The biggest difference between Park Chan-wook's original and Lee's remake has to do with your character's sordid back-story. Did you feel the changes were necessary?
No, I just felt they made sense. I felt it was a strong screenplay because of that. And whatever you think of the film, it's a strong script, it's a strong imagining of the original material. If I had any issues with the original film, it was that I felt that the villain wasn't fleshed out or significant. And so it was kind of appealing to me. I felt like I could play a different version of what the original villain was. It's just completely different, so there's no real point for comparison.
Your co-star Elizabeth Olsen told me she'd never seen the original before catching wind of this remake. Had you?
I had seen the original. I was a fan of the original.
Did you therefore have any reservations about remaking it?
I did, for several reasons. The whole issue of the re-imaginings or the remakes or whatever the case might be, I've had to make peace with that in the sense that as an actor that's not your decision, you're not involved with that. I want to be a working actor. I'm going to take the roles that are offered to me to keep working. I was nervous of the darkness of the material.
One of the things that pushed me over was meeting Spike, because the man is so warm and has so much humanity -- we just connected at a heart level. It made it safe for me almost, in a weird way, to kind of dabble in it.
And I knew there was going to be that issue of the question of whether the film should be remade. But really as an actor that is not my discussion. I just try to do an interesting performance and hopefully people can appreciate it.
You came out of nowhere with "District 9" and you've since followed it up with huge Hollywood productions. Funnily enough, "Oldboy" marks one of your smallest projects. How did you acclimate yourself to the big budget studio tent-pole world so quickly?
I feel so comfortable in an acting role, you know, as an actor. Maybe it's because I came into it late. If anything, I've felt frustrated that I can't carry a film because everything since "District 9" has been supporting roles. I haven't found leads that I thought were good enough or there are 20 good names ahead of me that will get the lead on a really good project.
It's one of those things where I feel I have an enormous amount have to offer. To some degree Hollywood doesn't quite know where to place me because the characters I'm doing are so different, but hopefully that will give me longevity.
I'm starting to get a sense of people starting to respect creatively, although they did right off the bat with "District 9." I still have to go out and audition for films like "Maleficent" and "The A-Team," to show people this guy can play this type of role and this type of role, so it hasn't been easy for me, as easy as if had I played a role where I was this all-American guy. So coming at it as a character actor I've felt like I've got to work at it and show people what I can do.
How important therefore is "Chappie" to you, given that you play the titular character in it?
It is, but it's also very ensemble performance in the way that film is being done. I'm just enjoying the idea of a motion capture performance. It's something different and it's a character that's really different from anything I've ever done, so from that point of view I think it's going to be really original. It's fun to be playing a role that's light again.