“Confessions of Actor Jang?”
Chief Editor Kwak Myunghwan looked at the terrestrial TV PD sitting opposite him.
“Are you asking about a story that is already a decade old?”
“There are many things I would like to ask you, Chief Kwak, because getting an interview with you isn’t easy. Besides, there are many parts that resonate with the documentary about Actor Jang Youngguk we are currently producing. We understand that you’ve been keenly observing Mr. Jang since his debut.”
“Not exactly from his debut. I didn’t know about him when he was a child actor. He shot to fame with the drama Youth when he was eighteen. I happened to run into Actor Jang when I attended a script reading at that time. You remember Youth, right?”
“Of course. Didn’t our drama department produce it? There are even rumors that it’ll be remade this year, thanks to fans nostalgic from ten years ago. The PD who was in charge of the production, Kim Jin, is now head of the drama department at a cable network, and Writer Hwang Sugyeong has become a giant of the industry that Korea can’t do without. And of course, we don’t need to mention Actor Jang Youngguk.”
Senior Writer Kwak Myunghwan gave a brief nod. The wrinkles around his eyes reflected his nostalgia for ten years ago. As the camera for the documentary rolled, he added his narration.
“There were a lot of concerns about using a newcomer, but Youth was a huge hit, dispelling those worries. Actor Jang’s popularity soared to the sky. He was extremely popular even across the ocean in Japan. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call him Korea’s first Hallyu star. The advertising industry also tried to hire Actor Jang, offering huge conditions. Do you remember the apple drink commercial that Actor Jang first took on?”
“Ahaha, you mean that commercial now recorded as a black mark in Actor Jang’s history?”
“It may be a black mark for Actor Jang, but it must have been a godsend for the advertiser. Thanks to that one commercial, the apple drink sold like hotcakes in Korea, and the company grew so much that the advertiser’s title changed from CEO to Chairman.”
After the Youth ended, Jang Youngguk quickly rose to become the blue chip of the broadcasting and advertising world.
“Contrary to the public’s expectation that he would continue to build his reputation as a teen icon, Actor Jang chose a film rated for adults only for his next project. Many people worried about this. They said it was too drastic an image transformation. As a result, the advertising industry, which had been showering him with love calls, hesitated. Some reporters even wrote malicious articles. They said that the teen star who had been riding the wave of popularity might leave a blemish on his acting career due to his acting pride.”
“Did you think so too, Chief Kwak?”
“Why would I? An actor has to act, so why should he worry about other people’s eyes? I respected Actor Jang’s decision.”
Just then, the cameraman signaled that the tape was going to run out. During the break, the PD carefully brought up a private conversation.
“Mr. Kwak, do you remember Actor Jang’s first fan meeting by any chance?”
“I remember it very well.”
“Then this is my personal curiosity, but in the past, wasn’t it practically unheard of for an actor to hold a fan meeting? I tried to find a video of the fan meeting at the time, but I couldn’t get it because the agency said they didn’t have any data. You were active at the time, and you attended Actor Jang’s fan meeting, didn’t you…?”
“Yes, I did. I understand why Songwon Entertainment doesn’t have the video.”
Myunghwan recalled the scene of the fan meeting ten years ago and explained.
“There were circumstances that made it so.”
* * *
There were so many cameras installed at the fan meeting venue that it felt like a movie shooting scene. All because of CEO Kim Seonghwan’s passion.
It was Songwon Entertainment’s first fan meeting, and, at the time, it was not common for actors to hold fan meetings, so he thought it was worth recording.
Meanwhile, Yeongguk licked his dry lips.
I shouldn’t have prepared a personal talent.
His mouth got the better of him. He didn’t need to boast about preparing a personal talent. He had learned the choreography for a week, but there was no way he could fix his awkwardness, equivalent to an incurable disease, in such a short time. He could almost see the face of Actor Park Suyeong laughing and giggling while watching the recorded fan meeting video.
“Many fans have come from not only Korea but also Japan! Yeongguk has been practicing dance for a long time for the fans. According to the rumors, he dances better than most singers and everyone was surprised. Is it true? He is about to reveal his dance skills, which have never been disclosed anywhere before!”
The atmosphere heated up with the host’s witty talk. Where on earth did the groundless rumor that he dances better than most singers come from?
Yeongguk’s face felt hot, and he wanted to say stop. But when he heard the screams of the fans outside the stage, it all disappeared. What can’t he do for the fans?
