MacArthur role a 'battle' for Neeson
IT IS not every day that a Hollywood heavyweight stars in a Korean film, particularly one retracing real-life events in Korean history.
But Liam Neeson, who portrays the legendary General Douglas MacArthur of the United States Army in the upcoming war drama flick Operation Chromite, says he was made an offer he "couldn't refuse".
The film's director Lee Jae Han and producer Jung Tae Won, who helms production company Taewon Entertainment, were "very, very persuasive, let's just put it that way", said the renowned Irish actor at a press conference in Seoul yesterday.
"But I was very aware that very few Western actors had come over here... so I felt very honoured, actually. And very privileged," Neeson said, adding he has always been interested in the Korean War.
The 64-year-old actor, who has appeared in more than 70 films since he rose to prominence in the 1993 Oscar winner Schindler's List, said he was drawn to the simplicity of the script of Operation Chromite.
"I thought it told a very complex story in a very palatable and easy way to follow for audiences. And it's very emotional," he noted.
There were times, however, when Neeson felt intimidated by the role of the charismatic general who has long been heralded as a national hero here.
The film traces the general's much-contested, high-risk operation to land the United Nations allied forces in Korea's western port city of Incheon in September 1950.
It eventually led the Korean army to a decisive victory in battle against the invading North Korean troops.
Neeson said he read numerous biographies and visited Incheon's Jayu (Freedom) Park, which is dedicated to the general, in order to prepare for his role.
"I remember this was just before I started shooting and I suddenly got very nervous, thinking, can I do this? Am I up for this? (MacArthur) is revered.
"He's almost got saint-like status in the country."
The actor overcame his concerns by meticulously researching the general's mannerisms.
"There were certain characteristics that MacArthur had... for example... he always wore his hat at (an)... angle.
"He would smoke his corn cob pipe everywhere because he felt it gave him a certain authority" he said.
Neeson added that his first-time experience filming with an all-Korean film crew was "mind-blowing".
"I've never worked with a crew that was so perfectionistic, so fast...
"Their dedication and commitment to all their individual jobs was quite awe-inspiring to me."
The actor also heaped praise on his co-star Lee Jung Jae, who stars as Korean intelligence captain Jang Hak Soo who infiltrates the North Korean army in an undercover mission.
"When I'm in the presence of a real actor, I can tell," he said. "I felt Jung Jae was a very, very pure cinema actor.
"He has this beautiful quality of stillness, deceptive simplicity... As a performer, it made me feel... at ease because I was working with a wonderful professional."
Lee said he interviewed surviving members of the Incheon operation to prepare for his role.
THE KOREA HERALD/
ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Operation Chromite opens in Singapore on Sept 15.