Never heard of Rain? I hadn’t, even though he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People Who Shape the World in 2006, and in 2007 People Magazine included him in their annual Most Beautiful People issue.
A rock star in his native Korea, Rain made his U.S. feature film debut as a race car driver in Speed Racer. The second unit director on that movie was James McTeigue, who helms Ninja Assassin.
In the movie Rain portrays Raizo, one of the deadliest assassins in the world, who is out to revenge the death of a friend by the legendary Ozunu Clan.
Rain sat down with us at the Yamashiro Restaurant in the Hollywood hills to tell us about this amazing opportunity in his career.
So how was it playing one of the world’s deadliest assassins?
You know, when I was young I wanted to be a big action hero. This is going be huge I’m pretty sure. It was amazing. I’m so excited.
Did you have a hero that you looked up to like Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee?
Yeah. When I was young, I saw a lot of martial arts films with Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. I loved them. They are my heroes. but I’m so powerful, I’m so [much] faster, I’m so young and so handsome [he starts preening and laughing], like a model. I really loved them so they are my role models.
I have another role model, Al Pacino. He’s my hero. My favorite film of his is Scarface. I loved it.
Did your work on stage as a pop star and your dance movements, help you when you went into learning martial arts, especially for this film?
Yeah, it helped. I think singing, dancing and acting are very similar. I don’t know why but it helped.
What did you do to train for this film?
I had to make my body fit like Bruce Lee. I trained for eight months, five days a week, eight hours a day. I just ate chicken breasts and vegetables, sometimes just egg whites. It was horrible.
I learned a lot of martial arts; Taekwando, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Karate, kick boxing with a sword and double swords, Shuriken, the chain is my favorite. I learned a lot. I had so many coaches.
How did you learn to work with the chain? Was that hard and did you hurt yourself?
Yeah. It was hard. When I was doing stunts, I had lots of cuts on my body because of the chain. Even though everybody took care of me, I still got hurt.
What was the biggest accident you had with the chain?
My nose was cut, my face was cut and my body was cut.
Were they worried about covering it with make-up?
Yes. But I didn’t need make-up [in the scenes were he is beat up and bleeding]. It was real. Cut, cut, cut!
Do you continue to train now that the movie is over?
When I finished Ninja Assassin, I said ‘no more work outs. No more vegetables, no more chicken breast, no more salmon, no more egg whites’. I can eat everything, chocolate, hamburgers, pizza, Burger King, KFC. It’s all in my body.
Can you talk about working with James McTeigue?
There’s nothing to talk about. He’s the best. He is always humble to everybody. Always friendly and, yeah, I love his directing style. I love him.
Your character has to hold his emotions inside or hide them and you are a very outgoing guy so was that hard for you?
It’s good acting, right? [he laughs]. Before this film, I had an acting coach, an English coach and martial arts coach, so many martial arts coaches; chain coach, sword coach, Kung Fu coach, a lot.
What did you think when they said you were going to be the star of this big action movie?
It’s gonna be huge. I’m gonna be a big star! So, I’m ready. It’s hard walking in the streets in Asia and here I hope to do the same if people like this movie.
You really hope it’s the same? That you can’t walk the streets here, that people will be chasing you like they do in Asia?
In America? Yeah, why not?
Are you planning to make a sequel to this?
Yeah. Ninja Assassin in McDonalds!
Did it ever concern you that you might get type-cast as the new martial arts star from doing films like this?
The Asians have [diverse] culture. More people have been interested in the martial arts side of it than others and that’s why many Asian actors have been cast that way. But movies are changing in the way people view Asians.
We can show you other sides as well; romance, comedy because I’m so young and handsome [big grin] and my body is so sexy so look at me!