The audience shouted in both Korean and Japanese. People were screaming with joy. His dance moves ere clumsy, but he had been practicing for so long that he was able to hit the beat perfectly, spreading a happy smile on the fans’ faces.
“Natsune! Dojin-sama is going to sing!”
“Yeah! They say he’s really good at singing?”
The Japanese fan, Natsune, upon hearing her friend who had been on the same plane with her, responded and suddenly became focused. She already seen Yeongguk’s robot dance routine, so she dind’t expect much. It was very cute, but she couldn’t say he was good. Soon after, Yeongguk picked up the stand microphone and smiled.
Yeah, it didn’t matter if he was good or bad at singing anymore. An actor just needed to act well, and his smile alone could melt a frozen glacier.
It was then.
His favorite song from his past life rang out. She didn’t understand because it was Korean, but the feeling of the lyrical lyrics gripped her whole body. Natsune was already tightly closing her mouth as if thrilled.
Who knew a song could be so sweet?
“Natsune, today really feels like a dream.”
As her friend said, it wouldn’t be as happy as walking on clouds. Not only her, but all the faces of the numerous fans who came to the fan meeting clearly revealed the same emotions.
He was doing so when he was speaking Korean, but every time he waved his fluent Japanese at them, their hearts trembled as if an earthquake had occurred. How could they not love him, soaked in sweat from passionately running around the stage for the fans? The thought that she wished this moment would last forever circled in her head.
The atmosphere of the theater where the fan meeting was held was ripe. The host continued to lead the event with witty talk. When a segment called “Hug with Jang Youngguk” came out, everyone let out a scream-like cheer. Soon, Yeongguk on stage drew a number from the lottery box.
“It’s me! I’m 73―!”
Natsune miraculously got her number called and jumped up from her seat with joy. She went up on the stage bathed in the spotlight and faced Yeongguk. It couldn’t be helped that her fingertips trembled faintly. She never dreamed she would see the actor she had only met through the TV so close.
Perhaps understanding her feelings, Yeongguk gently hugged Natsune. As Natsune hugged him back and carefully lifted her head, she saw Yeongguk’s smiling face. At that moment, she felt her heart flutter wildly. After hugging Yeongguk and she was about to step off the stage—
The curtain of the stage abruptly closed, and it felt like it was about to go dark when the lights on the stage swayed and a piece of lighting equipment fell headfirst over Natsune’s head. With a loud bang, Natsune came to her senses. Somehow, it was Yeongguk who had thrown his body to save her. Yeongguk, with the Japanese girl in his arms, asked in fluent Japanese,
“Are you alright?”
* * *
“There was an incident like that?”
The PD seemed to hear it for the first time. It wasn’t surprising considering if such an accident had occurred at the fan meeting, it wouldn’t have been strange if rumors had already spread. Kwak Myeonghwan showed a thin smile at his reaction.
“At that time, the internet wasn’t as developed, and because the stage was dark and the blackout curtain was down, the fans in the audience couldn’t see. Of course, crucially, it was because Actor Jang asked each of the reporters after the fan meeting had safely ended.”
“What did he ask them?”
“Actor Jang told the reporters himself. He said it was merely a mishap. He said he was worried that the Japanese fans would be hurt because of the incident. At that time, the Japanese fan was safe, but Actor Jang suffered a scrape on his back. But even in that state, he didn’t show it and safely completed the fan meeting. It’s behind the story, but that Japanese girl is now the president of Actor Jang’s fan club in Japan.”
Just then, a knock came from beyond the writing room. The secretary came in and said something in Kwak Myeonghwan’s ear. He checked his wristwatch and nodded briefly. The cameraman had just finished changing the tape of the filming camera.
“Well, the introduction was long. We don’t have much time, so let’s get to the point. You asked about The Priest’s Confession, Jang’s first lead role in a commercial movie.”
Kwak Myeonghwan picked up a teacup and moistened his throat before adding.
“Thanks to the action he showed at the fan meeting, as you know, PD, The Priest’s Confession was a huge hit. As an adult-only movie at the time, it set a remarkable record. You know that, right, PD?”
“Of course. I remember watching The Priest’s Confession at the theater at the time. There were hardly any movie tickets left nationwide because they were selling like hot cakes. Did you expect The Priest’s Confession to be such a hit, Chief Kwak?”
“I had that feeling on the set. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to observe on the day of the crank-in. Everyone was talking negatively about Jang’s choice of next work, but he showed a distinctive appearance from the first shoot. Whenever I think of his acting, I get goosebumps all over my body.”
