Masquerade (Hangul: 광해: 왕이 된 남자; Hanja: 光海: 王이 된 男子; RR: Gwanghae: Wang-i Doen Namja; lit. Gwanghae: The Man Who Became King) is a 2012 South Korean historical film starring Lee Byung-hun in dual roles as the bizarre King Gwanghae and the humble acrobat Ha-sun, who stands in for the monarch when he faces the threat of being poisoned.
With 12.3 million tickets sold, this historical movie is currently the sixth highest-grossing movie in Korean film history. Also, it swept the 49th Grand Bell Awards, winning in 15 categories, including Best Film, Director, Screenplay and Actor.
Historically, Gwanghae, the 15th Joseon king from 1608-1623, attempted diplomacy through neutrality as China's Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) set their sights on the country. He also tried his hand at other reforms and reconstruction to try to make the nation prosperous, including an emphasis on the restoration of documents, but met with opposition and was later deposed and exiled to Jeju Island. Since he was deposed in a coup by the Westerners faction, historians did not give him a temple name like Taejo or Sejong.
The film is an interpretation of the missing 15 days in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty during Gwanghae's reign—designated by his 1616 journal entry, "One must not record that which he wishes to hide."
The confusing and conspiratorial 15th ruler of Korea's Joseon Dynasty King Gwang-hae (Lee Byung-hun) orders his secretary of defense, Heo Gyun (Ryu Seung-ryong), to find him a double in order to avoid the constant threat of assassination. Heo Gyun finds Ha-sun, a lowly acrobat and bawdy joker who looks remarkably like the king, and just as feared, Gwang-hae is poisoned. Heo Gyun proposes Ha-sun fill the role as the king until Gwang-hae recovers fully and grooms Ha-sun to look and act every bit the king. While assuming the role of the king at his first official appearance, Ha-sun begins to ponder the intricacies of the problems debated in his court. Being fundamentally more humanitarian than Gwang-hae, Ha-sun’s affection and appreciation of even the most minor servants slowly changes morale in the palace for the better. Over time he finds his voice and takes control of governing the country with real insight and fair judgments. Even Heo Gyun is moved by Ha-sun’s genuine concern for the people, and realizes he is an infinitely better ruler than Gwang-hae. However, his chief opposition, Park Chung-seo (Kim Myung-gon), notices the sudden shift in the king’s behavior and starts to ask questions. The queen (Han Hyo-joo) is also conflicted between the real king and the fake king’s secret.Lee Byung-hun as King Gwanghae/Ha-sun
Ryu Seung-ryong as Chief Secretary Heo Gyun
Han Hyo-joo as Queen Consort
Jang Gwang as Chief Eunuch
Kim In-kwon as Captain Do, king's personal bodyguard
Shim Eun-kyung as Sa-wol, food taster
Kim Myung-gon as Interior Minister Park Chung-seo
Park Ji-a as Lady Han, chief court lady
Shin Jung-geun as Lee Jeong-rang
Jeon Guk-hyang as Lady Jeong
Yang Jun-mo as Kim
Mun Chang-gil as prime minister
Jeon Bae-su as Hyeong-pan
Do Yong-gu as Byeong-pan
Yu Sun-ung as Ho-pan
Lee Yang-hui as Gong-pan
Park Gyeong-geun as musician
Shin Un-seop as Ye-pan
Kim Jong-gu as royal physician
Lee El as Lady Ahn
Lee Jun-hyeok as Hyeon-gam
Seo Jin-weon as General Overseer Do
Kim Hye-weon as Pearl, courtesan
Kim Hak-jun as Yu Jeong-ho
Kim Hye-hwa as Plum Blossom Pot servant
Kim Seung-hun as Yi-bang
Lee Bong-ryeon as court woman
Ju Yeong-ho as Gwanghae's astrologist
Announced in early 2011 and initially titled I am the King of Joseon, The Prince and the Pauper-inspired historical film was to be directed by Kang Woo-suk and star Jung Jae-young as Gwanghae/Ha-sun and Yoo Jun-sang as Heo Gyun, but Kang left the project over differences of opinion with production firm CJ E&M.
In November 2011, they were replaced by director Choo Chang-min and actor Lee Byung-hun in his first ever historical film. A month later, Han Hyo-joo was cast as Lee's co-star.
The film was shot at the Namyangju Studio Complex in Gyeonggi Province.
Called by one review as one of the best South Korean costume dramas in years, the film drew praise for being beautifully written and emotionally involving, as well as for its accomplished acting, sure-handed direction, ambitious scale and commercial appeal. It became the second biggest hit film at the 2012 South Korean box office, attracting 8.2 million admissions in 25 days of release, then 9,091,633 after 31 days. On its 38th day, it became the 7th film in Korean cinema history to surpass the 10 million-milestone attendance. At the end of its theatrical run it was listed as Korea's all-time third highest-grossing film with 12,319,542 tickets sold nationwide (as of April 2015, it is currently sixth).
The film was adapted into a stage play which ran at Seoul's Dongsoong Art Center from February 23 to April 21, 2013. It was produced by Lee Byung-hun's agency BH Entertainment. Bae Soo-bin and musical theatre actor Kim Do-hyun alternated in the lead role of Gwanghae. As part of the promotion for the play, Lee, Bae and Kim were featured in a photo spread in the inaugural issue of Grazia Korea, published on February 20, 2013.