Warning: minor “RED 2” plot spoilers lie ahead.
Most people would not want to mess around with a man known across the world as “The Da Vinci of Death.” Then again, most people aren’t Frank Moses.
In “RED 2,” Moses, played by Bruce Willis, goes up against a variety of different criminals and factions seeking his head on a silver platter for a crime he didn’t commit. But the retired and extremely dangerous operative faces no greater physical threat than Han, an assassin from Hong Kong with a score to settle against Frank.
“Han used to be an agent, just like Frank — but one day, Frank framed Han, so he couldn’t continue with his agent job,” actor Byung-Hun Lee told CBR News of his “RED 2” character’s origin. “So, he became the world’s most dangerous assassin, and one day, he gets hired by someone to kill Frank — and the movie starts from there.”
Han is a man of simple tastes: he kills with brutal efficiency, he enjoys shooting massive firearms, and he loves — loves — his private airplane.
“The plane is everything for him,” Lee said with a laugh. “It’s everything for him.”
It’s no surprise, then, that when Frank Moses targets Han’s plane as part of his investigation into a legendary Cold War weapon that could change the name of modern warfare, Han is more than a little bit miffed. But even without his plane, and even without heavy firepower, Han is a force to be reckoned with. Anything becomes a deadly weapon in Han’s hands, from something as simple as an origami swan to a refrigerator door handle. Indeed, the door handle was easily Lee’s favorite weapon to wield throughout shooting “RED 2.” Han uses the handle to fend off nearly a dozen Russian police officers, turning the every-day object into a blunt tool of destruction, with increasing creativity in every blow.
“That was a hard scene [stunt-wise],” said Lee, “But it was still a lot of fun.”
As much fun as Lee had making “RED 2,” it didn’t come without some nerves. The South Korean actor shares screen-time with acting legends such as Willis, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren — a dream come true for Lee, who grew up watching these actors work, but also a source of anxiety.
“When I first came to London, my first day of shooting, I was a little nervous,” he admitted. “On my first day, I needed to work with Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Bruce Willis — all of them. That made me nervous! But I tried not to be nervous; in front of the camera, I needed to be professional. It was kind of hard to mind-control myself, to calm down.”
Lee overcame his nerves, thanks to the “amazingly nice and gentle” treatment from his fellow actors. “They made me comfortable and relaxed,” he said. “It was really easy to adjust to that environment. It was really good.”
If “RED 2” spawns a third installment in the franchise, will Lee reprise his role as Han? Saying one way or the other would say too much about Han’s fate in the action-comedy. But there’s one possible sequel where Lee will rise again: “G.I. Joe 3.”
Lee appeared in both live-action “G.I. Joe” movies as Storm Shadow, the white-clad ninja rival of Snake-Eyes. Though he bled Cobra red in the first “G.I. Joe,” Storm Shadow swapped sides to work alongside Snake-Eyes and the Joes in last March’s sequel, “Retaliation.” Lee certainly hopes to have a role to play in the third “G.I. Joe” movie — “If they make it, I hope I can participate,” he said — but he won’t say where Storm Shadow’s loyalties might lie in the future. “You never know with Storm Shadow,” he said with a grin.
“RED 2” opens in theaters on July 19, 2013. Read our interview with Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker, and stay tuned for our conversation with Helen Mirren.