Jun Ji-hyun, 28, shot to stardom in South Korea playing the lead in My Sassy Girl and has starred in a number of other romantic comedies since. She recently made her break into Hollywood using the name Gianna Jun in Chris Nahon's Blood: The Last Vampire, a live-action film based on Hiroyuki Kitakubo's hit anime from 2000. Tell me about your role. My character Saya is a very simple girl. She fights hard for only one dream, which is to kill the head monster Onigen, but deep down she is very lonely. I knew about the anime before this project came up and it is a role that every actor would die for. Was action director Cory Yuen Kwai demanding? No, he wasn't. He was so sweet. Cory did an excellent job transforming someone like me, with no background in action films, into a hardcore fighter while still preserving the character's feminine side. He is amazing. The film was shot in Argentina, the mainland and Hong Kong. At first, he taught me how to kick and gradually I began practising with the sword. A real samurai sword is very heavy, so we only used a real one for close-ups and a prop for the rest. I had a training routine every day, repeating the same stuff. It was boring, but once the cameras started rolling, I realised how practical my training was and it was all worth it. Any mishaps during shooting? Yes, I had a close call. My character has superhuman powers, so I spent a lot of time doing flying stunts on a wire. One time a crane hit me from the side while I was dangling in the air. It didn't hit me right on, but it did hit my face. The pain was secondary to the feeling I had of hanging in the air all alone. I got homesick and wondered what I was doing there. Tears started pouring down my face. You seem to have lost weight. Is that because of the intense training? I usually weigh around 40kg and I think I lost 3kg to 4kg during filming. I've begun to exercise since doing this film. I used to walk straight past treadmills at the gym, but after taking on this project, I started to exercise for at least 10 minutes and believe me even that is pretty tough for someone who's never worked out. Now I exercise for at least an hour a day and I can even touch the ground with my fingertips. Your English has improved a lot. Where did you pick up your American accent? I might have picked it up by chatting with my American friends. I had an English tutor help me with my lines during filming. Conversing or reading my lines in English was fine, but delivering the lines in a foreign language naturally with the right expression was very challenging, but I'm pleased with the results. Where did you get your English name, Gianna, from? In South Korea, all my friends and family members call me 'Ji-Hyun-A' and my foreign friends thought my name was 'Gianna' and started calling me that. I have always had an English name but it was only made official with this movie. It was easier for people to use my English name on set. Your birth name, Wang Ji-hyun, has stirred up speculation in South Korea that you have Chinese ancestry. Is that true? My real surname is Wang, but it's uncommon in South Korea, so when I began acting I decided to use Jun as my surname because it was more common. I know some people think I'm from Taiwan or the mainland because of my surname, but I am 100 per cent South Korean. South Korean cinema has slipped in recent years. What happened? Every industry has its good and bad times and South Korea's film industry is having a bad time at the moment. There are new directors and actors emerging and this is perhaps a transition period before their talents begin to shine.