Song Kang Ho and Ko Asung Talk SNOWPIERCER, Working with Director Bong Joon Ho, Reuniting to Play Father and Daughter & Working with Hollywood Stars

by     Posted 173 days ago

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From director Bong Joon Ho and adapted from the French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige,” Snowpiercer tells the story of what happens after Earth has been frozen for 17 years, making the planet uninhabitable, and the few who are still alive are separated by class and now live aboard a train that perpetually circles the world.  When a young leader (Chris Evans) from the slum-like tail section decides to start a riot, his fellow passengers charge toward the engine located at the front of the train, where they seek to gain absolute authority.

At the film’s press day, Korean actors Song Kang-Ho and Ko Asung spoke in a roundtable interview about why they wanted to work with director Bong Joon Ho again, reuniting to play father and daughter, the biggest challenges of this film, how much input they had, the experience of working on such an international project, and what it was like to work with Hollywood stars.  Check out what they had to say after the jump.

snowpiercer-song-kang-hoQuestion: What keeps bringing you back to work with director Bong Joon Ho?

SONG KANG-HO:  This was the third time I worked with director Bong, and working with director Bong is a wonderful experience.  Even more than that, this time around, working with the wonderful cast members was a tremendous experience.  

KO ASUNG:  When director Bong first offered me this script and this opportunity, he didn’t give me very much explanation.  He just told me that there’s an original work that it’s based off of.  Other than that, he said, “I want to do this with you and with actor Song.”  Just hearing that from him, it gave me assurance that I could do it.  So, I decided to collaborate with him because of those reasons. 

You first played father and daughter in The Host.  What was it like to do that again?

KO ASUNG:  The Host was my debut project, so I was not very familiar with the system, and I was too young and inexperienced, so I didn’t not know what to take away from the collaboration with actor Song.  This time around, on my second project with him, I had much more to take from him and the chemistry between us.  

SONG KANG-HO:  I don’t know if I would call it a hidden intention of director Bong, but it was definitely something planned on his part, in the casting.  The Host and Snowpiercer are two very different stories, but in terms of what the director wants to say with those films is very similar.  That’s why the casting was an extension of that.

How did working on this compare to the first time you both worked with director Bong?

SONG KANG-HO:  It was definitely easier.  We didn’t have to speak to each other to know what the other was thinking.

How did director Bong challenge you, this time? 

KO ASUNG:  It was my first time ever to be involved with the pre-production stage of a movie.  Early on, I was able to get involved, which gave me the opportunity to pitch director Bong my own ideas during the writing of the screenplay.  This experience, because it was so unique, was very special to me.  It helped me understand the role, and how to express and act the character. 

SONG KANG-HO:  Since I was the only one speaking in Korean in the film, while all of the other actors were speaking English, the awkwardness of being the only person speaking Korean and the strangeness of the experience was one of the challenges for me.  Having actors speaking two different languages in the same film was the most difficult part, but at the same time, it was very refreshing and fun to do. 

SNOWPIERCER-Kang-ho-Song-Ah-Sung-Ko-Luke-Pasqualino-Chris-EvansBecause you were involved in pre-production, did you have any input into your characters?

SONG KANG-HO:  Director Bong is a perfectionist and he works very meticulously on his details.  As an actor, there are things that I want to freely express, but at the same time, I trust the director with his ideas because director Bong has a lot of ideas and he’s very meticulous with his work. 

KO ASUNG:  Despite the perfectionist side of director Bong, I had tons of ideas.  Not all of them came through.  Most of them got rejected.  Even then, there were some changes that I was able to make.  For instance, my character Yona was originally supposed to be an Inuit, but that was changed.  And then, in the classroom section of the train, the teacher is pregnant.  That was actually based on a teacher that I had in my own classroom.  That was something that I added to the script.  Actor Song did not want to have her be pregnant because it makes that murder so cruel.  But even then, director Bong said, “Okay,” to my idea.  In addition to the comical factor of it, with the teacher being pregnant, I also wanted to communicate the idea of the next generation being brainwashed into the idea of Wilford being the ultimate ruler.  It has a sense of irony in it. 

SONG KANG-HO:  It’s very symbolic because the teacher has a new life in her belly. 

What was it like to work on such an international project?

KO ASUNG:  Prior to Snowpiercer, I’ve done many other international project that forced me to be in an environment where I had to converse in English.  While I was preparing myself for this project, specifically, I had to practice the dialogue to familiarize myself with it. 

SONG KANG-HO:  For me, rather than the language, the Hollywood system of making movies was a tremendous learning experience.  That was the main thing that I took away from the project.

What sort of feedback have you gotten from people who have already seen the film?

SONG KANG-HO:  Director Bong is one of the most renowned filmmakers in Korea, so a lot of the audience was waiting for his next project and the response was greatly positive when the film was released in Korea.

snowpiercer-ko-asungDid you have any moments where you got starstruck, working with the actors in this film?

SONG KANG-HO:  I was already a fan of Chris Evans.  To work with international talent like Tilda Swinton and John Hurt was definitely an exciting and inspiring experience.  

