'Hunt' shows reunion of Lee Jung-jae and Jung Woo-sung after 23 years

Director and actor Lee Jung-jae and co-star Jung Woo-sung hold hands at the local press event at the Megabox Seongsu branch Tuesday to promote their film "Hunt," set to be released in local theaters on Aug. 10. [NEWS1]

“Hunt,” which had its world premiere at the Midnight Screening section of this year’s Cannes, is “Squid Game” star Lee Jung-jae’s directorial feature film debut, which he produced, co-wrote and also stars in. Ever since the casting was finalized, the film was already the talk of the town as it reunites Lee and Jung Woo-sung on the big screen for the first time since the duo last starred together in “The City of the Rising Sun” (1999).

The espionage action film "Hunt," set in 1983, pits two stars against each other: Park Pyung-ho, portrayed by Lee, is the foreign unit chief of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), and Kim Jung-do, portrayed by Jung, is the KCIA's domestic unit chief. They are both tasked with uncovering a mole leaking top secret intel with the ultimate goal of assassinating the president. However, their prime suspects are each other.

Top, Lee as Park Pyung-ho, the foreign unit chief of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), and Jung Woo-sung, above, as Kim Jung-do, the KCIA domestic unit chief, are both tasked with uncovering a North Korean spy within the organization in

According to Lee at the local press event for “Hunt” on Tuesday at the Megabox Seongsu branch, one of the most difficult parts of being a director was casting. It is widely known throughout local entertainment industry that Lee and Jung have been best friends for 23 years since their characters were portrayed as friends in their last movie together.

“Jung refused the role about four times,” Lee said. “Ever since ‘The City,’ when we would get together we would say to each other that we should find something else to do together. It took us a long time, but we weren’t giving up and we truly wanted to find the right project for the both of us. We stumbled upon the draft for ‘Hunt,’ but there was a lot of rewriting and adjustments that had to be made. I showed Jung every time a big change was made. We were extra careful about approaching the film because we didn’t want to disappoint the fans who were waiting for both of us to appear together on screen again.”

“People say that it would be our first appearance together in 23 years if we both star in this project,” Jung said. “In my mind, I wanted to be a part of it, but at the same time I hesitated because of fear, maybe cautiousness, of whether or not this is right. At one point during the scriptwriting process I felt Lee’s dedication to ‘Hunt’ and decided to go for it, and no matter how it turns out I will accept the results with no regret.”

Lee, left, laughs at Jung's joke that the two had their honeymoon at Cannes, which they went to for "Hunt" as it was invited to the Midnight Screening section of this year's Cannes Film Festival. [NEWS1]

Compared to "The City," the atmosphere of the set for “Hunt” was more strained, and Jung intentionally wanted to preserve the tension due to the narrative.

“Usually, all the chit chat happens behind the camera,” Jung said. “But for ‘Hunt,’ I thought our relationship was the kind which left no room for any kind of comfortableness or easiness. So I wanted to preserve that edge on the set too.”

Lee and Jung pose for a photo at the local press event for "Hunt," held at the Megabox Seongsu branch on Tuesday. [NEWS1]

“For ‘Hunt,’ more important than the action were the characters’ emotions building up to the action sequences,” Lee said. “How much the actors push their emotions to make the follow-up actions feel natural were the crucial elements of this film. I did feel from Jung that he was purposefully talking less and trying to maintain his character’s emotions. Consequently the set’s atmosphere was entirely the opposite from ‘The City,’ which I think is another charm of this film.”