Byung-hun Lee Talks G.I. JOE: RETALIATION, the 3D, Filming the Action Scenes with Ray Park (Snake Eyes), RED 2, Future Projects, and More

     March 26, 2013


Opening this Thursday is director Jon M. Chu’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  The sequel’s story finds the Joes disbanded and outnumbered as they must square off against not only the Cobras, but also threats within their own government.  G.I. Joe: Retaliation stars Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum,  D.J. Cotrona, Elodie YungRay ParkByung-hun Lee, Ray Stevenson, Walton Goggins, RZA and Adrianne Palicki For more on the film, here’s clips, images, on set interviews, and all our previous coverage.

While some had issues with the first G.I. Joe movie, most would agree the casting of Byung-hun Lee as Storm Shadow and Ray Park as Snake Eyes was dead on.  So when Paramount decided to make the sequel and bring in a lot of new actors, I was extremely happy they kept Lee and Park.  The other day I did an exclusive phone interview with Lee to help promote the film.  We talked about his reaction to the finished film, 3D, the action sequences, what it was like having the world premiere in Korea, his preparation process, Red 2, doing action scenes with Bruce Willis, and a lot more.  Hit the jump for what he had to say.

byung-hun-lee-g-i-joe-retaliationCollider:  What was your reaction to finally seeing the finished film for the first time?

Byung-Hun Lee: When I first saw it I thought it … because there is a lot of action in the movie that I didn’t expect, also you’ll see a lot of different styles of action in that movie. Every character has his own style so that’s fun.

When you first saw it, did you see it in 3D?

Lee: Yeah.

What are your thoughts on 3D?

Lee: Some of it was good and some was just OK, but I really liked the Himalayan mountain action scene, it was amazing in 3D.

I agree with you, that sequence is really, really well done. You recently had the premiere in Korea; what was that experience like for you?

Lee: It was really interesting because we don’t do that like that. Doing the premiere and red carpet Hollywood style in Seoul was so different because we stayed on the red carpet more than an hour doing a lot of autographs, taking pictures, and interviews. So different, but it was fun and exciting and as a Korean actor it was so cool to have the first world premiere in Seoul.

Were there thousands of people there screaming?

Lee: It was maybe more than 3,000 people.

elodie-yung-gi-joe-2-ray-parkThat’s a lot of people.

Lee: Of course, it was huge.

With so many new faces in the G.I. Joe sequel, what was it like on set versus the first film?

Lee: There are a lot new characters so a lot new actors and actresses came to the set, like Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis, so the environment was so different than the first one. Also, the director changed so, yeah, the environment was so different. I had to keep my own character environment.

The mountain sequence you mentioned is a great ten-minute action sequence with no dialogue.  When you were first told about it, what was your reaction?

Lee: You mean the hallway sequence with Snake Eyes?

You know the sequence on the side of the mountain with no dialogue? I don’t want to reveal a spoiler.  It’s on the mountaintop, that whole sequence with no dialogue.

Lee: Yeah, they did it really hard, but I was on my back so I couldn’t do anything.

When you first heard that they were going to do ten minutes with no dialogue did you originally think, “There’s no way we’re going to do this”?

d-j-cotrona-byung-hun-lee-g-i-joe-retaliationLee: I personally like those kinds of sequences.

I think it was great, I’m just wondering what your reaction to it was.

Lee: Every actor has to show the emotions and actions without any words, means it must be quite amazing. Personally, I like those kinds of scenes without lines, not only in this film, but I really like those kinds of scenes without words.

What was your preparation process like for the sequel? Was it any different than the first film?

Lee: Yeah, I had to learn the new weapon, the sai, so I trained hard with Ray Park. I also wanted to make my body bigger and look stronger so I had to change the way of training and special diet. I had to train hard.

How long did you train for the movie?

Lee: For martial arts I had to train more than three weeks; for the weight training it was like three months.

You mentioned Ray Park, how did you work with Ray Park to try to make the fight scenes between Snake Eyes and Storm shadow even better?

byung-hun-lee-storm-shadowLee: All we had to do was just train hard, nothing else, just training, training and practice the choreography every day hard.  We’ve got different styles of martial arts so we needed to adjust each other’s style.

Did you guys ever punch each other by accident?

Lee: No, but sometimes there is small accidents, like in this film I lost my nail. I got a new one, but those kind of small accidents happen a lot on the set.

When people meet you what film or films do they want to talk to you about?

Lee: In my Korean films?

In either Korea or in America.

Lee: They mention A Bittersweet Life and I Saw the Devil, or The Good, The Bad, The Weird a lot.

Do you have a favorite? Obviously, I’m sure you have a positive experience with everything you’ve done, but is there one or two of your films that you’re very happy with and you can watch again and again?

Lee: When my movie’s showing in the theater I go there a lot actually, secretly, but I don’t watch it on DVD at my house.

You just want to see it with an audience?

Lee: Yeah, I just want to see how they react, yeah, that’s why I go there.

You’re in the Red sequel, what was it like working with that great cast and who do you play?

gi_joe_retaliation_poster_finalLee: My character is Han and he also used to be an agent like them. I can’t say the rest of the story, but it was amazing experience to work with that kind of dream cast.

Did you get to do any action scenes with Bruce Willis or any of the other cast?

Lee: From the beginning to the end I have a lot of scenes with Bruce Willis and I also have a lot of action scenes with him. We fight against each other a lot.

What was that like for you? I’m assuming, just like me, you’re a huge Bruce Willis fan.

Lee: Yeah, I grew up with his action films so, yeah, I’m a fan of his of course, definitely.

Have you seen a rough cut of the film yet?

Lee: No, I just watched the trailer.

I’m really looking forward to the Red sequel. Do you see yourself making more American films or making stuff in Korea next?

Lee: As long as the story’s good I don’t care, actually. I’m doing both now and I’m satisfied with that.

What are you planning on doing next? Have you lined up your future films?

Lee: I’m still considering some projects and I’m also reading some new scripts, but I didn’t decide yet.

byung-hun-lee-g-i-joe-2You’re known for doing action, but you’re also a really good actor.  Are you looking for a role that isn’t action at all?  Maybe trying your hand with more comedy or drama in America?

Lee: Of course it’s important to me. I don’t want to be typecast. I really want to challenge a lot of different genres.

When you’re reading a script, how soon do you know that this is something you want to do?  Do you know at the beginning of the script?  Do you have to finish it and then think about it?

Lee: It depends. Sometimes I can feel after a couple of pages. I can sometimes feel it.

When you’re meeting with directors, what do you typically ask them about the project to make sure you want to do it?  Do you have a certain amount of questions you ask or do you sort of just know after talking to them?

Lee: I ask a lot, yeah.  I ask a lot, maybe they hate me.

g-i-joe-retaliation-posterG.I. Joe: Retribution opens March 29th.  Here’s our set visit coverage if you missed it:

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