[Interview] ‘Midnight Runners’ Kang Haneul, the Golden Actor Wary of Competition


[by Kim Young Jae] “My first goal is to just break even.”

When a movie premiers, promotion activities are carried out to support the movie. The company investors, the directing of the director, the actor’s acting, to receive recognition for each of their efforts and labor; they need an audience to watch and critique. Thus the people who appear in the movie need to go through a rough schedule. These people who meet various media, repeat the same talk, and even answer impish questions, they are actors.

In the midst of a reporter asked if he was tired, actor Kang Haneul said no and waved. And the 3 characters of Kang Haneul’s name were engraved onto the reporter’s recorder. In his interview for ‘New Trial’ he also took care of the convenience of the other person in the case that they could me mixed up by his voice and another interviewee. His consideration melts wariness and softens the atmosphere. Kang Haneul, a.k.a. ‘moving story machine’, even in public work, he doesn’t hold back his moving stories and met us on the afternoon of July 26th at Seoul Jongro-gu Samcheong-ro 2gil at a café.

Last time it was winter and now it is summer. Kang Haneul works no matter what season it is. His new movie is ‘Midnight Runners (Director Kim Joo Hwan). It is a work that tells the story of two police academy students who besides their biological age and good looks have nothing in common and end up seeing a crime and running around in the dead of night. The endless running in the middle of the night is because of the English title ‘Midnight Runners’ (Korean literal title is ‘Young Cops’). In order to solve the case the two men run and run. Perhaps running symbolizes the movement of youth.

In a nutritious supplement drink ad, actor Gosoo ran and ran in order to express a youth that was protecting something. It was an ad of 1999 when a new millennium was about to come. It has been 18 years but youth is still in the middle of running.

It’s not just running, ‘Midnight Runners’ is a movie full of youth and vigor. We have to mention ‘Twenty’ among Kang Haneul’s filmography.

“When I was filming I felt the same feeling as when I filmed ‘Twenty’. The script is also similar to ‘Twenty’. I laughed the whole time while reading. I thought ‘this is awesome!’ It’s not a script full of funny dialogue or words. The timing of the dialogue or wit here and there made me really pleased. So I asked the director. ‘Director, do you possibly know Lee Byung Hun?’ Thus ‘Oh! Yes I know him well!’ he answered. I thought ‘I met a lot of people are similar to me’. (laughs)

‘Twenty and ‘Midnight Runners’. Their stories are different but they are similar in the fact they are full of youth. However this can arouse déjà vu for the audience. Aren’t they worried? He said that he isn’t concerned with strategic choices. “I’ve never chosen a work with stratetic thinking like ‘this is a different image from my past work.’ I just read a script and if it’s interesting I take it. But ‘Midnight Runners’ came up after ‘Twenty’. How interesting a script is of the first importance to me.”

The two sides of ‘Midnight Runner’ are Kang Haneul and Park Seo Joon. Actors Sung Do Il and Park Ha Sun portray the roles of Professor Yang and Disciplinary Chief Joo Hee but 90% of the fil is created by the two ‘youth actors’. In ‘Midnight Runners’, Kang Haneul is theoretical police academy student Hee Yeol and Park Seo Joon is motivated police academy student Ki Joon. They both are passionate but Ki Joon is only action and Hee Yeol uses his learning.

It’s a formal question to ask about Kang Haneul and Park Seo Joon’s chemistry but we had to ask about the strong points of his colleague actor in this movie. “When I first met Seo Joon hyeong my first impression was ‘This person is full of confidence.’ Something about him was dignified and confident. I wondered if he acted full of confidence too and as expected it was true. No matter what dialogue or situation, he acted full of confidence as if ‘I always do this well’.

We asked if confidence was his driving force in acting to Kang Haneul who thought that a big advantage of actors is their confidence. “I don’t know about confidence. I just do things as I feel like. It may not be exposed yet but I think ‘At this moment, at this time, at this place, doing this action in front of this person is correct’ while I act. That’s how it is.”

Kang Haneul was born in 1990, Park Seo Joon was born in 1988, and Director Kim Joo Hwan was born in 1981. As they are their 20s and 30s this is a key role in making this work in which we are interested in the differences that makes them apart from other filming sites. Artists who live youthfully are under the public’s eyes, but body and mind are a different aspect, the invisible glass wall is time’s layers that cover humanity.

“In a lot of aspects I have the confidence of not being afraid of harm. There were challenges. There is a lot of dialogue from ‘Overwatch’. For example, words that only we know such as ‘Bbang-ya’(bang). There are parts that may also fail. The audience may feel like ‘What’s that?’ But the director and we were also like ‘Ah. I don’t know. Let’s just try it!’ and challenged it. I matched with a young director so I think that was a little different.”

