Korean director frustrated with Hollywood system

Korean film director Kim Jee Woon

KOREA - It seems that his first foray into Hollywood wasn't so easy for famed director Kim Jee-woon.

"Hollywood may not be so great for (Korean) filmmakers," said the director, after the press premiere of his Hollywood debut "The Last Stand" in Seoul on Wednesday.

Kim, best known for his 2003 horror "A Tale of Two Sisters" and 2010 thriller "I Saw the Devil," is back with a $30-million English-language film featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead.

Directing the action flick in the US was "lonely" and "extremely challenging," mostly because he had a hard time getting used to the Hollywood system of filmmaking, he said.

Unlike the Korean film industry, where directors make most of the decisions for their films, working in Hollywood required Kim to persuade everyone at the shoot, including the producer and the actors, whenever he wanted to make changes to the initial plans that were finalized during the pre-production phase.

"I tend to get a lot of good ideas while shooting the scenes on the set," Kim said. "But it was very difficult to apply any of these ideas to the movie, or try something new spontaneously, because you are required to get the crew's approval if you want to make changes to the already finalized shooting schedule.

"Every single detail is pre-arranged. Even when you feel like you are really going to get the scene you want after one or two more tries, you'd have to stop when your given time is over," he continued. "Everyone just stops immediately when it's lunch time."

Working with his assistant directors was also a whole new experience in Hollywood.

"In Korea, their job is to understand the director's vision for the movie and do everything it takes to make it a reality," he said. "In Hollywood, their job is to manage the shooting schedule and logistics of the production, and make sure everything gets done on time."

The upcoming movie is about an American sheriff (played by Schwarzenegger) working in a small, sleepy border town who chases a notorious kingpin who escaped from an FBI prisoner convoy. Schwarzenegger, who turns 66 in July, is playing his first leading film role in nearly a decade.

"Schwarzenegger is an icon," Kim said. "He is the American action hero. But I wanted the sheriff to be an old, father-like figure who has returned to his small hometown, after many years of working hard, appreciating a peaceful, slower life. I wanted to create a realistic portrait of an aging man who fights his last battle, instead of a perfect hero. This movie was possible because Schwarzenegger was happy with this idea during the first meeting we had, at his glamorous house."

A CJ Entertainment release, "The Last Stand" opens in local theatres on Feb. 21.

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