Kwak Myeonghwan’s wrinkled eyes reminisced about the past. The chilling appearance of the actor that he met at the filming site of The Priest’s Confession ten years ago.
* * *
“Park-hyung, when filming, please boldly raise the scene. When focusing on the clock in the control room, make sure the composition is alive. You know what I mean, right? Not to emphasize the sub-camera, but we need a clear contrast. Also, when the main character says a line, you have to shoot it like an over-the-shoulder (OSS) shot for the supporting actors. Especially, this expression must be alive.”
“Director Shin, I’ve already told them to prepare all the tracks. You think I didn’t see the continuity?”
“It’s the first filming, please understand a little, Park-hyung. And Seonwoo, you have to tighten well when you capture the subject with HMI. Because it’s a picture. But don’t tighten it too hard from the beginning. Like ripples spreading on the water, subtly, right?”
“Hyung, you’re not treating me like a baby, are you? I’ve been rolling on the ground of lighting for several years. But if it’s what Hyung says, it’s okay. I’ve never slipped up, and now you’ve entrusted me with the position of lighting director. Even if I bleed, I’ll do it perfectly, so just watch.”
“Alright, you jerk. If you make a mistake from the first shoot, you might see a different name when you see the ending credit at the theater later.”
“Would you dare to do that?”
The filming scene was full of tension. Everyone was a bit tense as it was about to start digging. There was even a superstition that the first shoot determined the success of a movie, how could they not? Just by looking at the figure of Director Shin Seonghyeon, who was having animated conversation with the directors of each department, one could tell how important this moment was.
Unlike usual, he wore his hat low due to the superstition that if the director didn’t wash his hair on the first day of shooting, the film would be a hit.
“Senior, I’m Actor Jang Yeongguk. I’m looking forward to working with you!”
“We’ve already greeted each other at the production announcement, so you don’t have to be so polite. I heard you call Junghyeon ‘uncle’? Just calling me senior makes me feel old.”
“Then can I call you ‘hyung’ instead of ‘uncle’?”
“I like your spirit. Let’s do a good job on shooting today!”
It was middle-aged Actor Kim Hyeongseop. He, too, was one of the renowned actors in Korea, just like Junghyeon. He was a role model for Yeongguk in his previous life. He was unsurpassed as a supporting actor in Korea. Kim Hyeongseop, who was cheerfully chatting with Yeongguk, patted his back and got up.
“Yeongguk, are you okay?”
“Eh, I’m okay.”
Manager Lee Bongchun asked cautiously. Yeongguk, who had bitten his lip at the sting, quickly fixed his expression. There was intermittent pain in the area where he was wounded in an accident at the fan meeting site before. But since the treatment was finished without anyone knowing and as long as he wore a coat, no one would know he was hurt except for his manager. It was then.
Yeongguk, who was talking to his manager, turned his head. It was Director Shin Seonghyeon.
“Director Shin, I told you to speak comfortably. After the countryside trip with me last time, we decided to do so. If you continue like this, I’ll feel a distance, won’t I?”
“You’ll get used to it gradually.”
“From the listener’s point of view, it’s much more comfortable. Did you come to deliver the continuity and instructions?”
“You’re like a ghost, you seem to know exactly what I’m going to say.”
“I’ve already received the continuity from Seokcheol-hyung (assistant director) and looked at it. You’re worried because it’s a long-take shooting, aren’t you?”
Director Shin Seonghyeon was amazed by the young actor. There were not many cases where even most actors understood the director’s thoughts at once, but this guy knew the filming instructions as if he’s looking into his heart. It’s a talent that couldn’t be explained as anything but innate.
“By the way, there’s someone I’d like to introduce to Actor Jang. He just returned home and joined our shooting team. He’s the music director.”
From the directors of the main parts of the filming site to the youngest staff, I had already greeted everyone. Wondering who he would introduce, a familiar figure appeared.
“Director Choi Yul?”
“Do you know me?”
How could I not know him? He’s the person who gave me a lot of disgrace in my previous life. His stern image had become sharper with age.
Now, he was famous throughout Asia, but in the future, he would become a master in Hollywood, the sacred place of the film industry, as a music director.
On the other hand, Director Choi Yul was perplexed. Even though he had made a name for himself as a music director, he had had few encounters with actors. That’s because most of his work was done by watching the directed film and discussing it with the film director.
