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A Thousand Faces Chapter 21

'Heukryeong Island' 


The movie that Gu Daewon threw as the theme for the first round of the main competition was about people who were stranded on an island overnight due to an accident. 


A group of strangers with nothing in common, such as gender, age, or living environment, were stranded on a desert island. 


In an extreme situation, an incident occurs, and the truth is uncovered, slowly revealing their past and the characters who are strangely intertwined. 


In a perfectly put-together composition without a single flaw, the actors each gave a brilliant performance. 


As the judging proceeded, the participants took to the stage one by one. It was already halfway through the judging. 


"As expected, Baek Du-hyeon and Taesan Min are the ones who come out the most. Hmm. Is that expected?" 


"Well, they are probably the most intense characters." 


Cheong Myeong nodded at Gu Daewon's words. 


With no restrictions on acting and roles, there were participants of various types. 


Some portrayed the movie characters exactly as they were, while others offered a fresh interpretation. 


Of course, there were occasional bad performances, people sensing failure and bursting into tears, running off the stage. 


One after another. 


As they moved further, skilled performers began to emerge one by one. 


Cheong Myeong expressed admiration here and there. 


"Even though I expected it, the participants' level is quite high, right?" 


"I know. If I had proceeded to shoot the movie with that interpretation of the character, The movie might have come out better. Have I lost my touch?" 


"Oh, come on, Director. That's too much." 


Cheong Myeong shifted his gaze to the side as they were joking around. 


"How are you doing, senior?" 


Cheong Myeong's left was where Jo Sungrae was sitting. He had been quietly sitting in his seat except when he was judging. 


"Why don't you learn from them? Don't you feel anything when you see their passion and energy?" 


Jo Sungrae gave Cheong Myeong a jab, as if he was not pleased with Cheong Myeong's attitude throughout the judging. 


"Ah… You're right, senior. I was just about to get back to my roots. Haha." 


Cheong Myeong thought to himself, 


'Who was the most nitpicky judge among us?' 


He felt a bit aggrieved that Jo Sungrae would say something like that after being so stingy with his praise and making several participants cry. Jo Sungrae was actually highly evaluating the passion and ambition that emanated from the participants, regardless of their skills. He was also giving them honest feedback without sugarcoating anything for their own good. 


Cheong Myeong thought that it was pointless to be so nitpicky with the other participants since only the winner would be left standing in the end. 


He shook his head and was about to check the information of the next participant when he suddenly perked up. 


"Oh, here he is. Our rising star?" 


The profile in his hand belonged to Kang Hyeok. 


"Since he skipped the preliminary screening, this is the first time everyone will see him act." 


"He chose an extra role. That's a bit of a risky choice." 


Cheong Myeong signaled to Yoo Sang-jun, who was below the stage. It was a signal to the filming crew to focus on the main character. 


Soon, Kang Hyeok walked out onto the stage and bowed his head respectfully. 


"Hello. I'm contestant number 11, Kang Hyeok." 


All eyes were on him. People who had only heard the name whispered among themselves. 


With a tall stature and distinct features, he had the looks that automatically earned him the label of an actor. His voice and articulation were already well-polished. 


At the age of eighteen, he carried a poised and confident demeanor that was not commonly seen, coupled with a courtesy that rounded off the package. 


Kang Hyeok, who had a strong sense of being a chaebol heir, showed that he had received all kinds of education, not just acting. 

The judges were amazed at his first impression, which exceeded their expectations. 


Gu Daewon picked up the microphone. 


"That was an interesting choice, Kang Hyeok," said Gu Daewon. 


"Yes. I chose the role of extra, Lee Min-jun, for this mission." 


"That was a risky challenge. Can you tell us the reason for a moment?" 


A mixture of anxiety and expectation rose on Gu Daewon's face. If he got a disappointing answer, his interest, which he had received from his first impression, would seem to be fading. 


Kang Hyeok looked Gu Daewon straight in the eye without any hesitation and said. 


"Lee Min-jun is a weak and fearful person who is excluded from the other characters from the start. He just trembles in a corner, and he may seem like an extra character who is only there to show the diversity of human beings in a situation where a group of people are stranded on a desert island." 


The judges were listening to Kang Hyeok intently. 


"However, I think Lee Min-jun is the only character who can objectively observe the situation and the changes in emotions from a distance while the incident happens between the main characters. In other words, Lee Min-jun is a character who is identified with the audience. That's why the audience will be swayed by his reactions and gazes, and they will feel as if they are watching the characters from the inside of the film while watching the movie." 




Gu Daewon was so impressed that he couldn't help but say it out loud. 


"I think that's what you were going for, Director Gu Daewon. I think the movie's tension was kept up well because of Lee Min-jun. It never got boring." 


"Oh... haha. I'm surprised. How did you know that so well? I'm amazed." 


Is this what it feels like to find a talented person? Kang Hyeok was explaining exactly what was in his head. It was hard to believe he was so young. 


