“I think it is not important if an actor has a lot of or little experience. It is important to have a sense of anxiety while you are portraying your character. While at times the audience may not be convinced even if you perform with anxiety, I think it is right to always think about how you are going to carry out the role with concern. This is because I do not like to embarrass myself.”
Seol Gyeong-Gu, who starred in the movie ‘Memoir of a Murderer’, recently said at a cafe in Samcheong-dong, Seoul, “I find it hard to watch the productions I am in. This is because there are times when I am too embarrassed of myself. In this movie, while I am not fully satisfied, I am not embarrassed either.”
In ‘Memoir of a Murderer’, Seol Gyeong-Gu took on the role of a retired serial killer named Byung-Su who lost his memory from Alzheimer’s. He played a character that is actually 10 years older than his real age without any special makeup but through extreme weight loss. Moreover, he expressed the chaos that he had to go through between reality and delusion in a momentary change in his eyes. It is a result of the great amount of pain and anxiety he went through mentally and physically.
“Personally I believe that the first scene of the movie is the most important part of the movie. This is because if I cannot convince the audience with my physical traits as soon as I appear on screen, it would decrease the credibility of the movie. While we also talked about using special makeup, but I felt like that wasn’t right. On the big screen, it seemed like the special makeup would show. So I said, ‘I will try to get old.’ The first thing I did was remove the fats from my body.”
As a person who had lost and gained over 10 kg for a series of productions such as ‘Rikidozan: A Hero Extraordinary’, ‘Oasis’, ‘Public Enemy’, and more, he drove himself to lose weight once again. He went to the extremes. Before the production of the movie, he went down to Daejeon, where the movie started filming, to live alone in an inn.
“Before the filming began, I sent my manager back to Seoul and stayed alone at the last minute. On the first day of the shoot, the director looked at my face and said, ‘What’s wrong with your face?’ He seemed worried but happy at the same time. At that time, I thought, ‘I was ready for my role’. During the shoot, I was very sensitive to every little thing I heard. I went to Seoul for a while and when I returned, the staff would say, ‘You look better’ and that made me nervous. This nervousness drove me to start do jump rope workout on an empty stomach. I think I kept being suspicious of myself during the shoot.”
Seol Gyeong-Gu had fallen into anxiety as an actor because his recent films failed to appear successively in the entertainment industry. At that time, the ‘Memoir of a Murderer’ came into his life. It was a difficult character as he had to play a retired serial killer with Alzheimer’s.
“I think I played a similar character with a similar voice for a number of years. There was a time when I thought ‘I am finished with one production and now I am in another production’. However, I felt like if I continued in this manner, I was soon going to disappear. Just as I was going through this phase, I was given a role in the ‘Memoir of a Murderer’. I accepted the role without any hesitation. I was grateful for it. While Byung-Su was a difficult character to play, he is a character that relieved some of my troubles.”
However, ‘Memoir of a Murderer’ also came with pressure as it was originally based on Kim Young-Ha’s novel. Sul Kyung-gu said, “I just decided to focus on the character without worrying about the original novel too much.”
“While I read the novel, it was more urgent to figure out what kind of character Byung-Su was. The original novel did not dominate me. I had a lot of thoughts during the time of the shoot. I kept worrying about things, which prevented me from sleeping. So I asked a lot questions to director Won Shin-Yun. After a scene was shot and it was being monitored, I had a lot of questions, such as, ‘Will the audience be able to become convinced through this scene?” It was just a series of worries.”
Seol Gyeong-Gu, who has been active for 25 years, still finds acting difficult. When he first sees the movie he played a role in, he holds both hands tightly together as he watches the film. While he has been acting all this time, he is still worried about it.
“I want to be an actor who has a lot of characters. I want people to say, ‘that actor has a lot of characters’ rather than just being Seol Gyeong-Gu. I want to leave my marks through a lot of memorable characters,” said the actor.
Translated by Choi Na Ri