‘Squid Game’ star Lee Jung-jai has made his directorial debut in Kane

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CANNES, France – Netflix’s “Squid Game” award-winning star Lee Jung-je spent years creating the 1980s set Korean spy thriller “Hunt” before choosing to direct himself. He did it somewhat reluctantly without a big plan to continue making films. But Lee had a vision for what it might be – and where it might premiere.

“Before I decided to direct, I thought I’d make a very fun movie,” Lee said. “After I got it and started writing the script myself, I really wanted to hear it. Since I wanted to come to the ears, I had to find something that would resonate with the worldwide audience. ”

Very few actors know more about attracting global audiences than Lee. Already one of Korea’s top movie stars, 49-year-old Lee starred in the “Squid Game” episode, a dystopic series that became the most-watched show on Netflix in sub-titles and almost 90 countries.

Now, Lee is in Cannes to premiere “Hunt”, which is running in the Midnight section of Cannes and is being purchased for international distribution. The film will test how far Lee can extend his already limitless career. Earlier this year, Lee signed with the Hollywood Power House Agency CAA. And he admits he has some Hollywood ambitions.

“Working in Hollywood will definitely be a good experience for me,” Lee said in an interview before the “Hunt” premiere. “If there was a good fit for me, a good character, I would definitely like to join. But at the moment, I think the global audience wants more Korean content and Korea-made TV shows and films. So I will work very hard in Korea too. I may be a bit greedy, but if there’s a role for me in Hollywood, I want to do it. “

But if Lee types the power of today’s Korean pop culture to become a growing world-famous actor, his film is set in an earlier, less harmonious chapter in Korean history. The “hunt” took place a few years after the 1979 assassination of South Korean President Park Chung-hee by the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, a coup that marked the beginning of the military dictatorship of Chun Do-howan. “Hunt” was inspired by his subsequent 1983 assassination attempt by North Korea.

“Korea had its fastest growth in the ’80s,” Lee said “But democracy has not grown much because there was a military dictatorship and the media was under full government control. So I heard a lot about that government control from the older generation and my parents. I have personally witnessed the college protests. “

“Hunt” strongly follows a pair of agents (one played by Lee, the other by Jung Wu-sung) both of whom have been hired within the agency to uncover North Korean sesame. Lee – not just dipping his toe in the debut of a decent director – has proven to be adept at mounting large-scale action sequences and doing a dense plot marshal to maintain suspense.

“A lot of people have told me that my setting should change now,” Lee said, through an interpreter. “But in the 80’s, there was a lot of control over information and people were trying to take advantage of fake information and misinformation. I think it still exists in 2022. There are still groups that seek to benefit from these controls of information and dissemination.

“We now live in a global world that is connected,” he added. “We have no silos. If there is a problem, we all have to work to overcome it. ”

Lee is often asked how his life has changed since the “Squid Game” by Western journalists, who have spent less than three decades as top stars in Korea in films such as “An Affair”, “New World” and “The Housemaid”. Familiar. “

Lee laughs. “It’s normal because a lot of people in the West didn’t recognize me before the squid game.”

That is changing rapidly, though. Lee will return to the second season of “Squid Game”, which series creator Huang Dong-Hyuk recently said it should be expected in 2023 or 2024. The first season has already seen Lee become the first Asian actor to win the Screen Actors Guild Award. Best Male Performer. Lee was so surprised – in addition to considering himself an underdog, a big “legacy” fan – that he couldn’t get the speech out of his pocket.

“It’s still,” Lee said, smiling and shaking his head.

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

For more coverage of the Cannes Film Festival, visit: https://apnews.com/hub/cannes-film-festival

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