Lee Jun Ho: From stalked to stalker

If she could tail any of her fellow cast members in the movie Cold Eyes, Korean actress Han Hyo Joo says that it would be singer Lee Jun Ho of boyband 2PM.

She adds with a laugh: "In the hope that by looking at him and following him, I can get a glimpse of the other 2PM members."

The boyish-looking Lee, who says he "learnt a lot from this movie, thanks to the help from the senior actors", hopes his singing career will not overshadow his big-screen debut.

"I hope 2PM fans will look at me as a new actor just making his debut instead of as a singer," says the 23-year-old.

As a member of the popular boy band, which made their debut in 2008, he would be familiar with the theme of his first movie: stalking, except he, who plays a cop in a police surveillance team, is doing the stalking on the big screen instead of being trailed by fans.

Cold Eyes is a remake of the acclaimed Hong Kong film Eye In The Sky (2007), which earned seven nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards, winning two (Best New Director for Yau Nai Hoi and Best New Artist for actress Kate Tsui). It opens here on Thursday.

Han, 26, plays a rookie in the surveillance team and award-winning actor Seol Kyung Gu, her gruff leader. They are after the elusive ringleader portrayed by top actor Jung Woo Sung. Han, Jung and Lee, along with writer-director Cho Ui Seok, were in Singapore last Friday to promote the film.

Bachelor Jung, 40, focuses on the positive uses of surveillance. If he were to do it, he says, it would be "maybe at the door of a girlfriend's house - when- ever she walks in and out, there could be danger waiting for her. Just for her safety".

He cheekily repeats the word "safety" in English and draws air quotation marks around it.

The dapper 1.86m-tall former model is relaxed and friendly, the total opposite of the ruthlessly efficient James he plays in the film.

Taking on a villain's role for the first time marks a departure for him as Jung has often been cast as the romantic lead in films such as A Moment To Remember (2004) and Daisy (2006).

Yet writer-director Cho, 37, never saw the actor in that pigeonhole: "To me, he's not someone who has that stereotypical goody image, but someone who has tried a lot as an actor."

Indeed, Jung says he was won over by the character of James as "the one who controls the tension and flow of the first half of the film". His reference point for the role was Alain Delon in the French crime thriller Le Samourai (1967) as he "was looking for a calm and classy feel".

Those are big shoes to fill and he admits it: "It's probably more difficult to play a cold-blooded role, but in the case of playing a loving character, no acting is needed."

Jung is not the only one playing against type. In person, the pretty Han is demurely elegant. For her role, she had to be tough and intense.

She says: "In contrast to the feminine and calm roles I had played before, this was a tougher character who is in control and I could show a new side of me."

Han is best known for the Cinderella drama Brilliant Legacy, one of the top-rated dramas in 2009. The cop she plays in Cold Eyes had a distinctive physical tic of drumming her fingers. She says: "When I was filming, I picked up this habit, but now it's gone."

Given that the film has been a hit in South Korea with more than 5.5 million admissions, it seems that there would be interest in a sequel.

Cho says: "That would depend on the availability of the actors. If we can get a lot of attention and love, why not?"

So would Jung be available? He says with a laugh: "Depending on the pay cheque."

bchan@sph.com.sg

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