From K-drama pretty boy to brutal gangster

SEOUL - Actor Lee Min Ho is known for his roles as a wealthy pretty boy in many Korean drama serials. So, when audiences catch him as an orphan-turned-mobster in his upcoming film, Gangnam Blues, they might be in for a shock.

"I haven't really played a lot of impoverished characters," the actor said during a news conference on Tuesday, on his role in the noir action film about the tumultuous history of real estate development behind Seoul's most famous district.

"Mostly, I'm depicted as that guy from a really rich family, so I doubt audiences will be able to immediately adjust to my character. But I just hope that people will be curious to see the transformation."

Ridden with bloodshed and brutal murder scenes, Gangnam Blues, also called Gangnam 1970 in South Korea, portrays two brothers' struggles amid the country's sociopolitical turmoil and corruption in the 1970s.

"I think there is a sense of violence deep inside all human beings," the actor replied when asked about his numerous fight sequences. "Playing this role, it was the first time I had to tap into my own inner cruelty. It was definitely mentally gruelling."

Well known for roles in hit series The Heirs and City Hunter, Lee focused primarily on TV roles prior to this movie.

"It is my first time playing a lead on the big screen," he said. "I think TV acting and film acting are two quite different processes, so I tried to rid myself of my past acting habits."

While Lee has performed minor roles in such movies as Public Enemy Returns and Our School's E.T., it is his first time playing the lead.

"Rather than trying too hard, I tried to relax and focus on portraying the character," Lee said when asked about the pressures of playing the protagonist.

He also commented on the family-like atmosphere of the crew on set.

"I'm a pretty good judge of character. When I see someone for the first time, I can usually size them up - tell whether they're nice people and so on. And the whole cast for our movie, as soon as I met them, I just felt like they were good people. Actor Jung Jin Young, for example, I called him 'dad' on set. I've been a big and long-time admirer of actor Kim Rae Won, as I've told him several times. That made for a pleasant filming experience."

Gangnam Blues, directed by Yoo Ha and starring Lee, Kim, Jung and girl group AOA member Kim Seol Hyun, will open in South Korean theatres on Jan 21. The film is slated to hit Singapore screens on Jan 29.