There is a saying in showbiz, “90 per cent of directing is casting.”
When it came to casting actors to play the Earth-defending alien immortals in Marvel Studios’ Eternals, Nomadland’s Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao went for a really diverse batch of thesps whose off-screen personalities matched the larger-than-life characters they would portray.
With Don Lee, Zhao found the perfect guy to fill the shoes of Gilgamesh, the gregarious Eternal who possesses great strength (don’t mess with his right hook) — and culinary skills. In the movie, Gilgamesh is very close to Angelina Jolie’s Thena; their relationship is not unlike the one Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen have in Rogue One.
Born in Seoul, Lee, who also goes by Ma Dong-Seok, was raised in Ohio and is a naturalised US citizen. The one-time personal trailer of prominent MMA fighters (including Mark Coleman) returned to his birth country in the noughties to pursue an acting career. In 2005, Lee made his debut in the action-comedy Heaven’s Soldiers; his breakthrough came in 2016’s zombie actioner Train to Busan.
On-screen, Lee cultivated his persona of a tough guy who’s really a teddy bear inside. It’s hard to tell if he’s sad, grumpy or angry, but when he smiles, he can really light up your day. And for five minutes, Lee, 50, lighted up 8days.sg’s day when he tells us via Zoom more about his first mainstream Hollywood role.
Eternals (M18) is now in cinemas.
Video edited by Christopher Khong/ Photos: TPG News/Click Photos