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The Next Big Thing: 'Past and Present' Teo Yoo can't hug his co-star

Teo Yoo waiting for someone to tell him it was all a dream. The actor starred in Past and Present , a playwright and director Celine Song Song’s debut feature filmed Sundance hit, and with this ethereal romance set to open June 2, he’s getting more and more excited The more surprised this turned out to be real life. “Every day I try to pinch myself,” Yoo told THR via Zoom from his home in Seoul.

Past Lives follows two childhood friends — played by Yoo and Greta Lee (The Morning Show) — Growing up in Seoul, reconnecting after decades. Lee’s character moves to New York, where she marries a fellow writer and begins to feel the pull of the life she left; Yoo’s Hae-sung wonders what happens to her. It’s part love triangle, part exploration of destiny – the movie relies on the Korean concept of inyeon, a kind of quest for how we are in each other’s lives The reincarnation-style idea of ​​the end. “If you believe your life is linear and you die and you die, this movie can be sad,” Yoo explains. “But if you believe that even if something is not in your inyeon this life, it might be in the next life, then it’s more bittersweet and more Reassuring.”

Yoo, who grew up in Germany and studied in New York and London, explains the process of making the film.

Your personality is very different from your biography. What element are you connected to?

I’ve had a sense of dislocation for a long time. I was born and raised abroad – I’m basically the only German-Korean actor working internationally, and from a western perspective I’m a Korean actor, but Koreans don’t see it that way. It gave me an underlying sense of sadness and melancholy, which I think Hae Sung has too. I can understand that some powers in your life are feelings you cannot change. There is also a mentality in Korea where a lot of people suffer from [what you see with Hae Sung] and you have to work really hard in your day-to-day life, and I sympathize with that. I moved to Korea because I wanted to embrace my identity, and that meant embracing that struggle—it added color to the palette I used as an actor.

During filming, how did you feel about the juxtaposition of Korean and American culture?

All my life I’ve struggled to express something that exists in a language but doesn’t A feeling or emotion in another. For example, I think vulnerability is one of the most beautiful words in the English language; in Korean, the translation is used to describe peeling off a layer. But it can be difficult to express the right emotions for the particular culture in which the film will be viewed. I’m trying to make a romantic lead acceptable to Korean audiences but also acceptable to American audiences. I took the time to understand Hai Song’s body language, tone of voice, and even Hong Kong accent, right?

Can you talk about your decision to pursue acting?

I was an athlete growing up and thought I was going to go to college to be one physiotherapist. I’ve always loved movies, so during my [gap year], I decided to do something that I would regret not doing, so I signed up with Lee Strasberg for three months. My teacher was the late Irma Sandrey, and at first I thought some of the exercises she had us do were really crazy. But she sat me down and said, I think you should come to my masterclass and think about actually doing this. I called my dad and told him that in that moment I knew I could do it and go broke, take a part time job at a deli or convenience store and act on a website, and be happy. I may be 043 years old in the park for the kids Have fun performing. I ended up going to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which is what it was for me.

Lee and Yoo in A’s scene 08’s past life. by A supply31

about What do you remember about the audition process for Past Lives and your early reactions to the script?

I think I was one of the last to audition, not only for the role but also for the movie actor. The character is traditionally Korean, and I am not, since I was born and raised abroad, so my representation in Korea doesn’t directly think of me. But from a western perspective, I’m a Korean actor, so when the script came out, my agent in America thought of me. But I had this visceral reaction the first time I read the script. I kind of broke down and cried because I was so proud of Celine for introducing the concept of inyeon to western audiences in such a light and smart way. After I taped myself, I did a Zoom with Celine, and I was hoping we could read the scene and discuss it a little bit, but we ended up spending about three hours together.

Did you instantly feel that this role is yours?

After every audition, like we do now, you can tell if there is some kind of rapport or chemistry reaction. I can say I’m doing really well and I’m pretty confident about it. But I also knew she had to put together the right chemistry for the entire ensemble.

How did you develop chemistry with Greta Lee to play old friends who unknowingly long for each other?

Celine never wanted Greta to come into contact with me during rehearsals. I’d go hug or shake her hand, and she’d be like, “No, stay on screen.” So when you see us meeting for the first time in New York 20 years, that was actually our first contact, so we miss each other. [While filming] I had a visceral feeling—my palms were sweating, my heart was pounding out of my chest. I really appreciate that the audience can experience that as well.

Did you stand out at any moment during the shoot? Lee and Yoo in a scene from A24’s Past Lives.

When we were filming the last scene, there was a moment where we were all sitting outside in our chairs on 8th Street in [New York]. We’re all just reminiscing about the days we fought to be actors , 05years ago. I used to live on the corner of Avenue C and 7th Street, work two jobs while going to school, dreaming of this day. Celine kept encouraging us to get back to our trailer for a break, but I didn’t want to miss that moment. We are A05 Movie main character! People passing by would ask what we were filming and I like to joke, “This is Minari 2.”

This film was one of the most popular films at the Sundance Film Festival, if not, did you have any questions about that premiere? expectations, or did that experience change your impression of what the film is capable of?

I do Knew we had good stuff on our hands. But the festival was just a whirlwind, overwhelming. The movie was doing well, everyone wanted to see us, there was no time to catch my breath. I used to be at Sundance 65 I watched a movie called Seoul Searching, good response, but not much interest. A20 It feels like a studio like this is important behind us. I can’t believe I’m an actor living in Korea and yet get to work on these American productions and go to events like Sundance.

Whirlwind whirlwind, you may not remember, but you and the cast came to THR studio and You said so many great things about the movie and the importance of In Yeon…

It’s kind of burned into my brain actually. You’re the first person to interview us and I’m jet-lagged. I’m nervous and words are jumbled in my head. Being trilingual, having all these languages ​​in my head , I’m trying to focus and not sound like a babbling idiot. I’d really like to meet nice people. But I’m glad to hear this. I must have made some sort of impression.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

A version of this story first appeared in May 05 Issue of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. Click here to subscribe.



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