‘Overwatch’ and gritty ‘Starcraft’ are hyper FPS games that are once again taking the nation’s PC bang by storm. When we asked if he actually plays ‘Overwatch’ he answered, “I play sometimes.” After mentioning the ‘quick game’ section of ‘Overwatch’, he burst out laughing. “I play it sometimes. During filming I played a lot. To be honest I really like playing games. However I don’t really like competitive games. I don’t really like fights where you have to kill someone else. At that time people around me all said to play ‘Overwatch’ and so I quietly followed and began. The nature of the game is competitive so it was hard to think ‘I have to kill that person’. Lately I don’t really play.”

Is it because of the fact that the topic is youth? There is a lot of cursing in the film. It is constantly expressed. We understand Director Kim Joo Hwan’s intention. Generally it is taboo but cursing is usually used among people you are close with in daily life. Even so, we were curious. Were they worried about dislike of cursing just like they were worried about the non-universal dialogue of ‘Overwatch’?

Kang Haneul expressed his regret, “On the contrary we reduced the cursing so it was regrettable.” “We thought that people might think that it’s too excessive and so we reduced it a little. Even though we cursed we avoided extremely precise curses. I don’t know if this will come out in articles. Thus such as dialogue like ‘#bangsae (fortress that enemies cannot invade), we toned down the dialogue little by little. But in reality it’s not really like that. When I gathered my friends and when I talked to the director, I told him my friends don’t use words like this. But the director said, ‘We can’t do anything about it. We have to reduce it. It’s too strong.”

We asked about the keynotes of acting as Hee Yeol. Summarized as a ‘theoretical police academy student’, Hee Yeol is a gifted person from a science high school. While his friends chose the path of going to Korean Advanced Institute For Science and Technology (KAIST), he took an abnormal route by applying for a police academy. Is it because he’s smart? Is it because he has a lot of concerns? After entering school Hee Yeol says “If you don’t disinfect your hair clippers, you will get bacterial mold infection on your skin…” and shudders. In front of the provided meal sausage, he deliberately memorizes clearly all the components of the sausage, warning that it causes cancer.

To this, Kang Haneul mentions Sheldon Lee Cooper, a character from popular American CBS sitcom ‘Big Bang Theory’. He is a character who is a genius apart from society. “To be honest, the dialogue wasn’t like that at first. It was that sort of dialogue but not that detailed. In the process of getting into character I researched ‘Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon a lot. Of course the works are different and the scripts are different so the characters cannot be the same. Instead, I wanted to get a feel for Sheldon’s atmosphere. Thus I told the director I thought it would be a little more fun if we changed it more accurately and more detailed in the dialogue.”

Hee Yeol is a light character. Although he’s more dimensional through the fact that he wanted to walk a different path as others through his background as a ‘science high school’ and now as a police academy student, the attributes of a youthful and entertainment movie do not weigh heavily upon him. This aspect makes you think of Kang Haneul’s work in ‘Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet’. Kang Haneul acted as poet Yun Dong Ju in the film directed by Director Lee Joon Ik. Hee Yeol is light while Yun Dong Ju is heavy.

“It’s not simply that ‘Dong Ju’ is a heavy character but he was a real person. ‘New Trial’ was like that and was ‘Dong Ju’. However when I act roles like that I have doubt, ‘Are these actions correct?’ Actually all acting is like that. Of course I have doubts about how well I acted but it was really severe when I was acting as poet Yoon Dong Ju. ‘Is what I’m doing, really correct?’ I had a lot of concerns like this and this time I could let go of that type of thinking and use my brain for creative meaningful ideas. Matching with the flow in order to do a scene. I used that a lot.”

Kang Haneul had a hard time through ‘Dong Ju’. In one interview he said that he thought acting was hard while doing ‘Dong Ju’. In addition he couldn’t sleep properly so he even took sleeping aids. We contemplated about this breakthrough. Fortunately the face the reporter faced was bright. “While meditating about it, I felt that it like a turning point in my life. I arranged a lot of things. I didn’t think about acting. I was concerned about being happier. So now I live like that.”

When we asked about the answer to his concerns, the ‘moving story machine’ said, “When I talk about these things I have the impression that I’m teaching people something. A reporter once told me at the end of an interview that I said some good things.” “I think that I just want to be happy at this moment. ‘Let’s enjoy life right now at this moment’ is what gives strength to me.”

When you look at the keywords of the entertainment industry in 2017, you can’t leave out ‘#enlistment’. Kang Haneul will be enlisting as an active-duty soldier on September 11th. He applied to be a Capital Defense Command Military Police Special Soldier and is set to serve as part of the motorcycle military police division. When the talk of enlistment came up Kang Haneul stated, “I’m okay. I have no worries. It’s the army. I’m not really afraid or sad.”

