Shooting his second Hollywood film required a number of things of actor Lee Byung-hun, including mastering every script line in a perfect American accent and getting used to the extremely strict shooting schedule.
The hallyu megastar is returning as the famously heroic "Storm Shadow" character in his upcoming sci-fi film "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," which is a sequel to the 2009 picture "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra."
"In Korea, things can be flexible if an actor is sick or isn't in his or her best condition," Lee told reporters in a press meeting promoting his upcoming action in southern Seoul, Wednesday.
"So if you are seriously ill, you can re-schedule your shooting schedule. But that's simply not the case in Hollywood. The production cost for each and every shooting day is just colossal there, so even if you've broken your leg you'd still have to show up at the set. Everything is pre-planned in every single detail, so you'd always start and finish each day's work on time. I found the system very efficient, but also a bit scary and intimidating at times."
Both the 2009 and the upcoming films are based on American board game company Hasbro's toy and cartoon series. While Lee is returning as the same Storm Shadow, the heroic character who works as a ninja bodyguard in the first film, other casts and director have been changed.
The upcoming picture is directed by Jon M. Chu, while starring top Hollywood actors Bruce Willis and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson along with Lee. The hallyu star said shooting the sequel was certainly easier than the first one, but the language barrier and getting used to the strict schedule were still a challenge for him to overcome.
"I'd memorize each and every line perfectly before going to the shoot," the actor told reporters.
"But I'd just forget every line ? literally every single line ? when I'm told that I've pronounced one word wrong while acting. Having to think that I somehow have to fix my pronunciation for that one word would just make me totally lost at the set. There's a huge difference between making conversation in a foreign language and acting in a foreign language. I feel the most comfortable when I perform for pieces that are based on Korean culture. So I can't help but feel that I could've done better if this were a Korean movie."
Though he felt it was too "strict" at times, Lee said the efficient Hollywood system offers a lot to learn.
"Compared to Korean movies, pre-production phase is much longer for Hollywood films," said Lee. "Because they perfectly plan out everything in advance, the actual production period is a lot shorter. I think it's a lot more efficient that way and maybe things can be done in a similar way here."
When a reporter asked if it bothers Lee in any way that his Storm Shadow character can be seen as another American stereotype of Asian men, the actor said he thought the character was "something that he had to do" in his foray into Hollywood.
"I didn't necessarily decide to play this character because I loved it so much," Lee said. "Right now I'm not given with a lot of choices in Hollywood. I thought this character was something that I had to do in my first steps of breaking into their world. And maybe I will be given with more choices once I do this character very well, though he maybe another Asian male stereotype."
The top actor was reported to be dating popular actress Lee Min-jeong earlier this month. Both he and Lee denied the reports. Prior to the press meeting, reporters were asked not to ask him any "personal questions" and inquire only about the upcoming movie.
Lee is currently shooting his first period drama "King of Joseon," which is slated to be released in late fall.
"G.I. Joe: Retaliation," opens in local theaters on June 21.