Bae Doo-na: Acting Without a Pretty Face On
At the age of 27, most actresses want to be recognized for their craft as well as their looks, but Bae Doo-na stands out by having never cared much about the latter. Away from the limelight for a while, Bae is now back with a new movie made in Japan and called "Linda, Linda, Linda." It goes on release here on April 13.
The movie tells a story of a group of high school girls who set up a band of their own to take part in a school festival. Bae stars as Song, a Korean exchange student who becomes the band’s vocalist because of her poor Japanese. Director Nobuhiro Yamai can’t reada spotted Bae in her film "Barking Dogs Never Bite" and decided to cast her in his movie.
"It was my decision not to put on any makeup in the movie. I had to do it, because that was the only way I could play Song genuinely. I didn’t want to look just beautiful wearing heavy makeup", Bae says. It is that confidence in her ability as an actress that has endeared her to many directors.
In the movie, Bae looks innocent to the point of blankness, like an empty page. "There are limits if I try to act from my own experience," she says. "You don’t have to actually kill somebody to play a murderer. I just absorb the character I have to play into my mind, which is just like a piece of white paper." Park Chan-wook, the director of the international hit "Old Boy,” says Bae is an actress free from stereotypes.
She learned acting from her mother, the former stage actress Kim Hwa-young. When she could not make up her mind whether to accept a part in the movie "Plum Blossom" (2000), it was her mother who bawled her out by saying, "Does it make sense for an actress to avoid bed scenes because she is afraid of taking off her clothes and showing her body?" Once the movie, with its daring nude scenes was out, Bae got a call from an ex-boyfriend who said he felt "ashamed" to have gone out with her. That was when she realized she’d rather be a good actress than a good girlfriend, she says.
She says she learned a lot being in the Japanese movie. "Those young actresses who never played the guitar or drum kept practicing, saying ‘I am going to be a guitarist or drummer within a month,’ and after a month, they were such good guitarists and drummers," Bae recalls.
She claims to know all too well that she does not have a pretty face, and that is how she likes it. "I think I’m lucky not to be so pretty that every man admires me. That means that I can play characters that other actresses can’t. I want to be an actress favored more by women than men," she declares.