Director, co-star remember Lee Sun-kyun as posthumous film 'Project Silence' sees local release

A still from upcoming thriller film ″Project Silence″ [CJ ENM]

"Project Silence" is a new thriller film by director Kim Tae-gon that will finally hit local theaters on Friday, more than a year since its initial screening at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in May last year. The film has faced numerous challenges and hardships since the Cannes screening, with its biggest being the film's lead actor Lee Sun-kyun's drug scandal followed by his death in December 2023. The director said the film has undergone significant changes since Lee's passing.

"All I thought of was that I had to do my best to complete the film, thinking that was what I could do for Lee,” said Kim in an interview with the local press on Wednesday in central Seoul.

"Project Silence" tells the survival story of people trapped on a foggy bridge leading to an airport, where experimental military dogs are on the loose, creating a deadly environment. Lee portrays Cha Jung-won, a single father and government security administrator, while actor Ju Ji-hoon plays Jobak, a tow-truck driver willing to do anything for his own survival.

Actor Ju Ji-hoon [CJ ENM]

Both the director and Ju shared their fond memories of working with Lee, highlighting his substantial contribution to the film during an interview with the local press. Kim noted that Lee's input was invaluable in shaping the characters' movements, emotions and overall dynamics, especially given the film's limited setting on a bridge in the aftermath of a massive car crash.

“Lee helped a lot in that area, including the action in the film, before and during shooting,” Kim said, adding that Lee brought a realistic dimension to the character of Jung-won, drawing from his own experiences and personality. Initially depicted as a typical warmhearted father, Lee transformed Jung-won into a more nuanced character.

Ju emphasized the real-life chemistry between himself and Lee, which translated seamlessly onto the screen.

“We both were people who couldn’t separate themselves from work,” Ju said, recalling that nearly every day, he and Lee met up for drinks to discuss their shoots.

“I think that the real-life connection showed on screen,” Ju said.

A still from upcoming thriller film ″Project Silence″ [CJ ENM]
A still from upcoming thriller film ″Project Silence″ [CJ ENM]

Another important part of the film is the military dogs, which the director drew inspiration from his actual experience.

“I once traveled from Mokpo to Seoul on foot during a difficult time. During that trip, I met some wild dogs who kept following me, which was frightening,” he said. This encounter inspired the inclusion of the 11 military dogs in the film, all created through computer-generated imagery (CGI).

Both the director and Ju described the challenges of working with CGI, particularly in creating believable interactions with the virtual dogs. Ju, who had prior experience with CGI in films like "Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds" (2017) and its sequel, noted that the larger cast in "Project Silence" presented unique difficulties. Each actor had to convincingly react to the CGI elements, which required careful coordination to maintain consistent levels of fear and tension.

"Project Silence" director Kim Tae-gon [CJ ENM]

“As fear is an abstract concept, the level of how each actor expressed their fear was also different. So it took some time to arrange such detailed levels throughout the film,” Ju added.

For Ju, however, CGI was not the only challenge he encountered. Ju said he also faced physical challenges during the shoot. He suffered inflammation of his salivary gland after performing a fire-spitting scene himself, despite having a body double available. Additionally, being a tall man with a height of 187 centimeters (6 feet, 1 inch) made it particularly painful for him to perform scenes while in a car trunk.

Despite these hardships, Ju felt his efforts were validated by the positive feedback from reporters at Cannes. Director Kim also made significant edits to the film after its Cannes screening, aiming to enhance its pace and tension. The final edit, completed on July 5, reduced some elements to prevent the film from feeling overly stifling or dull.

A still from upcoming thriller film ″Project Silence″ [CJ ENM]
A still from upcoming thriller film ″Project Silence″ [CJ ENM]

"I wanted to remove some parts that seemed excessive," Kim said. "As the film takes place on a foggy bridge, I aimed to reduce the stuffiness and dullness that the audience might feel.