‘Squid Game’ Is a Global Hit, but South Korean Star Lee Jung-jae Says Hollywood Isn’t Calling Him Yet (EXCLUSIVE)

“But, if the right one came along, I’d be happy to be in an overseas production. It could be fun.” “No proposals or requests have come my way,” he told Variety.
I’m not sure how much that matters. That makes me feel very at home. “There are always questions about whether something is better as a film or as a series. These days in Korea, many series of ten episodes or less are being made by writers and directors from the film scene. Maybe as an actor I should do more series, explore some more.” What is important is whether the script fits the form, whether the story is entertaining and captivating,” he says. “We are living at a time when an actor can choose freely between the two. But series are naturally longer, which gives you more time to develop a character.
He is currently producing and making his feature directing debut on “Namsun,” a Korean-language spy thriller that he got caught up in after buying the rights and rewriting the screenplay. Lee, who has used the fruits of his past success to become entrepreneurial and venture into restaurants, property and interior design, says he increasingly wants to focus on acting.
But if a good opportunity presented itself, of course I’d be open to it.”” /> "After I turned 40, I felt my stamina dropping, and rationalized that I should just focus on one thing, and I decided to focus on acting alone,” he says with a grin. For now, I don’t have any plans to do an overseas project. “Now that I’m nearly 50, I feel it more. And I’ve decided that I’ll only do one job at a time.
Top South Korean actor Lee Jung-jae is thoroughly enjoying the extra burnish to his already distinguished career that has come from the global success of “Squid Game,” Netflix’s hit survival game TV series. However, he says that the phone is not ringing off the hook with new offers from Hollywood.
And Lee says that “Squid Game” has opened his eyes to the options. The global streaming giants are now engaged in a race to secure long-term supply deals with Korean producers and content suppliers. Korean films have grabbed the global spotlight thanks to titles like “Old Boy,” “Snowpiercer” and Oscar winner “Parasite.” But within Asia, Korean TV drama has long been regarded as the gold standard, combining creativity, classy performances and high production standards. That makes it an exciting time to be in the Korean screen industry.
“I didn’t expect this kind of success at all when I first boarded ‘Squid Game’ as a project. But when I read the script, I understood that it contained elements that could resonate with everyone and work outside of Korea,” says Lee.
Industry gossip says that Lee is now the most bankable actor in Korea, but he shakes off the idea that he has been fundamentally changed by “Squid Game.”
His credits include “Il Mare,” “The Housemaid,” “New World” and 2020’s “Deliver Us From Evil.” It was a role that Lee accepted with relish after a more than two-decade career, in which he played romantic leads early on but lately has been cast as austere princes, killers and crooks.
Lee may have been playing against type for too long. Independent producer Jonathan Kim, who has known Lee since he was 19, says “He thoroughly deserves the success he’s enjoying with ‘Squid Game.’ It couldn’t happen to a nicer person.”
“[Hwang] is very capable of building characters from the ground upwards, which is why when the characters have to take big decisions, they are believable. “[Hwang’s] success comes from being very detailed about explaining the characters, their roles and their feelings. Sadness wears many different faces and [in 'Squid Game'] the characters’ different sadnesses can easily be felt by viewers,” says Lee. And it is why the audience is willing to believe in the show’s climactic ending. It is actually touching.”
Lee says he was also attracted to “Squid Game” by the stellar track record of writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk, whose feature films include historical action drama “The Fortress” and the much-remade body-swap musical comedy “Miss Granny.”
His affability and carefully crafted backstory make him an easy-to-like protagonist who faces an evil organization that its literally playing with people’s lives. Lee plays Gi-hun, a penniless wastrel who gambles too much, steals from his family, gets beaten up by loan sharks and accepts a mysterious invitation to become contender #456 in the deadly competition.
When I was younger, I was curious about other trades. I still like acting the best and intend to focus on that," he says. But it has been quite a while since I was involved in those things." I wanted to see other parts of the world, try things out. “Just because I’m doing the director’s job on this film doesn’t mean I’m going to be giving up acting.
This was possibly the first time I’ve played a character with such a range,” says Lee. “Nothing much has changed for me as an actor. It has a large spectrum, which any actor would want to try out at least once in his career. But Gi-hun’s character changes a lot over the course of the show.

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