Song Kang-ho Fields Burning Questions From Tilda Swinton and Park Chan-Wook

Song Kang-ho

Song Kang-ho, photo courtesy of © SUBLIME.

Between December and mid-January, the Academy Museum in Los Angeles hosted a retrospective to celebrate the legendary South Korean actor Song Kang-ho. While he’s best known to American audiences for his turn in Parasite, which made history at the Oscars nearly four years ago as the first South Korean movie to receive Academy Award recognition, Song and director Bong Joon-ho have made a prolific director-muse duo for almost two decades, collaborating on gritty thrillers such as Memories of Murder, Snowpiercer and The Host. Naturally, when it came time for Song’s many peers and admirers to submit questions to the actor for this month’s edition of Ask Me Anything, his Snowpiercer costar Tilda Swinton wondered: “When are we going to make our film with Bong on our desert island?” Below, Song has all the answers for Swinton, Interview’s own Jeremy O. Harris, and Oldboy director Park Chan-Wook.




SWINTON: When are we going to make our film with Bong on our desert island?

SONG KANG-HO: [Laughs] Director Bong seems to be building a desert island. I’ll push him to get on with the construction soon.

SWINTON: My brother, when are we starting our Korean lessons?

KANG-HO: Well, I’ll try my best to quickly learn English. So I can finally talk with you in English, which I have been dreaming of. I’m flattered and honored to have received questions from Tilda.



YANG: One of my all-time favorite films is Bong Joon-Ho’s Memories Of Murder. With a plethora of depictions of police on screen, your portrayal of Detective Park is the most nuanced and haunting, with your character being so flawed and funny at the same time. The film was based on the true story of the hunt for a serial killer, but during the making of the film and for many years following, the case was unresolved.  Only many years later was the killer identified. What was it like for you to live this story for so long with no resolution, and then suddenly learn of its conclusion?

KANG-HO: Thank you for your comments. I think Detective Park was an interesting character because he wasn’t the typical detective you usually see from those genres, but someone with deep pathos who revealed the absurdity of reality. It was a deep-seated incident that hurt everyone. So rather than anger, I felt sadness and remorse about life.

YANG: What was your favorite experience in L.A. while you were making the rounds with Parasite in 2020, other than the actual Academy Awards? (Assuming that was the high point!)

KANG-HO: They were all wonderful experiences, but the Telluride Film Festival was especially impressive. It was very beautiful to see people trying to feel freedom to nature and to one’s self beyond formality.



CHAN-WOOK: On set, when a take is done and the director in the monitor tent wants another take,  do you prefer the director to swiftly provide acting directions over the walkie-talkie that everyone can hear, or would you rather have the director give directions to you discreetly?

KANG-HO: Depending on the situation, I think both are good… If I had to choose between the two, I think directions over the walkie-talkie where everything can be heard allows more freedom of expression and makes me feel less nervous. Because all of the staff, co-stars, everyone can hear it… in my mind… I’m like “Alright! You all heard the difficult directions the director just gave!? So, even though it may be a slight difference, we can be proud of it!” When I think about it that way, I actually feel at ease.



O. HARRIS: When you began acting you were a theater actor. What is the theater role you’re still craving to try your hand at?

KANG-HO: Strangely, when I first started acting, I don’t think I was attracted to plays and characters that were well known. From the beginning, I was interested in original plays and new creative characters that I never heard before. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t admire the artistry and characters of masterpieces… So, rather than a certain work or character, I’m more fixated on the things (or characters) that I don’t know.

O. HARRIS: You’re such an amazing actor because you’re such a good clown! Who are your favorite clowns?

KANG-HO: I respect and admire all actors and artists, including comedians. Beyond the genre category itself, comedy and tragedy always coexist in our lives. Rather than liking a specific individual, I always miss and yearn for our most ordinary faces and artists.