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Park Chan-wook’s ‘The Sympathizer’ Stars Robert Downey Jr. in Different Roles


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Mar 19, 2024
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Hoa Xuande and Robert Downey Jr. for 'The Sympathizer'

The Sympathizer is an awaited HBO original, based on the same-titled and recipient of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction novel by Vietnamese-American professor Viet Thanh Nguyen.

Conceived by co-showrunners Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar, the historical black-comedy drama is a seven-episode limited series, with Park directing the first three episodes, Fernando Meirelles directing the fourth, and Marc Munden directing the final three.

A master of modern Korean and international films, Park Chan-wook earned critical acclaim for his inventive, sardonic, and explicit works, including Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003), Thirst (2009), The Handmaiden (2016), and Decision to Leave (2022). His rendition of The Sympathizer in his distinctive ways draws special attention for me. It’s also his second series, succeeding the BBC’s espionage drama The Little Drummer Girl (2018).

The Sympathizer is going to be a thing with Hoa Xuande as the centerpiece of the action and an enviable ensemble cast; Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of different antagonistic roles piques curiosity further.

According to Park, who spoke with Collider about the project, Downey became involved because he read the novel, enjoyed the ideas it presented, and appreciated how it contrasted “Occidental values and Oriental values.” He added that the actor is keen on narrating refugee stories and that the novel deals with Vietnamese refugees who fled their country and arrived in the US during the war.

The Sympathizer follows The Captain (Hoa Xuande), a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist secret operative who must escape to the US as the Vietnam War draws to a close. He continues to discreetly spy on the neighborhood and report back to the Viet Cong while living with South Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles, straining through his old allegiances and his new realities.

Besides Hoa Xuande and Robert Downey Jr., the cast has key roles for Toan Le, Vy Le, Alan Trong, Fred Nguyen Khan, Ky Duyen, and Sandra Oh. Downey is also the project’s executive producer, along with his wife, Susan Downey. To speed up the amount of time it took to don a bald cap for each of the several roles he played—including an operative, a politician, and a filmmaker within the American setting—Downey reportedly shaved his head for The Sympathizer.

The series will premiere on HBO and be accessible to stream on Max starting April 14, 2024.

The post Park Chan-wook’s ‘The Sympathizer’ Stars Robert Downey Jr. in Different Roles appeared first on Rolling Stone India.
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