“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” stars Hugh Jackman and Daniel Henney fueled up the already escalating temperature in Seoul, Friday, as they spoke to the South Korean press and fans, mixing in fluent Korean sentences.
Korean reporters were fortunate to see him host a special event featuring an extended 20-minute trailer of the latest “X-Men” franchise in Daehan Theater, Chungmuro. “Anyeonghaseyo,” he greeted reporters, and continued impressively in Korean, “Thank you for coming, I hope you enjoy `Wolverine.’ Seoul is awesome.”
The media buzz continued at the Korea House next door, where Henney joined the Australian superstar for a press conference. Jackman, who was officially appointed as a goodwill ambassador for Seoul the same day, chose the traditional venue himself. The “Australia” star said his father had worked in Korea for nearly 20 years, and was “the greatest ambassador for Korea.
“When I first visited three years ago, I felt like I knew Korea very well,” he said, adding that he didn’t take back many souvenir gifts during his 2006 visit with “X-Men: The Last Stand” because he already owned most of what a typical shop here had to offer. His father would bring home Korean gifts, and his sister would strut around the house in “hanbok” (traditional dress). Jackman himself wore a Red Devils or South Korean football fan shirt. Australia and Korea were both led by Dutch coach Gus Hiddink, and the actor said Korea would be the only non-Australian football team he’d cheer for.
“I understood what my father loved about the (Korea) people so much… You get a quick sense here of the hospitality, the generosity and the warmth,” he said. “I was quite insistent that we came here (to promote `Wolverine’), not only because of Daniel… It’s a very special day for me,” he said. “To do a film in Korea is something I’d love to do some day, and my father would be on the set watching… He’d be the first to queue and buy a ticket.”
Henney, on the other hand, made a counter-cultural route to fame. The Korean-American actor rose to stardom in Korea and other Asian countries through romantic TV roles, and received critical acclaim for the film “My Father.” “Wolverine” marks a homecoming debut for the Michigan native.
“I play the role of Agent Zero, a sniper. He’s not the usual gentle, romantic character I played and is very tough, cold-hearted and masculine,” the “Samsooni” star said, speaking in fluent Korean. The 29-year-old continued in English, saying that his character, like Jackman’s description of Wolverine, “has anger management issues.”
Jackman introduced Wolverine as “one of the first antiheros” in comic book history, and said he likes him because “he does whatever he wants.” The prequel to the “X-Men” franchise, the American government finds use of Wolverine’s innate superpowers and enhances them with groundbreaking medical technology. When they attempt to eradicate his memory and use him as a weapon, however, Wolverine violently resists, and other mutants including Agent Zero try to stop him.
On playing a villain in a major Hollywood picture, which is often the case for actors of a minority race, Henney said he was able to separate Agent Zero from other “typical Asian” roles. He explained that his character was neither good nor bad, and like the other mutants, struggles within himself. Nevertheless, Henney said he faces limits due to language and looks in both Korea and the United States.
He wants to challenge himself here with more diverse roles, rather than playing another charming foreigner. “I always consider myself a Korean actor,” said the former model in Korean, and hopes to return as often as possible for local TV or film projects.
“Acting with Hugh (Jackman) was a really an amazing experience,” he said. “I learned a ton from him, in terms of acting and lifestyle too. This guy is the real deal,” he said, and turned to his co-star to say, “I’m not trying to flatter you.”
One reporter was curious how, at 40, Jackman sculpted muscles for the superhero role ― and in particular for a nude scene he pulled off himself (He threw the venue into a rumble of laughter when he said he had his private parts “in a bag” ― literally; the editor had to cut scenes exposing his private areas and gave the clips to him in a bag).
The actor answered, “hard training and Korean barbeque.” He wanted a “lean, veiny, animalistic look.” He followed the advice of a body builder, followed a high-protein diet where he consumed meat every three hours. “I wasn’t joking about the Korean barbeque,” he said, explaining that he frequents a Korean restaurant in Soho, New York. “Jjang-i-eyo,” he said, expressing his enthusiasm for the local dish.
Afterward, the two stars participated on a local variety show, where they “dated” female celebrities, which is due to air on SBS, April 19. In the evening, Cheonggye Plaza in downtown Seoul exploded with thousands of fans that gathered for one of the largest ever red carpet events. Jackman and Henney greeted fans and took part of a hand printing ceremony. (Korea Times)