The Korea Herald


[New on the Scene] Hong Xa-bin sees hope through ‘Hopeless’

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Oct. 16, 2023 - 15:51

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Hong Xa-bin (Sem Company) Hong Xa-bin (Sem Company)

In rookie director Kim Chang-hoon’s feature debut film “Hopeless” which opened in theaters last week, Hong Xa-bin plays Yeon-kyu, an 18-year-old high school student who lives with an abusive stepfather and an enervated mother. He is even asked to leave the Chinese restaurant where he works part time. Then, he meets Chi-gun (Song Joong-ki), the right-hand man of a gang boss, who seems to be a haven for Yeon-kyu.

Before "Hopeless," which was invited to the Cannes Film Festival in May, Kim had only appeared in a number of indie films and a drama series. The noir film is the 26-year-old's feature film debut, as well as his first-ever lead role in a commercial film.

“Of course, there was pressure. Everything was new to me. But when I think about it, Yeon-kyu may have felt that too," Hong told The Korea Herald in an interview in Seoul on Sept. 26.

"Although my situation is not as extremely merciless as that of Yeon-kyu, I could easily understand his mind and situation. So it was easy for me to be Yeon-kyu.”

“Hopeless” (Plus M Entertainment) “Hopeless” (Plus M Entertainment)

He said he wanted the role very much because it was a character that any male actor in his 20s would want to play -- in terms of the character’s importance and the dynamic plot.

Before "Hopeless," Hong said he's been in over 2,000 auditions.

“I actually counted the number of auditions before coming to the interview today because I was also curious how many auditions I have done so far,” he said.

“I did my very best to get the role," Hong said, adding that he had not only memorized his lines but even the page numbers, the font and even the typos in the script before his audition.

"Director Kim said somehow he kept seeing my face in his head after the audition, like he was attracted without knowing why. After the film screening, he told me that he is thankful I was able to change that feeling to a conviction,” said Hong.

For the rookie actor, Song was a huge support, not only in terms of acting, but in making him feel comfortable on set.

Song "would even let me choose the menu,” Hong said, jokingly.

“Song said this sentence the most during the shooting, ‘act easy, Xa-bin.’ I thought it would be rude if I didn't become comfortable in front of him, because that meant that he wanted me to trust him. So I tried to act without hesitation and not care too much about how others see me,” he said.

When asked what he wants to achieve as an actor, he simply said he wants to play characters that one would meet in life.

“I want to become an actor who fits various characters. I want people to say that ‘yeah, he fits that role, he seems like that person.’ Actually, many people say that I look and act like a friend they know,” said Hong.

“Hopeless” opened in theaters on Oct. 11.

The following article is the 11th in a series that introduces Korea’s new and emerging actors and directors. -- Ed.