"Ninja Assassins" opened on Wednesday.
The Korean pop-star-turned-actor Rain (real name Jeong Ji-hoon) is ready for Hollywood stardom. He's willing to put in the work. He's patient.
"It's still not easy to make your mark, as an Asian actor or singer in America," Rain says. "If I do my best, Americans will love me, too! I want to challenge myself to see where my limit is. If I do my best, over and over again, I will succeed. I know it."
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So what if "Speed Racer," the first big Hollywood film the 27-year-old appeared in, wasn't a smash? He's back, pounding at the door with "Ninja Assassins." He plays - wait for it - a ninja assassin, or rather an anti-assassin, a former ninja who defends those targeted by ninjas from the ninjas. And he has suffered for his art.
"I had to make my body fit, like Bruce Lee," he says. "I trained for eight months, five days a week, eight hours a day. I ate only chicken breast and vegetables; no sugar, no salt, none of my favorite foods. It was horrible!
"I learned a bit of many different types of martial arts - kung fu, taekwondo, tai chi, kick boxing, karate, karate with swords, chains, shuriken (throwing stars), kusarigama (dagger-chains), ninja tactics. The stunt men on the set, they looked out for me. But with those sharp weapons, I could hurt myself even more easily than they could hurt me."
It took some doing to sculpt the six-hit-albums singer into a lean, mean ninja machine, the loner Raizo, who left that old world of discipline and murder behind. The script gets away with a "He looks more like a boy band singer" than a ninja wisecrack only because Rain is so ripped. But that training regimen, those muscles, don't mean he's giving up the day job.
"I should be able to do both. I plan to concentrate on both" singing and acting, he says.
Always good to have a Plan B, with the chance of trade publications like Variety ("Rain conjures only a mild drizzle as Raizo") panning the film and his work in it.
But Rain plans to stick with his game plan, pursuing Hollywood work with a vengeance. He hopes, too, that this work might even attract the attention of the most famous director back home. The filmmaker he'd most like to work with?
"Oh, Park Chan-wook" ("Old Boy"), he says.