The admiration on his face went beyond respect; it was a surprise. Cheong Myeong gauged Gu Daewon's reaction. 


"I guess we've got a standout this time. Can he act as well?" 


Starting his performance, Kang Hyeok took a corner spot on stage instead of the center. 


"He's alone up there anyway. Why leave the stage empty?" 


The judges were initially unsure, but they were soon won over by Kang Hyeok's performance. 


His body shook as his eyes darted around the stage. 


The judges could see the other characters' movements in his gaze. 

Then, his face froze in a panic. 


Just by looking at his face, you could tell what he was seeing. 


In the middle of the movie, on the empty stage, a group of people who had lost their humanity were performing a ritual around a person who had been brutally murdered. 


Even though he didn't say a word, his performance was flawless. 


Everyone in the room, including the judges, was mesmerized. It was hard to believe that he had only practiced for a short time. 


The judges were so impressed with his performance that they immediately started writing in their evaluation sheets. 


"That's all I have for you. Thank you." 


The judges couldn't stop complimenting Kang Hyeok for a long time. 

As soon as he stepped off the stage, the judges started talking excitedly. 


Chung Myeong finally seemed to relax, leaning back in his chair. 


"Well, I don't think we need to see any more. The winner is decided. Director Gu, you are worried for nothing." 


"......Chairman Kang Geonim wasn't wrong when he said that." 


Jo Sungrae also nodded, as if he finally agreed. 


And after a few rounds of judging. 


The judges' faces fell as they checked the profile of the next participant. 


Thump, thump. 


Standing in the center of the stage, Junwoo looked at them. 




Just a moment ago, the atmosphere was warm, but now, a heavy air hung over the judge's seats. 


Before the cameras started rolling, the judges, having turned off their microphones, whispered. 


"He wrote about a role that doesn't exist." 


"There's a possibility he confused it with another movie." 


"What? He just wants to be noticed. This is basically like giving up." 




Director Gu Daewon had to hold back his anger at the participant who took his carefully made film so lightly. No matter how important the participant's role was in the program, he couldn't stand to have his work carelessly criticized. 


"I won't say anything, so you can just move on." 


"Don't worry. I'll take care of it, so just watch, Director." 


Chung Myeong smiled slightly as if he had a plan. 


The camera turned on. Chung Myeong's expression changed immediately. 


He spoke in a serious voice to Junwoo, who was standing there blankly. 


"What is this?" 


Chung Myeong's face was full of confusion, unlike how he had treated other participants before. 


He held up Junwoo's paper to the stage so that the camera could see it clearly. 


The paper only had one word written on it: "Kim Mu-myeong." 


"Was that name in the movie?" 


"No, I made it up." 


"I thought so. Why did you do that? Were you trying to be noticed? Even so, it's concerning that you just made up a role that doesn't appear in the movie without permission. I'm starting to question your commitment to acting." 


"I didn't make it up. It's a nameless role, and they asked me to write a name, so I just wrote something down." 


"Is that not the same thing? Junwoo, I understand that you're young, but even so, there's only so much we can let slide. I think it's time to stop joking around with the judges."  




The atmosphere in the room became tense. The participant's attitude, which showed no remorse, even in the face of criticism, made Chung Myeong look angry. 


"Wow, it's like watching a movie." 


The staff watching the scene live responded to Chung Myeong. 

The others were the same. All the officials were puzzled or saddened by the participant's choice from the first round. 


In fact, Chung Myeong was not angry at all, but was actually enjoying himself inside. 


"This scene is going to be a real attention-grabber." 


He thought this kind of scene was also necessary for an audition program, and he was glad it had happened. The participant seemed completely flustered, as he could not say anything. 


He could kind of understand the participant's original intention. He probably wanted to be seen as unique for making a choice that no one else had made. Chung Myeong hoped that the young participant would not be too disappointed, as he would make him a growth character this time around. 


Just as Chung Myeong opened his mouth to press the participant further, 


"Well, I don't think it was just like that." 


Jo Sungrae suddenly grabbed the microphone. 


Chung Myeong was taken aback. As he turned his head quickly, his face was a mixture of curiosity, anticipation, and a hint of doubt. 


In response to the words that seemed to contradict his own, Chung Myeong leaned in and whispered. 


"Senior... If you do this, I," 


"What was your intention behind this choice, Junwoo?" 


Chung Myeong's whisper was cut off as if to say don't bother me with your nonsense. Jo Sungrae's eyes were fixed on Junwoo. 


"Can you tell me?" 


"Yes, thank you." 


Junwoo's expression changed noticeably. He sat up straight as if he was finally ready to tell the real story. Sungrae found something interesting in Junwoo's changed attitude at that moment. 


'Did he think it wasn't worth telling?' 


Maybe Junwoo didn't want to waste his energy on someone who wasn't even prepared to listen, knowing that Cheong Myeong was just putting on a fake act of being angry. 