“Actually I thought about from the time when I started acting. ‘Let’s go when I get too greedy’. As I got older and thought about when that would be people thought ‘Why are you leaving already? Why leave?’ What should I do? Against my will it feels like they are shielding me? Me? Through the army. Instead of having a lot of greed like that over and over again, I am going with that heart.”

Because of questioning greed, he answered that he wasn’t greedy with physical things like work, money or fame. And so he fiddled with the Buddhist rosary beads on his wrist saying worringly “It seems like I am going to a (moving story) again like this”.

“With a honest heart I really am trying to live happily but I have this feeling over and over again that some anxiety is always pushing or chasing after me. Come to think of it, in many aspects I want to live happily at this moment as me but I have the feeling like I continue living for something. I often have that feeling so I stop for a bit. I don’t want to live like that. Of course earning a lot of money and receiving recognition from people is nice but my happiness comes first. If I want to be happy the way I am now is not right.”

At this the reporter carefully asked a question. How would he cope with his future greed after discharging from the army? Isn’t the one who acted as youth Hee Yeol in ‘Midnight Runners’, the youth Kang Haneul? We were curious as to how he would cope with the middle-age Kang Haneul who might have greed.

“I’ve thought about the future for a long time. Also I’m not a person that lives by deeply engraving things into his heart. Right now the most important thing is happiness. Thus with the judgment that it wasn’t working out, I am enlisting. I think that in the 2 years of enlistment I will definitely have different thoughts and values. In that case, if there is a situation in which I have greed, I will not be the same Kim Haneul. Ah, I will be Kang Haneul. I said my birth name. (laughs) I think that I will be a different ‘Haneul’ from now. I think after I go there will be a different breakthrough.”

This is human Kang Haneul’s affirmation.

Arriving at the last stage of the 50 minute interview, we hurriedly asked about the showing of ‘Midnight Runners’. Distributor CJ Entertainment’s movie ‘Battleship Island’ premiered on July 26th, distributor Showbox’s ‘Taxi Driver’ premiered on August 2nd, and distributor Lotte Entertainment’s ‘Midnight Runners’ premiered on August 9th. Fortunately all three films can be found at theaters in the interval of 1 week, and aside from ‘Midnight Runners’, the other two films are from large distributor Tentpole. Tentpole movies are movies that act as pillars, in which they are expected to be box-office hits. In addition, ‘Battleship Island’ has actor Hwang Jung Min and ‘Taxi Driver’ has Song Kang Ho. They both are ’10 million actors’. (Actors who draw in 10 million viewers)

“Honestly, I’m like that and (Park) Seo Joon hyeong is like that and so is the director, we never thought of competing. ‘I’m competing against that work. It’s a fight.’ I’ve never had these types of thoughts. It’s not that I’m humble it’s just the truth. Regardless if it’s ‘Midnight Runners’ or a different, firstly the goal is to just break even. We all worked on it together but we can’t have someone sad. That’s the goal I think of. Box-office sales are not something I can control with my own strength. No matter if there’s an actor with genius acting or an excellent director there is no ‘guarantee of box-office hit’. My wish is ‘let’s pass the break-even point’. I’m always like that with all my work.”

Kang Haneul is wary of competition with other works but audiences are paying attention to the competition of box-office sales between the four actors. In addition, when putting the standard of importance of characters, just like how police academy student Hee Yeol is light and real-life character Yoon Dong Ju is heavy, ‘Midnight Runners’ is a light movie focused on Hee Yeol’s squabbles and realization of justice instead of trying to portray a message. It has the power of being contrary to the other two movies. Can Kang Haneul surround his last work before enlistment with gold? The movie will be shown from August 9th, is 109 minutes long, is PG-13, the break-even point is 2,000,000 people, and the production cost is 7 billion won.

+α. “Nerf this!” 

‘Midnight Runners’ has dialogue that is the focus of game fans. ‘Nerf this!’ is one of those. When D.va, a character from Blizzard Entertainment’s FPS game ‘Overwatch’ self-destructs, the actor yells this on screen, which will be a different experience. Movies are an imaginary space but sometimes they draw at the trends of reality. The movie ‘The Contact’ is similar. The audience has PC communications with ‘Unitel’. In the movie ‘Chef’, Director John Favreau introduces SNS services such as Twitter and Vine. In the movie ‘Like for Likes’, Lee Mi Yeon, Kim Joo Hyuk, and Choi Ji Woo discuss the topic of Facebook. Trends are digital and intimate. In addition, how much the digital world is encroaching on our lives can be inferred on. (photo by Lotte Entertainment)

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