Bae Doo-na first started out as a model, and then worked her way up as an actress. At first, her talent was overlooked until she landed roles in critically acclaimed films.
She starred in Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and Bong Joon-ho’s The Host (2006)–two of the most popular Korean crossover hits of the last decade.
“People might say that since my mother is a theater actor, I became an actress. But to me, those experiences probably had the opposite effect. On the contrary, because I saw many great actors working with my mother, I thought this was a job only people with extraordinary talent could do.”
Bae Doo-na began her international career by way of her much discussed performance in the Japanese film, Air Doll (2009). She won acting awards from three film festivals in Japan for her performance.
Her sports film As One (2012) is based on the true story of the world table tennis championship held in Chiba, Japan in 1991 where North Korean player Li Bun-hui and South Korean player Hyun Jung-hwa overcame their difficulties and came together to defeat the unbeatable Chinese team. Bae Doo-na and co-star Ha Ji-won were trained by Hyun Jung-hwa herself, and Bae Doo-na learned to play left-handed like Li Bun-hui.
“They just called me! It was weird because I had no American agent at the time, and I didn’t even have a manager in Korea. I was in between managers, so it was hard to find me.”
She received the call to star in Cloud Atlas from the siblings Lana and Andy Wachowski, which is co-directed with Tom Tykweran and an adaptation of David Mitchell’s 2004 best-selling novel of the same name.
“When I first met Lana and Andy on Skype, I was so curious about it. ‘How do you know me?’ I asked. And Lana said, ‘We saw Air Doll and The Host and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.’ ‘Oh, Air Doll!’ I see. There is some connection between the two characters.”
She made her English-language debut as the luminous Sonmi-451–a clone, originally built to be a server in a dinery.
Including A-list stars such as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, and Jim Broadbent, she played multiple characters through the film’s nested plots–a white wife, a mother, a Hispanic women, but was most memorable as her role as the bio-engineered martyr ‘Sonmi – 451’.
The directors of the film praised Bae Doo-na’s excelent acting and said that she has a light that illuminates from within.
Not only the directors had words of praise for her, actor Tom Hanks praised her by saying she has an unspoken power and that she is the soul of the film.
“There’s no border between countries in the film industry. I’ve been working in Japanese films, too, and I think this is another challenge for me. But it was big fun and a great experience.”
“I would love to do some more anything–any Hollywood films or French, German, anything.”
Cloud Atlas will hit theaters in Korea on Jan 10, 2013.