Henney's star rising in new culture

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BUSAN, South Korea -- When Daniel Henney, star of the recent Korean film "My Father," won the third annual Premiere Rising Star Award on Friday night, it was the ultimate endorsement of his decision to travel halfway around the world and try to start his acting career in a different culture.

"I'm not a big award guy, but this was the first time I have been recognized for my acting. I was really proud of it," Henney said.

"My Father," about a Korean adoptee from the U.S. who discovers that his father is on death row in Korea, received positive reviews and has grossed about $6.2 million since it was released Sept. 6.

It is heady approval for the 27-year-old American actor of partially Korean heritage, who did not know any Korean when he started his acting career here, just over three years ago.

International acting networking and ties have taken center stage in the opening days of the 12th Pusan International Film Festival, with the launch of the Asia Pacific Actors Network this year.

Henney had been living in New York, trying to break into acting after several years working as a model, when he received a call that a Korean company wanted him for an advertisement. That brief role turned into a small role on the hit television series "My Lovely Sam Soon," and suddenly he had a career on the other side of the world.

Since arriving in Korea, Henney had worked hard to learn Korean, but ironically the role in "My Father" called for him to not speak Korean well. "It was a big challenge. Since coming to Korea, I was trying not to speak Korean with an accent, but suddenly I had to speak it badly on purpose."

Despite his improving language skills, he said that most of the scripts he is receiving these days are for English-speaking roles, both in Korea and the West.

"I think it is time for an Asian man to be a leading man in Hollywood," he said. "But I need to choose my first American role carefully, not just some stereotyped, martial arts kind of role. Maybe I won't make it, but I don't want to settle."

Even if Hollywood does not beckon, already his popularity is growing outside of Korea. On Nov. 4 he has a fan meeting in Japan, where he will take to the stage to meet 2,000 of his fans there. "I'm really nervous. I have not done one of these things by myself before."

Other Premiere Rising Star Awards on Friday went to Kim Ah-jung for best actress, Kim Ji-hoon ("May 18") for best director, Lee Tae-sung for best new actor and Heo Yi-jae for best new actress.
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