“I really liked the main theme song of From Busan and Monglan, your debut work. And I read the interview after you won the music award at the Grand Bell Awards.”
“Really? But Monglan is a movie that hasn’t been released in China yet?”
“Ah, I saw in a magazine that Director Choi Yul is working on the theme song for a movie called Monglan in China. I guess I got my hopes up too high.”
“But Director Shin, surely the person you mentioned isn’t…”
“Yes, it’s Director Choi Yul. I never thought Actor Jang would go as far as to look up his interview. He will be in charge of the music for our movie, The Priest’s Confession. He rushed back from China a few days ago.”
Director Choi Yul’s popularity was skyrocketing, even among renowned filmmakers. He was considered a blue chip, akin to a national actor. I never dreamed I’d meet him here.
He was notoriously picky when it came to selecting projects but that’s because he was also a perfectionist. Generally, music directors had two methods of working.
First, they would select or compose the theme song after filming was completely finished and they could watch the edited footage. Secondly, they would visit the set from the start of filming and come up with the song. Director Choi Yul belonged to the latter group.
He was a sensitive guy.
And quite prickly at that. I had a minor role in his previous film. By his mid-forties, he was already considered a master music director, just as influential as a film director.
Ugh, I don’t want to recall those times.
When Director Choi Yul complained at a drinking party that my acting was so terrible it hindered his ability to come up with a suitable track, the film director fired me on the spot. I couldn’t argue, I was pretty green.
Of course, that experience served as a lesson and improved my acting.
“I look forward to working with you, Director Choi Yul.”
But this time, I would show a different side of me.
* * *
Eventually, the shout of the assistant director that standby was complete rang out. Everyone swallowed nervously and headed to the filming site.
“Scene number 1, The Priest’s Confession―!”
With the sound of the clapperboard, all eyes on set were focused. The beginning of the movie flowed in reverse order. This meant the story flowed backwards from the moment the serial killer was caught. It was a device to engage and interest the audience beyond the screen.
“Kim Mujin, 29 years old, you claim to be a priest, is that correct?”
His hair was disheveled, and the white collar, worn over a black cassock down to his ankles, was stained with blood. Despite the detective’s questioning, the priest remained silent. The detective banged his fist on the steel table in frustration.
“Answer me! Do you think you’re here for fun! There’s six of them, the number of victims suspected to have been killed by you. How can you commit such crimes and still call yourself a priest.”
At the sight of the priest exercising his right to remain silent, the frustrated detective shook his head and rose from his seat. As he gestured across the double paned glass, another priest entered the interrogation room. He was an older priest, his face and white hair covered with age spots. As he entered, the detective subtly made room for him.
“Father Mateo, what is going on?”
The older priest (played by Kim Hyeongseop) held the hand of the younger handcuffed priest (Jang Yeongguk) and asked. At that, the lips that were sealed tight, slowly opened.
“Do you know what pride, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, sloth, and greed mean, Bishop James?”
“Are they not the seven deadly sins spoken of in the Bible?”
“Correct. The reason I killed them was nothing else. I questioned whether sin and punishment really existed while studying theology. Isn’t that the case in reality? The victims turn to dust, while the perpetrators live on without hesitation.”
His voice was too devout for a murderer.
“Do not ask me why I did it. I cannot undo their sins, just as I cannot undo the sins I have committed. Bishop James, I have killed criminals corresponding to the seven deadly sins. However, I could not complete the last sin. Do you know what it is?”
At that moment, the young priest lifted his head. His demeanor was gentle. Bloodstains remained on his neck and chin, but even that sight seemed incredibly sacred. As the older priest was about to say something, the young priest interrupted him with a shake of his head.
“A senseless person cannot know this; a fool cannot comprehend.”
The detectives standing beyond the glass of the interrogation room did not understand. They couldn’t, as the words were in Latin. Of course, the older priest sitting in front of the young priest knew what he was saying. The gentle face of the young priest seemed to shatter like glass.
“Why seek greed while walking the path of priesthood? How happy you must have been, seeing your barn full of riches. Not only did you lust after young women, but you also destroyed their families. All of this will be your sin.”
As if a ripple had formed on a calm lake, the older priest’s wrinkled eyes trembled intensely. The people on set were watching this unfold. The brief intro taking place in the interrogation room was enough to captivate them and make it impossible to look away. Then—
“Greedy man, you will meet your death due to your ignorance.”
The young priest explained in a sharp voice.
“James, you are the last sin.”