Rain may be the most famous person I’ve ever interviewed, and all I really know about him is from The Colbert Report. The superstar of K-Pop had a dance-off with Colbert after he beat the satirical pundit on a list of most influential people. Now he’s becoming a movie star with a part in Speed Racer, and a starring vehicle in next year’s Ninja Assassin. Directed by the Wachowskis’ protégé James McTeague, Rain will play an orphan who becomes a ninja warrior.
Q: So I first heard about you on The Colbert Report. I loved your dance-off with Stephen.
Rain: It was so fun. Thanks.
Q: The dance/off wasn’t live though, right? Did you have to tape it after the audience left?
Rain: Well, we didn’t go live because Stephen had to learn his moves too. Then the rehearsal time was a little longer than expected so they just went on tape.
Q: How into ninja mythology are you?
Rain: From when I was young, I wanted to be an action hero. I always dreamed about being an action star. So finally I made it.
Q: Did you watch Ninja movies or read books?
Rain: Yes, maybe when I was seven years old, yeah. I saw ninja animation, ninja cartoons. I loved ninjas when I was younger.
Q: Ninjas are Japanese. Are there Korean ninjas?
Rain: Yes, we have Korean ninjas but they’re very different. It’s different than the Japanese ninjas. It’s sort of a traditional martial arts clan.
Q: So in the movie, are you a traditional Japanese ninja?
Rain: No. Actually, I play an orphan that was picked up in the streets, so I’m not actually a Japanese ninja. More like an international Asian orphanage kid. So the role was not a typical Japanese ninja.
Q: Was the physical training and action at all similar to dancing?
Rain: Yeah, I think everything is almost the same, but martial arts is harder because I ate only chicken breast and vegetables. It almost killed me. It was so horrible.
Q: Did your dance background help you learn these moves?
Rain: Dancing did help me learn the martial arts moves better, easier, so it did help me.
Q: Exactly how famous are you?
Rain: I debuted in Korea six years ago, so I’ve been working for quite some time. You’ll know if you come to Korea how big I am, just by coming there. I was big in Asia but now I want to do more here with Ninja Assassin, so wait for me.
Q: It’s definitely happening. Did it take six years to build up to this fame?
Rain: Well, I was big as soon as my first album came out, so ever since, luckily, I’ve had that fame in Asia. Now it even led me to a big Hollywood martial arts movie.
Q: What would you like to be able to do if you could have privacy again?
Rain: I want to read a lot of comic books. I want to watch movies. I want to rest. I have a lot of work in Asia so it’s not easy.
Q: What sort of new music are you working on?
Rain: Right now, I’m interested in electronic pop music but I love all kinds of music. Hip hop, R&B, so whatever. So I’m working on my new album, my music is based on hip hop and R&B, rap music, pretty sweet.
Q:Where do you get your inspiration?
Rain: I don’t get my inspiration from a specific source. It’s more like if you listen to a good tune, it gives me inspiration to write a better tune.
Q: Has that changed over the years?
Rain: Nothing has changed. It’s just good music or a good movie always inspired me to be better, learn more.
Q: What inspires you in movies?
Rain: It’s not that different. If I watch a sad movie, I get inspired to write a sad tune but if I watch a cool movie, I get more upbeat. So it depends on the movie.
Q: Why were Speed Racer and Ninja Assassin the right movies for you?
Rain: I chose Speed Racer most of all because of the Wachowski Brothers. Then also I was a big fan from when I was really young of the original Speed Racer. So that’s why I chose the first one. Second one, it’s because James McTeague, I’ve worked with him before and I had faith in him. Working with him was such an honor. So that’s why I chose Ninja as my second movie.
Q: What were your favorite weapons in the movie?
Rain: My favorite is the sword. The sword is very funny. Then my second, my second girlfriend is Ninja chain.
Q: Do they have different uses for different bad guys?
Rain: Yeah, it depends on the bad guy. The sword is better for, obviously, cutting and the chain is better to strangle them. So it’s different.
Q: How different was playing a character from beginning to end than doing a short video?
Rain: I think they’re very different. For a music video, you just play a role that people can watch you and just enjoy the music with. But versus in a movie, it’s actually a character living the whole life in that movie, so it’s different.
Q: How about a small part in Speed Racer versus playing the main character?
Rain: Most of all, I take on a heavy responsibility for the main character. I had to put more effort into it than the last one, definitely more.