Cannes: Korean Star Bae Doona on How Hollywood Loneliness Informs Her Acting

Bae Doona in "A Girl at My Door"
Bae Doona in "A Girl at My Door"
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Bae Doona has emerged as a South Korean actor with a growing global pedigree, with her latest film A Girl at My Door being selected for Cannes' Un Certain Regard section. CJ Entertainment also scored an early deal with France's Epicentre for the drama and expects to close more deals. 

After turning heads in Bong Joon Ho's The Host, the 35-year-old went on to sweep acting awards in Japan for Air Doll -- which was also invited to Cannes -- before the Wachowskis picked her up for Cloud Atlas and this summer's Jupiter Ascending. But Bae hasn't forgotten her arthouse roots, and she says her lonely sojourn in Hollywood inspired her to take on the emotionally challenging role in A Girl at My Door.

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"I'm so happy to be returning to Cannes with a Korean film. The last time I was there for a Japanese piece. I'm truly grateful for the invitation, because my colleagues and I really threw ourselves -- our mind and body -- into the film," Bae said.

The actress said yes just three hours after first receiving the script by first-time writer/director July Jung,  in spite of how she usually "takes forever" to choose projects. She also turned down the guarantee for the project produced by Lee Chang-dong, the Cannes-winning filmmaker of Secret Sunshine.

"I became very curious about the director after reading the script. The director's writing style was very literary and allowed you to read between the lines and imagine," she said.

In A Girl at My Door, Bae plays the role of an elite police officer who, following painful personal troubles, is transferred to a small seaside village. There she takes great personal risks to protect a 14-year-old girl from her abusive stepfather.

"It was extremely difficult to suppress my emotions, because my character in A Girl at My Door goes through so many infuriating situations. It was a lonely process having to portray someone that acts tough but is deeply hurting inside and is unable to express that," Bae said.

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The actress was actually inspired by her experience on the set of Jupiter Ascending: "I was filming Jupiter Ascending [when I received the script], and I think I was very lonely. I was working in a foreign culture in a foreign country. Things can get a little lonesome in an unfamiliar environment, and I was able to relate to the [character's] solitude."

But the experience was far from a negative one. "Oh I had so much fun on the set. My Jupiter Ascending character is a bit mischievous, unlike the innocent and frail Sonmi [in Cloud Atlas]."

Bae, however, plans to stick to building her filmography around Korean projects.

"Being exposed to different production environments in Korea, Japan and the U.S. was a great experience, and each system allows you to quench your thirst in a different way. I'm not partial to any system, but at the same time I'm a Korean actor so I expect to work mainly on Korean projects," she said.

There is a certain boundlessness in Korean cinema, Bae said. "Korean cinema is very improvisational, and there is a unique power that stems from this. The entire cast and crew believe 'nothing is impossible,' and we make anything happen."

Meanwhile, Bae confirmed she is dating her Cloud Atlas co-star Jim Sturgess, who accompanied her to Monday's Cannes premiere of A Girl at My Door. "Jim Sturgess is my boyfriend," she said. "He has been by my side since around the time I chose to appear in A Girl at My Door. Until now media reports said we were just friends, but those are the words of my former manager."

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