For a moment, it looked like Choi Min-soo might stay in the mountains for eternity, and morph into an enlightened sage of sorts.
But there the "Hourglass" star sat, at a press conference on Tuesday, discussing his new role, his return, so to speak, to acting, after nearly a year and eight months of virtual silence.
After receiving press last year for an alleged assault case (he was acquitted of all charges), a lawsuit over performance wages and his decision to live in the mountains, Choi, it seems, took to his Walden Pond-esque solitude, and stayed, he revealed, for around a year and a half in the wilderness.
Aside from reports in May that he was cast in a Hollywood film, an action piece called "Serpent Rising," Choi remained off the radar until news broke that not only was he reportedly cast in an MBC drama slated to air next year, but that he would be playing the title role in a two-part SBS year-end special, set to air in late-December.
The underlying question, then, waiting on the tip of everyone`s tongue, was "Why return now, after so long, to this project?"
The project, of course, was SBS` "Father`s House," the special for which Choi Min-soo and cast attended a three-hour press conference (87 minutes of which was devoted to a preview screening). Hair neatly clipped, dressed in a demure black suit, the 46-year old actor answered questions in a low, gravelly voice.
"I wasn`t resting. I did it because it was a good project."
So, why pick this particular work?
"My wife, June Kang, recommended it. That is the singular reason behind why I chose this work," he said.
"That accounts for 99 percent of my decision. The remaining 1 percent was you."
"The remaining 1 percent was my mother-in-law, who is in Canada," he revised his answer, seemingly all in good fun.
When asked if he thought about acting during the year and a half spent in the wild, he said in a voice that betrayed no hint as to whether he was in earnest or if he was joking: "Since I do not think when I act, I did not think about acting while I was in the mountains."
Yet Choi seemed perfectly earnest when he said: "When I do this kind of work, I deliberately do not monitor it. Actually, I didn`t want to see this screening because tomorrow is the last day of filming."
While Choi fielded questions, Choi`s wife, former Miss Korea June Kang, and their two sons waited in the back of room.
Whenever he referred to Kang, she smiled back from across the seats, a silent and staunch cheerleader. Their two sons -- despite having to sit through over two hours of photos, preview footage and interviews -- showed no signs of fatigue.
The presence of his family at the press conference highlighted Choi`s role as a father, something that his co-star, veteran actor Baek Il-sub, noticed when working with Choi on "Father`s House": "For the first time, I thought, `Ah, Choi Min-soo is a father too.`"
Judging from the preview screening, the dad in "Father`s House" cuts a sorrowful and tragic figure, crippled by hard living and serious sacrifices. His life, as artfully described by its director Kim Soo-ryong, is depicted through the houses from which he views the world throughout the various stages of his existence.
The houses are somewhat allegorical, at times taking on the form of a tree, at others, having no more substance than a mere dream of a perfect place.
The strange aspect of this film lies in its underlying tint of hope, the hope of a father for his son, the dreams he lays down upon his child, despite the fact that he himself, damaged by suffering and age, seems to face nothing more than a desolate future, destined to end in solitude.
"This can be seen as an orthodox work of realism," said Kim.
Yet Kim assured reporters that the actual special itself is not devoid of humor: "There are lots of funny and fun scenes."
"Father`s House" airs on SBS on Monday from 8:50 p.m. to 11:10 p.m.
By Jean Oh