Before you go up in arms about how we’ve invaded the private lives of celebrities, here’s the thing: we haven’t. A-list actors Jang Dong Gun and Hyun Bin, who have been friends for over a decade, officially turned into rivals – albeit reel-life ones, for their first movie together, historical zombie movie Rampant.
Hyun Bin, who plays a Joseon prince, is called back to his country after many years by the Crown Prince, only to be met with a zombie epidemic that takes over the nation. Jang Dong Gun plays an ambitious court minister whose appetite for power caused strife within the country, and the two end up battling it out to both save their nation and claim their place on the throne.
With a star-studded cast and promising plot - after all, this is the very first movie that has zombies appearing in a historical backdrop - Rampant has unsurprisingly topped the Korean box office during the weekend of its release, and is expected to do similarly well in overseas box offices.
The two actors, along with director Kim Sung Hoon, made their way to Singapore for their first and only promotional stop outside of South Korea to promote their film, first attending a press conference at The Fullerton Hotel, followed by a meet-and-greet session at Suntec City before they wrapped up their whirlwind visit by walking the red carpet at the movie gala held at Resorts World Sentosa.
During the press conference, most of the attention was on both actors, whose easy friendship was evident in every glance they shared with each other, and how easily they spoke about each other. The actors, who are 10 years apart in age (Jang Dong Gun is 46, while Hyun Bin is 36), had no qualms poking fun at each other (and themselves) during both the press conference and the doorstop interviews, which took place at the meet-and-greet session.
Among the memorable exchanges that took place was when the pair were asked about which of the other’s scenes they’d like to take on if their movie roles were switched. Hyun Bin started the ball rolling with, “Towards the end of the movie, there’s this scene where Jang Dong Gun puts on the king’s robes and walks towards the great hall for the final confrontation scene. I thought that scene was majestic.”
Jang Dong Gun, however, let out a wry chuckle as he admitted, “I wouldn’t want to take on any of Hyun Bin’s scenes. Maybe if I were 10 years younger, I would, but this movie was filmed during the coldest period in winter, and many of his action scenes were filmed outdoors, so that was definitely very difficult for him.”
This sentiment was shared by director Kim Sung Hoon, who revealed in an interview to Toggle that filming, which took over five months to complete, was so difficult that he “honestly wouldn’t want to reshoot any of the scenes again”.
He added with a smile, “But if I had to choose, it would be the final duel between Jang Dong Gun and Hyun Bin. We shot it on two different sets, and I’d like to make one of them a bit more dynamic if I could.”
With Jang Dong Gun’s last historical project being 1993 drama Iljimae, it’s been some time since the actor put on the hanbok (traditional Korean attire) for the camera.
“Back then, I got some feedback that I looked weird, so this time, we spent a lot of time trying on different makeup and hanbok styles so that we’d be able to find something suitable,” Jang Dong Gun explained. “This time around, I got better feedback, so I think it worked out.”
This won’t be his last brush with period garb, however, as he is slated to star in upcoming drama Chronicles of Asadal, which also stars Song Joong K and Kim Ji Won.
Director Kim Sung Hoon, however, thought differently as he quipped, “These two actors are so outrageously handsome that regardless of what you put on them, they’ll manage to make it look good.” He did, however, share that they made special effort to have Jang Dong Gun’s outfits be made of a different material, with the tiger prints on his outfits hinting at his ambitious nature.
Jang Dong Gun and Hyun Bin’s easy friendship also translated to an instant chemistry on set, as Jang Dong Gun mused, “Prior to filming, I did wonder how it would be like, because it’s rare for actors that already know each other to work together. Usually, you get to know each other while working on a project together, but this wasn’t the case for us.”
Rest assured, however, that you’d never guess that the two are such close pals in real life, as their on-screen rivalry saw them wield swords, throw resentful glares and more at each other.
While Jang Dong Gun and Hyun Bin’s bromance was more of the muted sort – we didn’t witness any bromantic hugs of any sort – the duo’s long-lasting friendship has clearly built a strong bond between them, so much so that they’d trust each other to have their backs should a real zombie epidemic strike.
“Would I trust him to save me from zombies? Of course!” Jang Dong Gun said with a smile, when we posed this scenario to him. “He got all the practice he needs during the filming, so he’d probably be able to fend them off. I trust that he’ll keep me safe.”
Hyun Bin, however, wasn’t that sure, as he first declared “I don’t know!” before pausing to think for a moment. He grinned, “I honestly can’t tell if he’ll be able to save me from the zombies per se, but I know one thing – that he’ll try to help me regardless. He’ll do his best to save me from the zombies, but whether or not he actually succeeds is something I don’t know.”