CANY – Lee Jeong-zhe, the award-winning star of the Netflix Squid Games, spent years developing the 1980s Korean spy thriller The Hunt before choosing himself as a director. He did it a little reluctantly, with no big plans to continue filmmaking. But Lee had a vision of what it could be – and where it could premiere.

“Before I decided to become a director, I thought I just wanted to make a very hilarious film,” Lee says. “Once I got it in my hands and started writing the script myself, I really wanted to come to Cannes. Because I wanted to come to Cannes, I needed to find a subject that would touch a global audience. ”

Few actors know more about how to grab the attention of a global audience than Lee. The 49-year-old Lee, who is already one of Korea’s top movie stars, is at the center of the “Squid Game” phenomenon, starring in an anti-stop series that – with subtitles and all – has become the most popular Netflix show in about 90 countries.

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Lee is currently in Cannes, where the premiere of the film “The Hunt” will take place, which takes place in the northern section of Cannes and is purchased for international rental. The film will test how much Lee can further expand his already limitless career. Earlier this year, Lee signed a contract with the powerful Hollywood agency CAA. And he admits he has some Hollywood ambitions.

“Working in Hollywood would definitely be a good experience for me,” Lee said in an interview with Cannes shortly before the Hunting premiere. “If I had a good character, a good character, I would definitely want to join. But now I feel that the global audience wants more Korean content and Korean TV shows and movies. So I would also work very hard in Korea. I might seem a little greedy, but if I had a role in Hollywood, I would definitely want to do it too. ”

But when Lee’s ascent to an increasingly world-famous actor is a typical type of power of today’s Korean pop culture, the action of his film takes place in an earlier, less harmonious chapter of Korean history. The “hunt” comes years after South Korean President Park Geun-hye was assassinated in 1979 by the head of Korea’s Central Intelligence Agency in a coup that sparked the military dictatorship of Chun Du Hwang. The “hunt” was inspired by his next assassination attempt in 1983, organized by North Korea.

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“The 1980s in Korea were the fastest growing in history,” says Lee. “But democracy has not grown so much because there was a military dictatorship and the media was under the full control of the government. So I really heard a lot from the older generation and my parents about this state control. I also witnessed protests in college. “

The “hunt” is excitingly followed by a pair of agents (one played by Lee, the other by Chon Wu Son), both of whom are tasked with exposing the North Korean mole in the agency. Lee – not just dipping his feet into a modest directorial debut – proves that he knows how to mount large-scale action screens and organize a dense plot, while gaining tension.

“A lot of people have told me that I need to change the setting for now,” Lee said, speaking through an interpreter. “But in the 80s there was a lot of control over information and people were trying to benefit from false information and misinformation. I think it still exists in 2022. However, there are groups that are trying to benefit from control over information and advocacy.

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“We now live in a global world that is connected,” he adds. “There are no bunkers between us. If there is a problem or a problem, we must work on it to overcome it. ”

Western journalists often ask Lee how his life has changed since The Squid Games, who may be less familiar with him for nearly three decades as Korea’s main star in films such as “The Case,” “The New World,” and “The New World.” The maid. ”

Lee laughs. “It’s natural because a lot of people in the West might not know me before the Squid Games.”

However, this is changing rapidly. Lee will return to the second season of “Squid Games”, which the creator of the series Hwang Don Hyuk recently said is expected in 2023 or 2024. The first season has already led to Lee becoming the first Asian actor to win the Actors Guild Award for Best Male Performer. Lee was so surprised – in addition to considering himself an outsider, he was a big fan of “Continuity” – that he never managed to pull out a speech he wrote in his pocket.

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“It’s still,” smiles, smiling, Lee smiles, “it seems like a dream to me.”

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Follow AP writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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