posted by mouza on January 05 2021

Feature: Steven Yeun for Variety

 

Many actors dread comparisons to James Dean, the movie icon who helped define a new type of on-screen masculinity. But Steven Yeun, the 36-year-old who rose to global recognition on the TV megahit “The Walking Dead,” is comfortable with the juxtaposition to Hollywood’s most famous rebel.

When Yeun was talking to director Lee Isaac Chung about starring in “Minari,” the winner of this year’s grand jury and audience prizes at Sundance, Dean’s brooding persona served as a useful template.

The men discussed their immigrant fathers and the way they left their homes to travel across the world, lured by the promise of the United States and the potential for reinvention. In the mid-1960s, Chung’s dad was living in South Korea and working in a factory. After watching two iconic Dean films, “Giant” and “East of Eden,” Chung says his father’s fate was sealed, and that “seeing the landscape and possibility of America just struck him.”

More than 50 years later, “Minari” will tell a pioneer story of a Korean immigrant family who travels to Arkansas in search of a farming business and manifest destiny. Yeun is an executive producer and the ensemble’s lead, and Chung’s very own version of Dean.

“I wanted it to be a throwback to those old classic frontier films about the American expanse. Steven in a way is meant to be that classic Hollywood star who is going out there and trying something new to make a living for himself and his family,” says Chung.

Yeun, a quiet and thoughtful father of two, made his name fighting zombies on the aforementioned AMC franchise for six years. After leaving the show in 2016, he boldly strayed from commercial fare and anything featuring hordes of the undead in a concerted effort to avoid the industry’s knack for typecasting.

“After I left, the things Hollywood would give back to me were more of the same. That’s obvious and happens to everybody, but I wanted to reject that. I wanted to see the other side, to understand who I was and what I wanted to say,” Yeun says.

Drawing on Chung’s early childhood memories, “Minari” serves as a culmination of the many left turns Yeun took once he left TV stardom and the halls of San Diego Comic-Con. Among his stops on the road less traveled were Joe Lynch’s horror film “Mayhem,” Bong Joon Ho’s Cannes player “Okja,” Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You” and Lee Chang Dong’s festival sensation “Burning,” a collection of bold performances that has turned Yeun into one of the most exciting and eclectic actors of his generation. [More at Source]

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