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THE WARRIOR'S WAY

Casting The Warrior's Way
Jang Dong Gun, who plays Yang, the world's greatest swordsman and the central character in The Warrior's Way, may not be well known in the United States yet, but he is a bona fide superstar in Asia. Jang starred in Friend, the highest grossing Korean film of all time and has garnered widespread critical acclaim for his work, and has collected an army of admirers along the way. "In Korea, Japan and China he is comparable to Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt,” says Michael Peyser. "We were so lucky he committed to this film. He gave us almost two years of his time to prepare for it.”

Jang turned down numerous offers in order to participate in The Warrior's Way.

"Despite his fame and popularity, Jang Dong Gun is a very modest and humble actor,” Jooick Lee says. "He likes a challenge, and he's very particular when choosing films. Even though he is the one of the most sought-after actors in Asia, he was brave enough not to accept any other projects during the time it took to bring The Warrior's Way to the screen. He recognized the potential and simply believed in us.”

Jang acknowledges that the journey from script to film was lengthy, but ultimately worth the wait. "I really wanted to be a part of this film, so I stayed committed to it,” he says. "I liked the script because it was fresh and challenging. This movie is Western nostalgia and Eastern mystique put together in a way that will satisfy both cultures. I'm very satisfied with what we achieved.”

Producer Lee believes the actor's gamble will pay off in a big way. "He is going to make a huge breakthrough in Hollywood when this film is released,” says Lee. "He's so charming and charismatic. It's only a matter of time before he becomes a star internationally on the same level he is in Asia.”

In his first English-language film, Jang plays a man of few words, communicating primarily with his actions. "Jang Dong Gun brings stoicism to the character as well as a range of emotions that allows us to believe his shift from a cold-blooded assassin to this person that falls very much in love,” observes Osborne.

"Dong Gun is the cornerstone of this film,” says White. "It's a challenging role. Yang is a warrior who's been conditioned not to show emotion, so it could have been difficult for the audience to gain empathy for him, but Dong Gun has such a captivating presence. He's a very handsome man, with the elegance and discipline of a ballet dancer in the sword fighting sequences.”

Jang says his first Western film has been an exciting and fulfilling experience and he credits his talented and dedicated castmates with making the experience unforgettable. "I feel very lucky to have had a chance to work with such wonderful actors,” says Jang. "Even though we had cultural differences, I think the actors understood each other from the heart.”

Kate Bosworth is Jang's leading lady, playing Lynne, a free-spirited, mercurial carnival knife-thrower who has survived an unthinkable tragedy. "The dynamic between Kate and Dong Gun makes them the most engaging screen couple I've seen in a long time,” says Peyser. "They both have really generous spirits, which allowed them to surrender something of their inner selves to each other. That's a key to chemistry the audience can connect with. Yang is as ill-equipped as Lynne is to deal with these kinds of feelings, so it's something new to them both. It's very pure. I think the audience will get swept up in it.”

Bosworth's character is a departure for her. "It was unlike any other script I'd ever read,” she says. "I never really imagined myself playing a knife-throwing, red-haired, crazy cowgirl from the Old West.”

Nevertheless, the actress threw herself enthusiastically into the role, says White. "Lynne's a unique character. After being orphaned at the age of 13 under really traumatic circumstances, she was been raised by these eccentric, dysfunctional carnies. She's unpredictable with a crazy, willful, erratic energy. Kate was determined that all of her contradictions and complexities show through. She has a real sense of daring as an actress.”

Bosworth describes Lynne as a "childlike character who has a lot of love to give. She's incredibly impulsive and very inappropriate. Yang's a warrior and he carries a lot of emotional armor. He has never let anyone into his heart. They have a symbiotic relationship in which he calms her heart and she opens him up. That forces Yang to engage, and when he starts to engage and his heart starts to open up, her love for him grows.”

The actress says Jang Dong Gun's soft-spoken working methods perfectly complemented her own more vociferous on-set style. "Dong Gun is kind, generous and thoughtful as a person,” says Bosworth. "I tend to be very outspoken and communicative when it comes to making my opinions heard. He would just be very patient and sit with it for a minute.”

Contributing some additional heavyweight acting muscle to the film is Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush, who plays down-on-his luck Ron, a man with a dark secret that lies deep beneath a buffoonish exterior. Barrie Osborne says the production was very fortunate to have Rush in the role. "He's wonderful actor,” says the producer. "Ron, like Yang, has a hidden backstory that he has to come to terms with. Geoffrey plays it absolutely truthfully. He brought inspirational enthusiasm to the set and he has also been a tremendous advocate for the film.”

Producer Michael Peyser notes that Rush was up for the role of the Colonel. "Geoffrey read it and said, ‘Well, I could play the villain,'” remembers Peyser. "But ever since he was a little boy, he has wanted to play a cowboy. So we were very lucky that we found the 6-year-old in the illustrious Mr. Rush and he agreed to play Ron.”

Sngmoo Lee created the character as a projection of what Yang might become. "Ron knows that Yang loves Lynne,” says Lee. "He also knows from experience how the destructive power of violence stays with a man. He thinks that if Yang sticks around, something horrible will happen, so he warns him to leave.”

Rush instinctively understood the character's conflicting motivations. "Ron is one of the many eccentric characters you find in this particular place,” he says. "He is a very interesting, intriguing embroidery around the dimensions this town actually contains. But the real thrill for me as an actor is that halfway through the movie, he undergoes a very surprising transformation. From that point on, it just gets deeper, richer and much more interesting.”

The actor sees Ron and Yang as opposite sides of a coin. "Jang Dong Gun brings this absolutely pure stillness to the internal life of this warrior who's abandoning a life of slaughter to start running a laundry. If there's one character in Lode who most represents the Western side of things, it's the erratic, difficult, funny, weird, drunk Ron—and I'm wearing those boots.”

As the colonel, actor Danny Huston brings an impeccable pedigree in the tradition of the American Western cinema. Huston's father, director John Huston, and grandfather, actor Walter Huston, famously collaborated on one of the most beloved Western movies of all time, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Huston's transformation into a man who embodies evil astonished his co-stars.

"It's hilarious that he plays an incredibly wicked character, because he's actually one of the nicest, funniest guys you'll ever meet,” says Bosworth. "Danny always has a smile on his face. He is the life of the party with a great sense of humor. Sho

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