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Lana Wachowski selects Doona Bae

Dystopian director Lana Wachowski on the new Cloud Atlas star from Korea

Taken from the February Issue of Dazed & Confused:

“Doona is an angel. She creates art without artifice; often it feels like there is nothing between the lens and her pure, vulnerable emotion. She is also as lovely and kind as you might imagine her to be.” - Lana Wachowski

She might be an unfamiliar face to western audiences, but in Korea Doona Bae is a household name. Highly regarded for roles in Park Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and the Japanese film Air Doll (2009), she is able to cherry-pick parts from some of the world’s most acclaimed directors. So her audition for the German $100-million adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas was her first audition in 13 years – but one she was happy to undertake. “I really wanted to work with the Wachowskis and I don’t like big main roles,” Bae says. “If my favourite director gives me a role that is very...” – she pauses to find the right word – “sparkly? A very brilliant character? I’ll do it.”

In her role as clone Sonmi-451 in the dystopian country of Nea So Copros, Bae delivers a poignant performance that required serious prep. She had to learn English from scratch and play three characters, all of different ages and ethnicities. “I was a little bit confused to be absolutely honest,” Bae says of the challenge. “I went to Berlin by myself because I wanted to become Sonmi. She is very miserable at the beginning and I was also really lonely, but Lana and Andy Wachowski were amazing. In the end we were like a family.”

After Cloud Atlas wrapped, Bae elected to travel straight to London to tackle her next project – mastering English. “When filming ended I could still hardly tell my friends and my directors how much I loved them, and how much I enjoyed making the film,” Bae explains. So she spent six months living with her dialogue coach in Primrose Hill, enjoying a spell of rare anonymity. “No one knew me, no one bothered me. It was refreshing.”

What challenge next awaits the multilingual, award-winning actress? Bae remains undecided. But it seems likely she will undertake it with characteristic dedication. “I really love learning and working long hours. I was even jealous of my Cloud Atlas stand-ins because I love being in front of the camera,” she says, earnestly. “In social situations, when I’m surrounded by people, I become very shy. But if there’s a camera in front of me, I feel free.”

Cloud Atlas is out on February 22

Photography Lauren Ward
Styling Sara Paulsen