KO ASUNG:  I was already a fan of all of the Hollywood actors, and I was already familiar with their previous work.  I would have to put a mind control on myself and have to tell myself not to have those moments because I had to work with them.   

SONG KANG-HO:  Something that I was particularly amazed by was how everything is perfectly prepared in the Hollywood production system, before going into shooting.  In Korea, the production experience is usually that things are prepared, but at the location, things are constantly being worked out.  Compared to that, working on Snowpiercer, it was amazing to see how everything was already thought out and prepared, before going into shooting.

Actor Song, how do you go about choosing your characters?

SONG KANG-HO:  The main reason for choosing a project is not really the renown of the director that’s making the project.  I feel like it’s the fact of an actor to constantly want to do different things.  I want to try new creative things and find refreshing stories.  That’s how I’ve come to choose the roles that I’ve done. 

Snowpiercer opens in theaters on June 27th.

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  • Gollum

    Snowpiercer was kind of ruined for me when the mentioned the train was powered by a perpetual motion engine. If they really had that technology, which would provide easy limitless engergy for all, you could heat the frozen cities, repopulate the world, etc. etc. You wouldn’t need some farcical last resort global train.

    • Nitpicky

      Maybe the film is trying to say something in that choice about the abuse of power and technology from a singular person’s esoteric and ignorant ideas, over those that may be offered and thought-out by committee for the betterment and satisfaction of all over the one.

      • Jeff Baxter

        I think they just wanted to set the movie on some post-apocalyptic super train for dramatic and storyline reasons, and they kind of half-assessed the science explanation after the fact so that people who weren’t paying attention would think it was legitimate science fiction (versus a fantasy movie).

      • Nitpicky

        I think there was more to the setting than “dramatic and storyline reasons” – i.e: the setting provides a perfect microcosm of our own world, admittedly simplified for the purposes of a two-hour drama on the nature of modern man and civilization.

        I repeat, maybe the film is trying to say something in that choice about the abuse
        of power and technology from a singular person’s esoteric and ignorant
        ideas, over those that may be offered and thought-out by committee for
        the betterment and satisfaction of all over the one.

        Maybe you just weren’t watching the film as the socio-political commentary it is.

      • MJ

        Sure, its a great “cautionary fantasy” like Munchhausen or Up. Not science fiction though. The world building doesn’t pass the objective person’s bullshit filter.

        Good fantasy movie though, with good socio-political commentary, as you correctly point out. But you can’t compare this Children of Man — that is a true science fiction movie.

      • Nitpicky

        I didnt compare it to anything.

      • MJ

        I agree 100%. The world building was just not believable.

    • Jeff Baxter

      I agree completely. Having perpetual motion energy not only would save the world (it would support even reheating the atmosphere), but would allow relatively easy colonization of the solar system. It would be the single greatest technological advance since man discovered fire.

      • MJ

        ” Having perpetual motion energy not only would save the world (it would support even reheating the atmosphere), but would allow relatively easy colonization of the solar system. It would be the single greatest technological advance since man discovered fire.”

        Y E P ! ! !

        Such a train as in this movie would never need to be built if you had that revolutionary energy technology. You could reverse the weather damage and fix the world with that technology. It would be better than discovering Cold Fusion.

        Limitless energy for all — no dumb-ass Super Thomas the Train needed…LOL

      • Nitpicky

        Maybe the film is trying to say something in that choice about the abuse
        of power and technology from a singular person’s esoteric and ignorant
        ideas, over those that may be offered and thought-out by committee for
        the betterment and satisfaction of all over the one.

    • MJ

      Same deal for me. It’s a fantasy movie, not science fiction. The marketing and reviews were misleading. They should have been saying stuff like the best cautionary fantasy since Baron Munchhausen and Up. It can’t be compared to Children of Men, because that movie was truly science fiction.

      There was no real thought or logic behind the world building in this movie to make it into a credible future. Therefore, it’s a fantasy. A good fantasy for sure, but this is not science fiction.

      • Jamaica Knauer

        Actually there was plenty of thought behind the film. Watch the film that was there on the screen, instead complaining about the one you expected to see, but didn’t.

    • varagor

      I suggest you still watch the film. Who knows, you might be surprised by the perpetual engine…

  • GrimReaper07

    Amazing actor. Didn’t know that Ko Asung played his daughter in The Host as well.

  • D

    oh my god song kang ho is such an amazing actor! I knew there was something super familiar about the daughter character!

  • Jamaica Knauer

    “Snowpiercer” was another marvelous picture, in a string of great pictures from a great director. Thanks a million, to Christina for providing a interview with the overlooked (by the American media) Korean stars of the film. Ko Ah-Sung was amazing in “The Host,” and Song Kang-Ho is the biggest reason I had to see the film. He never disappoints me.

  • Jamaica Knauer

    “Snowpiercer” was another marvelous picture, in a string of great pictures from a great director. Thanks a million, to Christina for providing a interview with the overlooked (by the American media) Korean stars of the film. Ko Ah-Sung was amazing in “The Host,” and Song Kang-Ho is the biggest reason I had to see the film. He never disappoints me.

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