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Korean heart-throb puts on 12kg for role
Publication Date : 17-01-2013
Actor Kang Ji Hwan wanted to look realistic in his role as an overweight homeless detective
In celebrity-obsessed South Korea, heart-throb actor Kang Ji Hwan was not recognised while filming in the middle of a busy marketplace.
He had so sucessfully achieved the look of the overweight, homeless detective role for his latest film Runway Cop that a tofu seller even chased him out of her stall in between takes.
Shin Tae Ra, 39, director of the movie, tells Life! in an e-mail: "The auntie who sold tofu thought that Kang was a beggar and chased him away.
"And all the other people in the market could not figure out who he was either. They kept asking our film crew who he was."
Runway Cop, which opens in cinemas today, has Kang, 35, playing a top police detective - but with personal hygiene issues. The character does not bother to shower, slobbers when he eats, and has long mangy hair and a rotund belly.
Despite having the option to simply don a fat-suit for the role, Kang took it upon himself to gain weight.
Shin says: "We told him to just get a costume on but he did not want to show the audiences a false image. To make things look more realistic, he was determined to gain weight on his own.
"He went to observe homeless people and also to a marketplace to look for additional props for the film. I knew that he would be able to do the role well but he really exceeded my expectations."
According to reports, Kang put on 12kg for the role, then lost it within two weeks to get back to his usual toned figure, complete with six-pack abs. In the movie, his character is asked to go undercover as a male catwalk model and thus he must undergo extreme exercise and diet routines to get into shape.
Shin had worked with Kang before in his previous comedy flick My Girlfriend Is An Agent (2009) and says he admires the actor's professionalism.
Shin says: "He studies the characters that he plays and it is obvious how much attention he pays to all his roles. On a personal level, he is also a righteous and loyal friend. The more you know him, the more you will fall for this guy."
Runway Cop also stars actress Sung Yu Ri, 31, as a fashion designer whose debut fashion show features Kang's character.
Shin says the chemistry between the two leads on and off the set was so good that he would not be surprised if they eventually dated in real life.
Before collaborating on this movie, Kang and Sung had also co-starred in TV drama series Hong Gil Dong (2008). Both are not married.
Shin says of the two actors on his Runway Cop set: "They would read the scripts together, exercise together and have meals together, always giving us a very warm image when they are together. I feel that if they went on a date, they would look really good as a couple."
After the movie was completed, there were no subsequent news reports of the pair hooking up, though they always showed good rapport during joint interviews on television where they often poked fun at each other.
As the film gently mocks the modelling industry, you ask what the director really thinks of male models.
He replies frankly: "At first, I wondered if models were aliens because they seem so different from human beings.
"But I have realised that the showy nature of the job is not as easy to achieve as we think. It's not an easy career and requires an extensive amount of self- discipline. After making the movie and working with real-life models, I have started to see them in a better light."