"Manhunt" star Ha Ji-won was recently in Malaysia to promote the John Woo action thriller.
She grew up watching John Woo movies, idolising Chow Yun-fat in his action roles. Fast forward two decades into her acting career, South Korean star Ha Ji-won is now starring in a John Woo movie herself and even earning the moniker 'the female Chow Yun-fat' from the renowned director.
The 39-year-old can currently be seen in "Manhunt" playing the character Rain, the first ever female assassin in a John Woo movie.
Some Malaysian fans might remember the actress from her previous visit 15 years ago, when she came over to promote her movie "Phone". This time around, she returns to promote her latest action thriller, a remake of the 1976 Ken Takakura-starrer "Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare" and Woo's tribute to the late Japanese actor.
"Manhunt" features Ha Ji-won in the intense role of an assassin.
In a recent press conference with the media in Kuala Lumpur, the actress revealed that she started preparing for the role three months ahead of the filming schedule by strength training and working with a ballet teacher to hone her flexibility. She would focus on her preparation to avoid getting injured while filming.
Her prep allows her to film most of her stunt scenes on her own, though she admits that she would use a stuntwoman for the more dangerous stunts.
Read on below to see what the "Manhunt" star told Cinema Online when asked about working with John Woo on "Manhunt":
Ha Ji-won says she is honoured to be the first ever female assassin in a John Woo movie.
Cinema Online: How did you get cast for the role of Rain?
Ha Ji-won: I am signed under a company called Media Asia in Hong Kong and that company gave me the opportunity to meet director John Woo. Then I also got to read their script about this movie "Manhunt". When I first saw this character Rain, it is the very first female killer in director John Woo's movie so there was no reason to reject this role.
Rain is a character that was not in the novel so there was no reference for you, how did you prepare to play her?
I grew up watching John Woo's movies. Before this, I re-watched all his movies again. I watched the ones starring Leslie Chang and Chow Yun Fat and follow his direction on the set.
John Woo's daughter, Angeles, was also a female killer in the movie. How was it like working with her?
It was my first time working together with Angeles Woo and we really became good friends right after we started acting together. We have a great chemistry, like we grew up together in the first place. But, of course, she is the daughter of John Woo, and the director and the daughter being on the set together, that was such a cool experience, so there were times I was a little bit jealous, seeing the way he was looking at Angeles with a warm look.
It must have been quite an experience to be able to work with a director you've looked up to?
My heart was pounding as I went to meet him. The moment the door opened, there was an aura around him, like a light behind him [laughs]. When I sat down next to him, obviously I felt the charisma from him but when I got to know him in person, he was actually very sweet, very nice. So on the set with him, there was still this charisma from him when he was directing us but when we were off the set, he was very romantic, sweet, and he smiled a lot and really took care of all the actors.
You said before that John Woo's action scenes are a lot like dancing?
When I grew up watching his movie, I was so impressed by the scene with the double-gun shooting, it really looked as if it was dancing to music. One scene where Leslie Chang was flipping his jacket, that really looked like a dance movement to me as well. I actually thought that all his action scenes are like flowing water that's very beautiful.
Ha Ji-won likens director John Woo's action scenes to dancing.
If you get to work with John Woo again, is there another role you would like to try?
I'm more curious to know what kind of role he would assign to me [laughs].
Any thoughts on who you would want to work with next?
I just finished my Korean drama "Hospital Ship", so I don't have any concrete plan of my next project and haven't thought about who I would like to work with for the time being. But with "Manhunt", I got to experience working with international artistes and I could really learn a lot from them in terms of their culture, their mindset, so that was such a cool experience. I would like to work with international artistes if I get another chance.
Was it difficult to handle the language barrier while filming an international project?
When we were filming the movie, every actor and actress had his or her own translator, so there wasn't much difficulty communicating but whenever the actor and actresses were together, we could translate for each other as well. There were four different languages being spoken: Korean, Japanese, Chinese and English. So it was a unique experience. We bonded while translating for each other, it helped us be closer to each other.