Born in 1973, Bates was adopted by an American family as a boy. He returned to Korea in 1996 in search of his biological father only to find that his father has been held on death row at the Gwangju Penitentiary. They were reunited in July 2000.
Below is an extract of the interview from Chosun Ilbo’s article of Henney and Bates talking about the film’s gripping story.
-You watched “My Father” with Daniel at the premiere. How did you like it?
Bates: “It was simply fantastic. I’m a bit of a tough guy and I rarely cry, but after the movie, I was crying my eyes out. Daniel was perfect. It’s an honor that he played my character.”
-Daniel, you said you put your heart into the movie.
Henney: ‘Yes, because my mother was adopted too. If I understood my mother about 75 percent before, now with this film I understand her 100 percent. She can barely speak Korean, so these days, I teach her Korean.’
-Which scene do you remember best?
Bates: “I read the script about four times, and while I was reading, I couldn’t quite imagine how they would do the last 20 minutes. But after watching the movie, I was very happy. I was crying from true joy. The scene where Henney said, ‘I forgive you. I miss you’ was really moving.”
Henney: “I was worried because there were quite a lot of heavy scenes, but I was saved by Kim Young-chul. Wherever he goes, he holds my hands and says, ‘My Henney.’ Even at the press conference he didn’t let go of my hand and became a real support.”
-Was there any part in the movie that reflected your real life?
Henney: “The part where I was in a band as a singer in New York. My singing is terrible, of course. Let’s see… Yes, the picture of my girlfriend in the film was really a picture of my first crush. In the film, her parents disapproved of me because I was Asian, and I had a similar experience in real life. I heard that my girlfriend’s parents asked my girlfriend and her best friend, ‘How long are you going to go out with him? He’s Chinese.’ I was devastated.”
Bates: “I had similar experience. My girlfriend’s parents apparently told her, ‘What if you get a mixed baby? We don’t like an Asian mix.’ I thought I was going to die.”
-What does a father mean to you?
Bates: “I have a nine-month old baby son. Now that I am a father, I’ve learned what an amazing thing that is. I even enjoy changing his diapers. He’s name is Nathan, which means a gift from God. It was hard to tell whether my son took after my father in any way, but when I accidentally found out that the lines of his palm looked like father’s, I was so happy I cried. A father is someone who can give everything for his child.”
Henney: “Unfortunately, I don’t have a child yet. But my father is perfect. His just being there is a great support. When we were shooting in LA at the beginning of the shoot, I was really nervous because I couldn’t concentrate on the character. Then my father came to the set and bought me a beer. He said, “Just be yourself. Have a beer and relax. You’re already perfect to me.” I was instantly relaxed. The beer must have done the trick. (laughs)
-Some say the movie makes a murderer look good while trying to cash in on something that’s very sensitive.
Bates: “I looked for the victims’ families in 2000 but they didn’t want to see me. I totally understand. I’m sure they hate me too. That’s right, my father is a murderer. But I hope they can see how we can forgive and love another human being.”
Henney: “There are movies like ‘Dead Man Walking.’ I hope people focus more on Eron, or rather James Parker, and try to see in his heart.”
My Father (2007) – Daniel Henney’s new movie