Four stars on the brink of global success


Ha Jung-woo
The son of veteran actor Kim Yong-gun, Ha Jung-woo graduated from Chung-Ang University and then worked for several years in the theater before making a name for himself in movies and TV. After a couple of forgettable roles in forgettable movies, Ha's career took off thanks to a major part in Yoon Jong-bin's award-winning "The Unforgiven" (2005). He followed that with a supporting role in the hit TV series "Lovers in Prague" and two Kim Ki-duk films, "Time" (2006) and "Breath" (2007). This year has cemented his reputation with a successful TV series, "H.I.T.," and an English- language part in Gina Kim's "Never Forever," which won the Jury Award at the 33rd Deauville American Film Festival.
-- Mark Russell in Seoul

Yu Nan and Lulu Li
Yu Nan, a native of China's northeastern city of Dalian, attended the Beijing Film Academy and first began working with art film director Wang Quan'an on their 2000 joint debut, "Lunar Eclipse." Her fluency in French and English helped her secure a role in 2003's "Fureur," a French film about underground boxing. But she is about to gain even more exposure with her part in the Wachowski brothers' just-wrapped "Speed Racer," in which she stars opposite Korean actor Jung Ji-hoon, still known to many in Asia as the heartthrob pop star Rain. Her lead performance in "Tuya's Marriage," winner of the Golden Bear in Berlin this year, also helped her win early attention on the international scene. Yu is on the jury at Pusan. Beijing native Lulu Li, known in China as Li Xiaolu, earned Taiwan's top film prize -- the Golden Horse award for best actress -- for her role in Joan Chen's 1998 film "Xiu Xiu: the Sent Down Girl." Lulu studied drama at the Beijing Broadcasting Institute and most recently appeared in "Blood Brothers," the Shanghai wartime epic produced by John Woo and Terrence Chang. Having mastered English, Lulu is looking at crossing over into international films and taking more English-language roles.
-- Jonathan Landreth in Beijing

Takuya "Kimutaku" Kimura
Takuya Kimura, or "Kimutaku" to his legion of fans in Japan, is using his superstar status at home as a springboard for his burgeoning movie career. Kimura first came to fame through SMAP, one of Japan's most popular pop groups. Unusual for a Japanese idol, even his marriage in 2000 has left Kimutaku's popularity undiminished. He has been voted most popular male celebrity by one women's magazine for 14 straight years. Kimura was the star of the most popular drama in Japanese TV history, "Hero," the big-screen version of which opened in September on 475 screens, earning ¥1.08 billion ($9.4 million) on its first weekend. The film, also starring Korean heartthrob Lee Byung-hun, will screen at Pusan, where some of it was shot. Kimutaku has signed up for his first all-English role in Anh Hung Tran's "I Come With Rain," alongside Josh Hartnett, Elias Koteas and Lee Byung-hun again.
-- Gavin Blair in Tokyo


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