'Parasite' Star Song Kang-Ho to Receive Locarno Excellence Award

Song Kang-Ho
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

The South Korean star will be the first Asian actor to be honored with Locarno's lifetime achievement prize.

Song Kang-Ho, arguably South Korea's greatest and most acclaimed actor, will be honored at the 2019 Locarno International Film Festival with the fest's excellence award for lifetime achievement.

Song is the first-ever Asian actor to receive the honor. Korean director, and longtime collaborator, Bong Joon-ho will present him with the award in Locarno on Aug. 12.

Song is one of the rare Asian performers to have combined commercial and critical success both at home and internationally. His debut was in Hong Sang-soo's 1996 drama The Day a Pig Fell into the Well but Song first caught the eye of international audiences playing a North Korean solider in Park Chan-wook's Joint Security Area (2000). A stream of critically acclaimed performances followed, in films such as Park's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and Thirst (2009).

But it is arguably his collaboration with Bong, which began with the 2003 action crime drama Memories of Murder, for which Song is best known. He has become Bong's go-to star, appearing in hit monster movie The Host (2006), English-language sci-fi feature Snowpiercer (2013) and, most recently, in the director's Palme d'Or winner Parasite.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bong described Song as “like a mixture of Al Pacino, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Shannon,” which gives an idea of the actor's range. But it's doubtful anyone from that acclaimed trio could deliver the sort of crowd-pleasing performances Song has in local box office hits A Foul King (2000) or The Taxi Driver (2017).

Following the award ceremony, Locarno will do a midnight screening of Memories of Murder at the festival's Piazza Grande in honor of Song.

The 72nd Locarno International Film Festival runs Aug.7-17.