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.
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.
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.
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.