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21 May 2009 | 1300 HRS Capella Singapore Sentosa

Don’t be fooled by her stunning looks- Gianna Jun (better known as Jun Ji-hyun) is one tough cookie, as she aptly demonstrates in her first action movie, Blood: The Last Vampire playing a demon hunter. So formidable was she that we suspect the press had to be protected from coming too close to her- something her minders diligently enforced at the press conference.

Better known as Jeon Ji-hyun from the hit Korean movies “My Sassy Girl” and “Windstruck”, Gianna stars as Saya, a 400 year old half-human, half-vampire that goes around slaying vampires, her ultimate goal the evil patriarch of them all, Onigen. This film also marks Gianna’s first Hollywood movie.

Thanks to the intense preparation that she went through to ready herself for the stunts in the movie, she can now spend more than an hour on the treadmill every day- that’s up from just ten minutes before she began training. In fact, she’s so happy with her newfound fitness that she has made it her regular daily physical routine.

Swinging into town as part of her promotional tour, Gianna described how she spent 2 months of physical training in Los Angeles and then another one and a half months in China preparing for the film’s many action sequences.

“I started from basic physical training, like repetitive kicks, and after a while it got a bit boring because I was doing the same thing over and over again. But when filming started, everything was choreographed by the martial arts people so that was much more interesting for me,” she said. “Still, I was never really ready when filming started so I actually spent pretty much the entire time when we were shooting the movie practising and learning the stunts too.”

She is full of praise for renowned action director Cory Yuen who choreographed the action in the movie. Indeed, she said that it was because of his professionalism on the set that she was able to execute the many dangerous stunts without sustaining any major injuries. Nevertheless, that didn’t mean that filming what is easily her most physically demanding role to date was a breeze.

“Every day was a challenge for me because it was not easy performing the stunts while strapped up on a wire,” she said. One particularly challenging sequence was a 15-minute fight in the movie between Saya and a horde of vampires in the rain. Filming that alone took one month of being drenched from head to toe continuously- a month that she described as something that no one should have to go through.

But the stunts were not the only challenge she faced filming this live-action adaptation of a popular anime. Since most of the dialogue in the movie was in English, she also picked up the language from scratch. In fact, she changed her name to Gianna (Gianna is short form in Italian for “Giovanni”, which means “God’s grace”) because the producers were afraid that international audiences might not be able to pronounce her Korean name.

“It was particularly difficult was trying to express my character’s emotions while speaking in English,” she said. “The only way to accomplish that is to study the character more intently so that the emotions can just flow naturally.” What she liked most about her character Saya was her humanity expressed through her sympathy for even the vampires she kills- something that she tried her best to portray.

Gianna also joins a recent list of Korean stars who have made their forays into Hollywood, including Daniel Henney in this summer’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Rain, soon to be seen in the Wachoswki Brothers’-produced Ninja Assassin. But for the moment, she has no plans to commit to a Hollywood career.

“I think what’s most important for me is the script and the character- as long as I can feel for the story and the character, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Korean movie or Hollywood movie,” she said. And for her Korean fans out there, you’ll be glad to know that her next movie that she is in talks to star will be in Korean. ”

Blood The Last Vampire opens 4 June 2009

Interview & Photos: Gabriel Chong | Video: Richard Lim Jr
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