NBC: ‘Operation Chromite’ focuses on ‘Forgotten’ Korean War, bridging US and Korean cinema

 

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NBC News (by Stephany Bai):

Despite heavy involvement from the U.S. military, the Korean War is often referred to as “the forgotten war” because of its relatively low profile in history, according to military historians.

A new film, “Operation Chromite,” is spotlighting one of the key figures of the war, United States Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Liam Neeson portrays MacArthur in the film and is joined by two major Korean actors, Bum Soo Lee and Jung Jae Lee, in telling the story of the amphibious landing at Incheon, which the filmmakers say was one of the most consequential moments of the war. The movie, which makes its American debut on Aug. 12, opened at number one in South Korea, according to Variety.

[MacArthur] is a very well-known and respected figure in South Korea,” Bum Soo Lee told NBC News. “There may be people who have different ideologies in Korea, but overall the Korean people appreciate and respect what [General MacArthur and the US military] did.”

Liam Neeson, center, portrays Gen. Douglas MacArthur in “Operation Chromite,” a new movie about the Korean War. 

He added that the events portrayed in the film, and the people behind them, are directly responsible for the growth of South Korea, noting that the South Korean soldiers had been on the verge of giving up a key military stronghold when MacArthur executed the Incheon landing operation.

The Battle of Incheon and the landing operation cut the supply chain of the North Korean military and soldiers, and that contributed a lot to turning the tide of the war,” he said. “That lead to building democracy in South Korea and contributed to the economic growth that we’re seeing to this day.

Bum Soo Lee, center, in “Operation Chromite”

Bum Soo Lee plays the villain of the film, a North Korean spy, while Jung Jae Lee is a South Korean commander who infiltrates the North Korean army. Both actors emphasized to NBC News the research and preparation they did for the film.

What we as actors, as well as the director, focus so much on is speaking towards the truth,” Bum Soo Lee said. “This movie is based on a true event, on history. There was a lot of pressure on our shoulders because we were telling the story of these unsung heroes, who sacrificed themselves in the war, and we really wanted to pay respect to them.”

Jung Jae Lee added that the same was true for Neeson. “[Neeson] created new scenes and suggestions that were incorporated because he really tried his best to depict the real character,” Jung Jae Lee said. “The amount of effort he put into the character was really impressive.”

Jung Jae Lee said that he believes “Operation Chromite” represents a step toward greater collaboration between Hollywood and the Korean movie industry.

These days you see a lot of Hollywood movies open in advance in Korea, and big actors coming to promote their movies in Korea,” he said. “I can’t say there are a lot of Korean actors working in Hollywood, but the few we do already have are doing a great job in TV and movies. I believe that we’ll be able to see more of that in the near future.”

James Shigeta, top Asian-American actor of early ’60s and ‘Die Hard’ co-star, dies at 81

He starred in such films as “The Crimson Kimono,” “Flower Drum Song,” “Cry for Happy,” “Bridge to the Sun” and, later, as a terrorized executive in the Bruce Willis movie.

James Shigeta, a top Asian-American actor of the early 1960s who starred in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song, died Monday in Los Angeles, publicist Jeffrey Leavitt announced. He was 81.

The handsome Hawaiian, who later appeared as the ill-fated chief executive of the Nakatomi corporation in the Bruce Willis action film Die Hard (1988), had a great two-year run in Hollywood starting in the late 1950s.

Shigeta made his feature debut in Sam Fuller’s Los Angeles-set noir The Crimson Kimono (1959), playing a young detective, and followed that by portraying a young Chinese man in the American Old West who battles a freight line operator (Jack Lord) over a woman in James Clavell’s Walk Like a Dragon (1960).

Shigeta then starred with Glenn Ford and Donald O’Connor as American Navy men billeted in a Tokyo geisha house in director George Marshall’s Cry for Happy (1961). And in Bridge to the Sun, he portrayed a Japanese diplomat who is married to an American (Carroll Baker) at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In Flower Drum Song (1961), set in San Francisco and directed by Henry Koster, Shigeta plays Wang Ta, who’s dazzled by a showgirl (Nancy Kwan) before he realizes an immigrant from China (Miyoshi Umeki) is really the one for him. A natural baritone, Shigeta did all his singing in the film.

The Golden Globes in 1960 named him (along with Barry Coe, Troy Donahue and George Hamilton) as “most promising male newcomer.”

Shigeta later had recurring roles on the 1969-72 CBS drama Medical Center and appeared on episodes of Ben Casey, Lord’s Hawaii Five-OEllery QueenLittle House on the PrairieFantasy IslandT.J. HookerThe Love BoatMagnum, P.I.Simon & SimonJake and the Fatman and Murder, She Wrote.

His film résumé includes Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) with Elvis PresleyNobody’s Perfect(1968), Lost Horizon (1973), Midway (1976), Cage (1989) and the animated Mulan (1998).

Born in Honolulu of Japanese ancestry on June 17, 1933, Shigeta moved to New York and studied at New York University, then joined the U.S. Marine Corps and fought during the Korean War.

He relocated to Japan and became a star on radio and television in that country, then returned to the U.S. to sing on The Dinah Shore Show in 1959. Also that year, he starred with Shirley MacLaine in a production of Holiday in Japan in Las Vegas.