This Friday marks the New York and Los Angeles theatrical release of high-octane revenge actioner The Villainess, with nationwide rollout to follow in September. The South Korean film was met with rave reviews on the film festival circuit, beginning with its appearance at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received a 4-minute standing ovation upon the screening’s conclusion. We happened to fall for the film at the Fantasia International Film Festival last month (review).

Writer/director Byung-gil Jung may be an up and comer, but it’s clear that this visionary will soon become a recognizable name in the film industry. Having transitioned from stunt work to directing, Byung-gil Jung has the perfect skill set to deliver some serious action.

During Fantasia, we sat down with the South Korean director and his translator to discuss the creation of The Villainess, the film’s influences, and the Hollywood offers he’s received since making the film. Read on for our spoiler free chat.

How was the story for The Villainess conceived?

I would say the very first conception of this film started with the film Nikita by Luc Besson, and in a way, it’s kind of my way of paying homage to his work and for my respect of him, but I guess putting my Korean twist to it.

Were there any other influences in addition to Luc Besson’s Nikita?

I would say the very first conception of this film started with the film Nikita by Luc Besson, and in a way, it’s kind of my way of paying homage to his work and for my respect of him, but I guess putting my Korean twist to it.

There’s not a lot of female led action films, so I’d like to know what was the most important part for you in creating her character?

I would say, with her character, she’s a woman who tries to be good but inevitably becomes a so-called villainess, because of the circumstances she’s surrounded in. When you see her in the film, she’s actually very good hearted and warm, and because of that she’s taken advantage of. So, she’s very good, but when people see her on the outside, they only see a villainess. In a way, the title is actually an ironic term that alludes to her character.

What was the casting process like; was it a challenge to find a lead actress who could nail both the action and the dramatic nature of her character?

There weren’t much difficulties in the casting process for this; the biggest factor I wanted to consider when casting was if she had the right image for this role and if she had good acting skills. Regarding whether she could do action sequences or not, that wasn’t really taken much into consideration because I can design those. If she wasn’t a proficient action or stunt person, I can make her look good because that’s what the director does. When it comes to bad actors, it’s difficult to make bad actors look good. So, the acting chops came first when considering the right actress. I wanted to find the right image, too.

What’s impressive is just how complex this story is, which isn’t too common in action. How difficult was it to weave in the narrative complexities between the very impressive action sequences?

The screenwriting process for The Villainess is what came first, and then it was sort of adding on the action scenes. The core of the film actually has a dramatic narrative and then we started to design and weave in the sequences to make it more exciting and thrilling.

You did a lot of stunt work prior to transitioning into directing, how did that shape the action in this film?

I would say that’s helped in the sense of thinking out specific scenes or designing fight choreography, but I think it’s definitely helped in the sense of being able to understand the thoughts of stunt men a lot more and that enabled me to really communicate well with them and collaborate with them while communicating what I needed from them. That’s the most helpful thing.

What was the most difficult action sequence, in terms of the technical challenges?

The opening action sequence and the bus sequence towards the end were the two that we prepared the most for, but personally, the scene that I liked working on the most would be the motorcycle scene in the middle. We were sort of running behind on time so there wasn’t actually that much time to prepare for it, but that’s the scene that I remember enjoying the most.

The motorcycle scene is actually my favorite action sequence in the entire film. What’s been the biggest surprise for you in the entire process, from conception to festival screening?

I feel like working on The Villainess, for me, was one of the happiest and also most tormenting filmmaking experiences I’ve had. The most surprising thing is that before the film came out and after it’s been released, I feel a lot of change since then. For example, I’m starting to get offers from Hollywood, and maybe this was due to the audience response in Cannes, but definitely this film is the biggest reaction I’ve received, especially abroad, so I think that’s probably the most surprising thing that I’ve experienced.

You mentioned that it was the happiest, but the most tormenting experience. Tormenting in what way?

Every moment of filming The Villainess was an ordeal, to be honest. I would add onto that, though, that it was a happy ordeal.

Touching back on Hollywood calling, have you accepted any offers? What would you like to do next?

As of yet, I don’t have any confirmed or accepted offers on my part; I’m still in talks on several projects. Ideally I would like creative control, I’d like to work on my own scripts but I’m also open to projects that they may want to offer me. I’m actually having a meeting with another potential producer on Sunday, so we’ll see how that goes.

I think that The Villainess is so good, and so innovative, that it’s inevitable that Hollywood will want to remake this. How would you feel about an American remake?

: I am open to a remake, however, if they want me to direct that remake I think I would have to take some factors into consideration. One would be, what kind of actors would I be able to work with? And two, whether I would be able to make a sequel to this. Because the Korean version sort of ends on a note that makes the viewer wonder what’s next so if there’s an opportunity to remake not just the first installment but a sequel that follows as well then, I would possibly consider directing the remake.

Is there already a sequel idea in mind?

I have a general idea in my head, but it’s not in hard print or anything. But yes, I do have a few ideas regarding the sequel.