Dustin Nguyen was awarded a Golden Lotus for best actor at the 16th Viet Nam Film Festival for his part in Huyen Thoai Bat Tu (The Legend Is Alive). It came as no surprise to cinema-goers and those who work in the industry.
Nguyen was unable to attend the festival because of shooting commitments in the south of the country, the Cinema World’s reporter managed to snatch a brief moment of Nguyen’s time for an interview.
Congratulations! There were many contenders for the best actor award. Why do you think you won?
Actually, it’s a very subjective thing, and your question is difficult to answer. It’s a very individual affair. One person might like my acting in the role, and another not. That is the life of an artist.
I think there were a number of very strong contenders. I guess I was lucky.
Could you say more about your role in The Legend Is Alive? Were you under a lot of pressure?
As soon as I agreed to play the part of Long I felt under a lot of pressure. I never thought I would take this kind of role and when I was first offered the part by director Luu Huynh I refused. But he was very patient and finally persuaded me to accept the part. The script was adapted to suit me. I tried my best and was very pleased that audiences liked my performance.
You once said that you would never act in an action movie. However, there are many action scenes in The Legend Is Alive. Did you feel like you had compromised yourself?
I like action movies. An action movie requires lots of power. It is very hard work physically. I feel that I’m too old to act in an action movie. However, I’m still attracted by good parts. I always look for character.
My role in the movie was a departure from the original script. I played the part of a mentally disabled martial artist – possible the most difficult role I have ever played.
Long was a victim of Agent Orange and as a result, has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old. He goes on a road trip after his surrogate mother dies and meets all sorts of characters along the way. It’s really a film about unconditional love for one’s mother.
To prepare for the part, I spent a long time observing mentally disabled patients.
What was the hardest thing for you playing this part?
The movie has many action scenes which I found exhausting. I was also injured a few times, but the most difficult thing for me was the emotional scenes. I thought a lot about the scene where Long’s mother dies before shooting. Everyone thinks about their mother. The death of a mother is heartbreaking.
When I played this scene I thought very hard about my own mother. It gave me a lot of stress.
The roles you play are usually very powerful. How do you leave it all behind when filming is over?
The actor needs to combine acting with art, but it is emotion that is most important. If the actor is moved himself, he will be able to move the audience to tears. It is also necessary not to overplay a part. He must base his performance on his own experiences.
Sometimes it is easy to leave the part behind, but sometimes it is hard to escape. It takes time, like real life.
Are you happy being an actor?
I’m lucky to act and I can earn a living from it. Although it is not easy, and far from stable, I am happy with my choice. — VNS