Even though I've been part of bigger Hollywood productions, it's really the story and the director that matter, not the size of the production," he said. He recently met director J.C. Chandor and said he would love to work on films like the 2011 indie film Margin Call, starring Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons.
Back home, Lee has had back-to-back success at the box office, from last year's top-grossing political thriller Inside Men ($51 million) to the currently showing The Age of Shadows, a Warner Bros. Korea production that has earned about $54 million so far since opening on Sept. 7. He believes that A Single Rider, another Korean local production by Warner Bros., will be a good break away from his recent big-budget projects.
Helmed by first-time director Lee Joo-young, A Singer Rider is about an investment firm manager who, after losing everything, travels to Australia to reunite with his wife and son. Popular actress Gong Hyo-jin (Crush and Blush) plays the role of his wife in the film slated for release later this year. It will be the second local production in Korea by Warner Bros.
"Movies often change depending on the social conditions and trends of the times, and I believe the fact that there have been an increasing number of crime movies and thrillers in Korea reflect what is happening in reality," said Lee. "As an actor I'd love to do a sequel to Inside Men [which is about corruption in Korea], but as an individual I would like to be part of more heartwarming human dramas and comedies. I think I will be able to do that with A Single Rider, which I think will be a heart-wrenching, emotional film."