I usually think of myself as a heterosexual male, but let me tell you something about Korean pop star Rain: he is hot. He is in Toronto promoting Ninja Assassin, the first American film in which he has a starring role, and as I go up to shake his hand before a roundtable interview, I am so struck by his high cheekbones and perfectly-styled hair that I neglect to remember that I’m holding a pen in the hand I’ve reached out.Here’s another Rain tidbit I can impart: he’s also obscenely charming. “Thank you, thank you for coming out,” says Rain to the four assembled journalists. “It’s my honour. It’s my first time, you know, in Canada. I really love Toronto.” I’m not sure how that reads in print, but hearing it from the ever-smiling most-famous-musician-in-Asia and Stephen Colbert’s arch-nemesis…well, it’s enough to make a journalist blush.Directed by V for Vendetta’s James McTeigue and produced by the Wachowski brothers, Ninja Assassin tells the simple story of Raizo (Rain), a ninja raised in a monastery to be an assassin who then turns against his old master (grindhouse legend Sho Kosugi) and basically goes freelance. Ah, if there’s one thing an evil old master doesn’t like, it’s betrayal, and pretty soon Raizo is fighting off an endless stream of enemy ninjas. The film’s second half is wall-to-wall action, with Raizo taking more punishment than any movie character since The Passion of the Christ and still managing to kick an overwhelming quantity of ninja ass.
“I loved Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan—you know, my heroes,” Rain says. “I saw a lot of Bruce Lee movie from when I was young, and I’m so powerful, I’m so faster, I’m so young, I’m so [much more] handsome than them, and you know…I’m just kidding!”This is only Rain’s third movie, following a starring role in Park Chan-wook’s interesting but little-seen I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK and a supporting role in the Wachowskis’ Speed Racer. “Were you intimidated at all, carrying an entire movie?” asks a journalist.A brief moment of reflection. “No!” he says cheerfully.Indeed, if Rain can be described in a single word, it would be “confident.” Though he is accompanied by a translator and occasionally requires his assistance, Rain speaks English with such vigour and confidence that one almost forgets he doesn’t totally understand it.He is asked about his Hollywood ambitions. “Yes, it’s big opportunity for me. I’ll do my best…I’ll do my best…and if I’ll do my best, Americans would love me, too, and I definitely would like to continue my career in Hollywood. That’s all.”I ask if he keeps in mind how his Asian fanbase might react to his Hollywood films. He reflects for a moment: “Uh…yes, I agree. And I hope people like it. You know, actually, it’s hard to even walk in street in Asia. I hope [for] the same here. I hope.”“He looks like he belongs in a boy band,” says one of Ninja Assassin’s minor characters about our hero, but Korea’s top pop star did his training. “I had to make my body fit, you know, like Bruce Lee. I trained for…eight month? Five days a week, eight hours a day. It was hard, and I ate just chicken breast and vegetable, no sugar, no salt—it was horrible. And second of all, I learned a lot of martial art—Tai Chi, Taekwando, Kung Fu, kickboxing—with sword and double-sword…yeah, I learned a lot.”“When I was doing stunts I have lots of cuts on my body. You know, even though everybody took care of me, I still got hurt. One day I pretend [I] broke my legs. I said, after the stunt, ‘Oh my god, I can’t feel my legs!’ And people said, ‘Are you okay? Are you alright?! Are you alright?!’ I said, ‘I’m just kidding.’ It was fun—so fun.”“Are you worried that some of your music fans might be put off my some of the violence?” asks a journalist.Rain responds: “I understand you… you know, I never worried, because I hope they like it, and I hope that I will have more fans after this film.”“Bruce Lee was mentioned, and you’re attached to the Enter the Dragon remake,” asks the same journalist. “Could you tell us anything about that?Rain shifts in his chair. “Uuuuuuh…I haven’t decide yet. I haven’t decide yet. And…I can’t tell you, because…it’s secret. If I tell you…my producer will kill me.”“Does a project like that seem intimidating to you?” I ask. “Because, Bruce Lee is a legend, and Enter the Dragon is his most famous movie, and you’re sorta setting yourself up for comparison.”A long pause. “Uh…there is a real opportunity…but I told you, I haven’t decided yet. BUT, I will very soon.”Ninja Assassin is now in theatres.