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IU makes film debut through Netflix original ‘Persona’

  • Published : Mar 27, 2019 - 17:26
  • Updated : Mar 27, 2019 - 17:26

Singer-actress Lee Ji-eun, who is better known as her stage name IU, will soon maker her film debut in the Netflix original “Persona,” which will delve into an unexplored yet colorful side to the K-pop darling.

“Persona,” which will be available on the global streaming site from April 5, is an anthology series composed of four short films directed by four critically acclaimed local directors: Lee Kyung-mi, Im Pil-sung, Jeon Go-woon and Kim Jong-kwan. As the title suggests, the film illustrates four different personas of Lee -- who has acted in many popular small screen series, such as “Dream High,” “The Producers” and “Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo” -- through the lenses of the directors’ distinctive storytelling.

“Frankly, when I received the proposal, I didn’t expect this project to be this big to receive such a spotlight and even hold my own press conference,” Lee said Wednesday. “In the beginning, I was simply excited to film four short films, and hadn’t expected this will stream on the Netflix platform.”

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Lee Ji-eun (Yonhap)

The series is being produced by Mystic Story and its founder and CEO Yoon Jong-shin, a veteran singer and producer. It is the first project since the firm, formerly Mystic Entertainment, recently changed its name to reflect its focus on contents creation, beyond talent management.

When asked about choosing Netflix for distribution, Yoon said he did not want the work to be forgotten.

“I wanted to deliver on a platform that could last for a long time for both creators and producers,” he said. “I want people to remember ‘Persona’ years later and cater to audiences based on their likings. I always wanted to create a series, especially after watching English (science-fiction) drama ‘Black Mirror.’”

He expressed pity as to the box office reality where the outcome of the film is decided quickly, upon the first or second week of its release, despite many having devoted their time and efforts for years for the production. “Same goes for the songs too, it is decided within hours after the release.”

Yoon said the project started with a simple thought, without knowing the series would hit Netflix later. “My philosophy is that ‘music is story,’ just like film and advertisements. I got to watch some short films by the directors and it was so much fun and wanted more people to watch these good stories,” he said. “When directors shoot short films, they are filled with glittering creativity. And as I met different film directors, the idea of one actor and many directors came to my mind.”

Choosing Lee as the lead for the first installment of “Persona” came naturally, he added. “As I was coming up with the concept, IU came to mind. I remembered IU’s widely opened eyes when I gave her a new song in the past and thought she is a person who accepts new things well and continues to challenge herself.”

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“A top star has a lot to lose when trying new things, because they have to break the image they built,” said Yoon. “But she is very brave to take this challenge.”

The first short film is “Love Set,” helmed by director Lee Kyung-mi, who is behind “The Truth Beneath” and “Crush and Blush.” It tells the story of a heated tennis match between Lee, who is a daughter in the film, and her English teacher and dad’s girlfriend, played by Bae Doona.

“The key word of this film is anger,” said Lee. “The character is short-tempered and is very true to her feelings. Because I don’t usually explode in anger, it was a bit difficult to portray.”

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From left: Yoon Jong-shin, Lee Ji-eun, Im Pil-sung, Jeon Go-woon and Kim Jong-kwan

Second story “Collector,” directed by Im Pil-sung (“Scarlett Innocence,” “Hansel and Gretel”), delves into the relationship between Eun, a mysterious woman played by Lee, and Jung-woo, who is trying to win over her heart, played by actor Park Hae-soo.

“It’s an odd love story based on the motif of men’s foolishness,” said Im, adding he was largely inspired by IU’s song “Jam Jam.”

“It was probably the hardest role that was unique and free-spirited,” the actress said. “I have never met a character like this in other films or books.”

Director Jeon Go-woon (“Microhabitat”) created “Kiss Burn,” a story about a girl’s revenge against her friend’s father for grounding her.

“When I was writing the scenario for the film, I expected to get a lot of restrictions (from Lee),” said Jeon. “But there were none. And I thought Lee was a very brave person.”

The last in the series is called “Walking at Night,” directed by Kim Jong-kwan, who helmed “Come, Closer” and “Worst Woman.”

“It’s a romantic story of a couple that broke up and then meet again in a dream,” said Kim. “While the film is a story of lovers, I focused more on the relationship between people, rather than the feeling of affection.”

“I met Lee for the first time through this project. She has many colors. I also saw part of loneliness behind a person who is leading a strong life. And I wanted to weave that part into this story.”

Going forward, Yoon said he hopes to continue this series on Netflix with different actors and set of directors in the future.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)