Hollywood movies

Korean stars make Hollywood films famous

Ha Ji-won, left to right, Lee Byung-hun and Soo Hyun. Including them, a growing number of Korean actors have had the opportunity to star with global movie stars in Hollywood films this year. / Korea Time Files

A record number of actors will play major roles in US blockbusters

By Park Si-soo

Are Korean actors increasingly sought after in Hollywood, or is it just a coincidence that a record number of them will get the opportunity to star in Hollywood movies this year?

So far, five Korean actors – Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-sik, Jung Ji-hoon, Bae Doo-na, Soo Hyun – are set to star in a Hollywood movie or are waiting for their movie to be released.

Lee Byung-hun is set to appear in the Hollywood blockbuster “Terminator: Genesis”, in which he will star with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke and Emilia Clarke among others. He will leave for the United States later this month to begin filming in early May, according to his management agency BH Entertainment. It’s unclear what role he’ll be playing, but rumor has it it’ll be something of a “doozy.”

The fifth sequel to the acclaimed 1984 sci-fi action film ‘The Terminator’, is Lee’s fourth casting in a Hollywood film, following ‘GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ (2009), ‘GI Joe : Retaliation” (2013) and “RED 2” (2013).

His next casting call was announced last Tuesday, about a month after actress Kim Soo-hyun was confirmed to star in another Hollywood blockbuster “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” currently filming in Korea. Her exact role in the film is unknown, but an unidentified Marvel official said in a report that Kim may be playing a doctor with ties to Ultron, who is in charge of the medical care of Tony Stark (Iron Man).

Ha Ji-won, left to right, Lee Byung-hun and Soo Hyun.  Including them, a growing number of Korean actors have had the opportunity to star with global movie stars in Hollywood films this year.  / Korea Time Files
Choi Min Sik

It’s a “substantial” supporting role that’s more than just a background character, the manager said.

Veteran actor Choi Min-sik, known for his acclaimed role in ‘Oldboy’, starred with Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman and Analeigh Tipton in acclaimed French director Luc Besson’s sci-fi film ‘Lucy’. The film’s trailer debuted online last Thursday, in which Choi portrays a middle executive of a drug trafficking syndicate in Taiwan who is pursuing the protagonist “Lucy” played by Johansson. The film will be released in theaters nationwide in August.

K-pop singer and actor Jung Ji-hoon, better known as Rain, recently wrapped filming for his second Hollywood movie “The Prince.” He made his Hollywood debut in 2008 in “Speed ​​Racer.” In the new film, he stars alongside Bruce Willis, John Cusack and Jason Patric. “The Prince” should be released at the end of the year.

Actress Bae Doo-na’s second Hollywood film “Jupiter Ascending” will be released in July. The first American film she appeared in was “Cloud Atlas” (2012), a sci-fi epic in which she appeared alongside major Hollywood stars such as Tom Hanks and Halle Berry. Both films were directed by acclaimed American sibling directing duo Andy and Lana Wachowski.


Actress Ha Ji-won is expected to enter the American film scene in the near future. In August last year, she signed a contract with the United Talent Agency (UTA) which represents Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford, Gwenyth Paltrow and other top Hollywood actors. It was the first time a Korean actor had signed with the agency.

Her UTA reps are said to be eyeing international roles in film and TV as well as digital media and endorsements for the actress known for her roles on the big and small screens, including Korean TV drama internationally acclaimed “Secret Garden,” period drama “Hwang Jini,” and the big-budget monster movie “Sector 7.” They are also considering co-productions between Korea and the United States.

Actor Ha Jung-woo has openly stated that he will go to Hollywood with his own work. He played leading roles in several hit films such as “The Terror Live” (2013), “The Yellow Sea” (2010) and “The Chaser” (2008), and made his directorial debut with the comedy film “Fisten Your Seatbelt” in 2013.

“Watching a Korean-directed movie, ‘Snowpiercer,’ which employs Hollywood personnel, I thought there was no reason to wait any longer,” Ha said in an interview published by the cinema magazine “Max Movie” last October. “So I plan to go to Hollywood with my own work, even if it wouldn’t be as big as ‘Snowpiercer,’ with my own style.”

Ha continued, “I already collaborate with a production company in Hollywood. A screenwriter is working on a script with me as the main character in a movie.”

He said, “Instead of a rushed collaboration, I plan to make an independent American film using American personnel and actors. My plan is to make a film that would sell in the United States.” He cited “Juno” (2007) and “District 9” (2009) as successful models.

English matters

Film pundits say the ability to speak fluent English is the common factor among those who landed Hollywood roles recently.

“It’s always uncomfortable for me to speak in English. But I try to improve it through trial and error,” Lee Byung-hun said in a TV interview last July. He is said to have improved his command of English through private lessons and informal conversations with foreign English-speaking friends.

Jung Ji-hoon is known to have learned English from actor Lee Bum-soo’s wife, Lee Yoon-jin, a professional Korean-English interpreter.

“I started teaching him (Rain) with his US debut just 100 days away,” said performer Lee. “At the time, he didn’t have enough time to learn English step by step, so my teaching was focused on how to convey ‘key messages’ in English in interviews there. In fact , there’s no problem capturing a speaker’s key message with just a few words or phrases.”

Bae Doo-na seems to be another English learner by trial and error like actor Lee. “I performed in ‘Cloud Atlas’ with the English that I learned during my high school years,” Bae said in an interview last year. “I managed to film my scenes through countless trials and errors. Many who watched the film think that I am fluent in English, but I really am not. I still feel bad comfortable speaking in English.”

After the production, she stayed in London for six months to learn English, according to her management agency.