Cheong Myeong clearly did not show any basic courtesy to the participants, as he was too focused on getting good angles for the show. Even if it was Cheong Myeong's mistake, a young child who is already nervous would not be able to judge or care about it. If his guess was correct, the child who caught that from a distance was not an ordinary child. 


"The first mission was to choose the most important character in a movie. One of the characters in the movie, Jang Miyeong, says this: About five years ago, she saw someone who had been in an accident and just walked by. She says it is the only stain on her life. The character who appears in that line." 


Sungrae tilted his head. He didn't remember that line. 


"When did that line come up?" 


"It's in the scene where Jang Miyeong was sitting on a rock and starts speaking at 23 minutes and 48 seconds." 


Everyone in the room, including Jo Sungrae, was confused. Junwoo's line only lasted for less than five seconds in the movie, which has a running time of over two hours. Even if he had just watched the movie, it would be difficult to remember. 


"You know the exact minute and second. You couldn't have had time to practice, so can I ask when you last watched the movie?" 


Junwoo thought for a moment. He couldn't say it was 20 years ago. 


"...I saw it recently." 


"Hmm. But why do you think that character is the most important role?" 


"Because if Kim Mu-myeong hadn't existed, none of the other characters, plot, or elements of this movie could have existed either." 


"Other elements can't exist? You're saying that because of a character who didn't even appear?" 


"Yes, that's right." 


"Have you ever thought that it might be your own judgment?" 


"I didn't think the Director put that line in without meaning. I was able to see the details that he put into the work from a different angle. If my judgment was rash, I'm sorry." 


Sungrae narrowed his eyes. He couldn't understand what Junwoo was saying. But the words seemed to have a clear intention. To Cheong Myeong, it sounded like the young participant was just spouting nonsense to sound impressive. 


"More than half of the participants chose Baek Duhyeon and Taesan Min. Is there a special reason why you didn't choose them?" 


"Baek Duhyeon is the most impressive character, but he shows a typical human pattern when cornered in a desperate situation in the second half. I felt that it was intentional, but I thought that it expressed emotions that could be replaced by other characters. 


"Did you think the same of Taesan Min?" 


"No. Taesanmin's emotional range changes the most from the beginning to the end, but I was able to find a few lines with errors in the middle. Oh," 


Junwoo suddenly corrected himself. 


"Of course, I don't mean I found an error in the work. It's possible that you intentionally created characters who are unstable and don't stay consistent." 


"Hmm. Kim Mu-myeong is the starting point for them, so he is irreplaceable. He doesn't appear in the film, so there are no errors either. Is that what you're saying?" 


"Yes, that's right. And..." 


Junwoo answered without hesitation, even to Sungrae, whom everyone was afraid of. He wasn't just saying what he thought to make a good impression. He spoke freely and honestly about what he thought about the movie while still being polite. 


He didn't seem nervous or rushed at all, as if he was enjoying the conversation. 


Sungrae was amazed. He had thought that Junwoo had created the character of Kim Mu-myeong because he didn't have a good understanding of the other characters. 


'How does he know everything about this movie, from beginning to end? Even things I didn't think of. It feels like I'm talking to the Director who made the movie.' 


Analytical ability and actual acting skills are definitely different, but he's excited to see what kind of stage this kid will show on his own. 


Meanwhile, the expression on Gu Daewon's face, who had been deliberately trying to divert attention from Junwoo, was strange. 


'I had forgotten. The character that child chose.' 


Gu Daewon had to think back to a few years ago. 


The starting point of all the events he created while preparing the synopsis before the movie. A character who does not appear in the movie. 


He thought he had given him a name at the time, but he honestly couldn't remember. 


The character that Junwoo named Kim Mu-myeong is the central axis of all the characters and the plot. He is the only one who loved the role, which he had conceived from the beginning of the movie. 


The character was forgotten when the movie became a hit, and the main and supporting characters gained popularity. It had never been mentioned in any of the many reviews from critics and the public. It was hard to believe that he had found it, but the problem was, 


"It doesn't make sense to play a character who just passes by with a line for about 5 seconds." 


Then, Sungrae said, 


"I'd rather see it with my own eyes than hear more about it." 


The three judges and on-site staff. 


Curiosity, anticipation, anxiety, dissatisfaction, boredom, indifference. 


Amidst the varied expressions, Junwoo took his place on the stage. 

And a little later, 


"...Thank you." 


The moment Junwoo's performance ended, 


A profound silence spread across the entire studio. 


The judges wore expressions as if they had witnessed something unbelievable. 


Frozen in place, pen dropped without notice. 


Amid the stunned silence of everyone on set, 


Suddenly. The first to snap out of it was Park Jun-gil, who had been standing there with his mouth agape. 


Realizing that continuing the broadcast was impossible in this situation, he hastily jumped onto the stage and waved his arms. 


"All right, we'll take a short break!" 

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