'Guy next door' Song Kang-ho first Korean to win Best Actor Award at Cannes

Actor Song Kang-ho [SUBLIME]

Song Kang-ho, often mentioned as director Bong Joon-ho’s inspiration, no longer remains limited by that portrayal after taking home the first Best Actor Award for a Korean actor at this year’s Cannes for his performance in “Broker.”

In “Broker,” directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Song portrays Sang-hyun, a man who calls himself a broker of goodwill. Sang-hyun stands on the precipice of good and evil as he takes a baby from a baby box hoping to sell it to adoptive parents, but also understands the hardships that the baby’s single mother So-young is going through and silently stands by her side.

“Sang-hyun’s narrative isn’t completely unraveled in the film,” Song said at an online press interview Wednesday. “Even till the end of the film, it isn’t shown where Sang-hyun ends up. And even for me, it was difficult to define Sang-hyun as a person, but I also wanted him to be predictable [to the audience]. So if Kore-eda had a question, a message he wanted to convey to the audience, I wanted it to be portrayed through Sang-hyun’s emotions, a mysterious character we may not fully understand.”

Song as Sang-hyun, a man who calls himself a broker of goodwill [CJ ENM]

Song also gave his thoughts on him “finally” being named Best Actor, after knocking on the festival’s door for the seventh time.

“Of course, winning an award from such a prestigious festival as Cannes is a great and happy moment, an unforgettable turning point of my life,” Song admitted. “However, I don’t think the action [of receiving an award] itself holds much significance. Because from the perspective of someone creating a film, the ultimate and most important purpose of the film is interaction with the audience. During the process, I have won the award, but that itself cannot become the purpose. […] There is no difference in me, Song Kang-ho, before and after the Cannes award. The meaning lies in unwaveringly doing the best I can [in future projects].”

In a prior interview, Kore-eda praised the actor for bringing out the characters’ secularity in the films. Similarly, Song said that his priority in acting lies in how much empathy he can draw from the audience with his characters.

Actor Song Kang-ho [SUBLIME]

“I believe acting is about reducing the gap between the character and the audience to convey the message of the film, even if the particular character is difficult to understand or unfamiliar to the audience, or the distinct genre of the film makes it so,” Song said. “I believe that being an actor is about depicting humans, and I have seamlessly worked toward studying and contemplating human nature for my profession.”

Throughout his 26-year film career, Song has worked multiple times with film auteurs such as Lee Chang-dong, Park Chan-wook, Kim Jee-woon, Bong Joon-ho and now Hirokazu Kore-eda. When asked what makes him their favorite, the actor says it’s his mundaneness that makes him so approachable to the filmmakers and the audience.

Song Kang-ho poses for the camera as he attends the 75th Cannes International Film Festival for his performance in "Broker." [CJ ENM]

“I think it’s because I’m ordinary,” Song said. “I’m not handsome, and I am like the guy next door who you see every day, which is what I think makes me approachable, and why I have had the chance to work with so many talented people.”

Song says that he’s directly experiencing the worldwide attention Korean content is garnering across the globe as he has attended the prestigious festival for the past three years for “Parasite” (2019), as a Cannes’ jury in 2021 and for “Broker” (2022).

Actor Song Kang-ho [SUBLIME]

“What I felt on the global stage of Cannes is that cinephiles and countless fans worldwide are recognizing Korean content,” Song said. “Wherever I go, they talk about Korean films and content, which is what I was the most proud of and happy about. I don’t think the rise of our content came out of the blue, nor did it come from Bong winning Palme d’Or for ‘Parasite’ or my winning, but it was the fruit reaped from the accumulation of our trials of some two decades since director Im Kwon-taek. I believe in the future, we will have more achievements from wave of great actors, staff and filmmakers.”