When Korean pop star Rain took the lead role of an elite killer in Ninja Assassin, he knew it was going to be difficult but he surely wasn’t prepared for what would be the most arduous challenge.

“I trained for eight months, five days a week, eight hours a day,” said the 27-year old during a recent stop in Toronto. “(But) the hardest part was food. I really love junk food — French fries, hamburgers, pizza — I ate only chicken breast and vegetables. No sugar, no salt — it was so painful.”

As challenging as his diet was, Ninja Assassin — which opens Wednesday — will be a huge break in North America for the international singer whose already conquered the charts in Asia and been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People Who Shape Our World — an honour that may have helped land him a role in last year’s Speed Racer.

“I couldn’t have done this without the crew (of Speed Racer),” said Rain, noting that directors the Wachowski brothers (who produced Ninja Assassin) marked him for the role from the start. “When we were working on Speed Racer, Larry and Andy Wachowski offered (the role) to me. How could I say no to them?”

Adopting the classic ninja storyline in which orphans are disciplined in secret schools to become stealthy killers, Ninja Assassin tells the tale of an agile ninja (Rain) who rejects the clan and sets his sights on ending the practice of kidnapping children to transform into deadly assassins.

“The history of ninjas is true,” said Rain, explaining that the Japanese lore dates back to the 14th century.

“When I was young, I loved ninja movies because I had a Japanese friend who told me about ninja history … (they’re) very mysterious.”

Assassin also gave Rain the chance to dive into a cinematic genre that’s always fascinated him — martial arts. But while he admits Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon is his favourite martial arts movie, it’s another type of actor that Rain personally idolizes.

“Do you know Scarface?” asked Rain rhetorically. “That’s my favourite. I love Al Pacino — I want to work with him.”

Watch out Al, you have a Ninja Assassin on your tail.

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