What does it take to be a Ninja assassin? Well… ask famous Korean Pop star Rain
One would have thought that Korea’s top R&B artiste and pop singer, Rain, would have chosen a musical to make a splashy Hollywood debut as leading man rather than the ultra violent Ninja Assassin. Talking about his choice of debut at the movie promotion in Seoul, he explained: “Ever since I was a little child, I have wanted to be an action movie star. I studied Taekwondo. I like to challenge myself. I saw no reason to refuse the offer. I have always been interested in ninjas and their secret ways.”
In Ninja Assassin, Rain plays Raizo who is picked up from the streets and trained to be an assassin by the Ozunu Clan. However, he disagrees with the extreme practices of the clan leader and turns rogue. Directed by James McTiegue and produced by the Wachowski Brothers who directed Rain in Speed Racer, (he was the second lead) the film is practically a splatter fest with detailed meditations on the various ways a human body can be sliced and diced.
“The Wachowski Brothers told me ‘forget being a pop star. Be a gladiator’.” Of the extreme violence the Asian heartthrob said: “Men will like the movie and women will like it as well as they can de-stress watching it after a hard day at work.”
Though Speed Racer did not perform as well as expected, the artiste with four hit albums under his belt, says the movie opened many doors for him. “I hope Ninja Assassin does well as it would give opportunities for Korean actors. However, irrespective of how the movie fares, it will hold a special place in my heart as I worked very hard on it.”
Raizo’s weapon of choice is a lethal chain with wicked blades at the end of it, which Rain claims was a creative decision by the makers. Raizo is the classic anti-hero and Rain insists “the days of separation between good and evil in the hero are over.” For inspiration, Rain says he has watched “many Jackie Chan movies. But Raizo is not an imitation of Jackie Chan, he is a whole new character.”
The 24-year-old actor went through a punishing training schedule for his role. “It was an intense eight months and I craved salt and sugar. I missed Korean food, French fries and hamburgers. All the scenes were tough, but the diet was the toughest. Several times I wanted to go back but I carried on. I had to overwork my body to maintain my physique. Now I am more concerned with mental and physical health rather than just building my body.”
Elaborating about his punishing shooting schedule, Rain said: “I got hurt many times. I have a lot of cuts and bruises. But they are cuts of honour.”
Called South Korea’s Justin Timberlake by Megan Fox, Rain said he did “90 per cent of the stunts. There was a bare minimum of wire work for balance. I had to keep myself light and body fat down to almost zero. When the stunt team would say Matt Damon can do better, my sense of pride made me want to show them what I could do.”
When asked about the similarities between himself and Raizo, Rain said with a smile: “Raizo is an introvert while I am an extrovert. I like to be around people. We are similar in that we are focussed. I am disciplined and don’t put off stuff that needs to be done for later.”
The movie ends with Raizo looking out to the blue yonder — so does that signal a sequel? “There have been talks of a sequel but it will depend on the audience liking this film.”
The interview was conducted in Korean with a translator with Rain rather charmingly commenting that he “is learning English even as we speak. I find it easier to give detailed answers in Korean. For the movie, the coach helped me especially with expressions.”
The actor who said he would love to work with James Cameron and Al Pacino, said his plus point when compared to other Asian stars who have crossed over to Hollywood, is “I am younger and so time is on my side.”
Ninja Assassin is being released in Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu on November 27.