Korean recording star Jeong "Rain" Ji-hoon was breaking hearts with his voice long before he was busting heads with his hands and feet.
The singer was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People Who Shape Our World in 2006, and People Magazine put him on its list of Most Beautiful People in 2007. All those accolades were for his musical career.
Now, he's ready to turn heads with his performance in the action film "Ninja Assassin," which opened Wednesday. Rain plays a highly trained killer who turns against his clan, a decision that leads to a series of brutal and bloody encounters.
Rain laughs when asked whether he likes singing or acting better.
"That is like asking if you like your mother or father better," Rain says in a telephone interview, where an interpreter is standing by. "When I was young, I always wanted to be a singer and an actor."
Rain has been singing longer than acting. He made his musical debut with a 2002 self-titled album. In 2005, he became the first Asian performing artist to perform at the MTV Video Music Awards.
The 27-year-old started acting in 2004 with the highly-rated Korean drama series "Full House." He made his American film debut playing a driver in the 2008 release "Speed Racer," which did more than introduce him to an American audience. "Speed Racer" was directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, who are producers of "Ninja Assassin."
Rain went through an extensive training schedule to get ready for the "Ninja" filming.
"I trained for eight months. All I ate was chicken breasts and vegetables. I learned a lot of martial arts and worked on kick boxing. I also trained with swords and double swords," Rain says.
All of the work was needed to prepare for the numerous fight sequences. The toughest fight for Rain was a battle in a bathroom where he was slammed against walls, partitions and porcelain.
He ended the filming with plenty of bruises but no serious injuries -- an accomplishment Rain credits to the cast and crew.
The experience of filming "Ninja Assassin" was so positive that Rain is willing to return to the role if there's a sequel. If that doesn't happen, he will be glad to go back to his first -- but not necessarily his favorite -- love: singing.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 441-6355. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.