Song Joong-ki takes the lead in Korean sci-fi film Space Sweepers

Space Sweepers, touted as the “first Korean sci-fi blockbuster film set in space,” is landing on Netflix today, Feb. 5.

Leading the cast is K-drama superstar Song Joong-ki (Descendants of the Sun, Arthdal Chronicles) in his second movie project with director Jo Sung-hee (A Werewolf Boy and Phantom Detective).

In the film, the year is 2092, earth is hardly livable and outer space is the place to be for the privileged few. Song plays Tae-ho, a disgraced fighter pilot who ends up flying Spaceship Victory and leading its cash-strapped crew to do the dirty and dangerous work of keeping outer space free of debris, which travels faster than bullets and can cause deaths. He is joined by an ex-space pirate Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri), a spaceship engineer Tiger Park (Jin Sun-kyu) and the reprogrammed military robot Bubs (voiced by Yoo Hae-jin). The latest space junk they get to salvage turns out to be a crashed space shuttle with a seven-year-old “human-like robot” hiding inside but who can change the course of humanity once discovered. The “space cleaners” will then find themselves proving that no job is too small or too lowly to become a heroic mission.

The STAR had a virtual roundtable interview with Song ahead of the premiere, and he said that even before he received the script, he already said yes. Apart from the chance to star in a film that boasts of impressive visual effects, he was drawn to Space Sweepers because he found it realistic despite its futuristic themes.

Song said, “There are issues revolving around the environment, race, and food, and these are all issues we are familiar with. So, it was not as different as I thought the ‘future’ would be and that’s one of the reasons why I really liked it.”

He also loved how the future in space was presented in the film. “When I’d think about space or the future in space, I would just think of something very shiny and polished. But when the director handed me the script for the first time and I read it, I felt like it was not much different from our lives today. It wasn’t as polished or put together. A lot of it was kind of falling apart.

“My character was in socks with holes in them and trying to make ends meet and trying hard literally to find a meal to sustain him for a day. So, I felt like it was very much grounded with the current reality.”

After suffering from a personal loss, Song’s Tae-ho turns into an “opportunist who values money more than anything in the world.” In interpreting his character, he thought of the word “devastated.”

Without going into detail, Song admitted that when filming began for Space Sweepers (reportedly in 2019), he was in the same emotional state of his character.

“I think I was in a similar state to Tae-ho when I first started shooting the film. He is devastated because of the series of events, but still he manages to put himself together. And when he meets — I call them misfits but they’re a great team — his crew members, he finds a glimpse of hope, and he starts to have more enthusiasm towards his life again. So, I think the crew members help Tae-ho put himself together and get back on his feet. So, I try to show that contrast the best as I could.”

Of course, it helped that he was working again with director Jo Sung-hee 10 years after the fantasy-romance A Werewolf Boy, one of Korea’s highest-grossing films of all time.

“This is our second project together, and I’ve never played a role that’s handsome (in his films). I’m always dirty, covered in oil, dust and for A Werewolf Boy, I was always dirty, covered in mud. And I think I fall in love with these types of characters… But the personalities of the characters that I played are very pure and they have the warmest hearts. So, I think, that’s the reason why I love playing parts in director Jo’s films.”

Song also expressed his great faith in the filmmaker. “After receiving the script, I couldn’t keep myself from reading it through and the first thought that struck me was: ‘Director Jo never disappoints!’ I genuinely have such great faith in director Jo. When he mentioned that he would pass the script to me, I already made up my mind to take on the project without even reading it yet.”

According to the actor, nothing has changed in his working relationship with director Jo.

“I don’t think anything was completely new or different from when I played Chul-soo (in A Werewolf Boy). And sometimes people ask me, where do you think Chul-soo is today? Some people ask me that because that’s a character that is alive in our hearts and I think director Jo is like that to me. It’s been 10 years but he’s always been there for me. That’s the relationship we have. Director Jo has not lost his own unique characteristic. He’s still as quiet as ever and yet, so fun to work with.”

As for the filmmaker, he only had praises for his lead star: “Just like 10 years ago, he continues to be such a friendly person, a leader on set. And I may make mistakes sometimes but he’s always very understanding. I really depended on him and relied on him mentally and, you know, I could put my trust in him and I feel a little bit relieved that Joong-ki is there and that there’s not much to worry about.”

Meanwhile, Song said that he’s more excited than pressured when asked about the high expectations over the film. He’s also just glad that Korea is now capable of producing a film “where spacecrafts zoom by in the vastness of space.”

“I think a lot of the burden stood on the director’s shoulders. To have the title of Korea’s first space blockbuster, it’s almost like having the Korean flag on our chest. So, we didn’t want to be pressured or burdened by that,” he said.

“On the contrary, I was more excited. I felt like I was a child again. When I first read the script, it reminded me of when I was a young kid. I don’t know if you remember the movie The Goonies (back in 1985), but it was such an amazing adventure film and that’s exactly how I felt. It was yet another amazing adventure but only taking place in outer space.”

Song wasn’t also worried that the film has limited theatrical release because of the ongoing pandemic.

“As an actor (and member of the) commercial, arts, culture industry, the most important thing is how you communicate to the audience and the viewers. And we wanted to reach out to the viewers as soon as possible.”



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