Searching was met with widespread acclaim after it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival back in 2018.
Told nearly entirely from the a computer screen, audiences waxed lyrical about the story of John Cho’s David Kim trying to find his missing daughter Margot through her web history, and in the process discovering various mysterious details about her that he didn’t know.
But one person who didn’t originally see the potential in Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian’s script for “Searching” was John Cho himself. Because, even though it was a script and genre that Cho has long been a fan of, the actor initially rejected director Chaganty’s approach.
“The bump was how they wanted to do it, which was on screens,” explained Cho. “That wasn’t something that I was particularly into.”
“I did pass at first. But then Aneesh came back at me. Because I didn’t want to make a YouTube video. I wanted to make a movie. And he then convinced me that that was what we were making.”
“I didn’t want it to be a stunt, to put it on the screen. I thought it would diminish the cinematic experience, being on the small screens.”
There was another reason why Cho turned Chaganty down, too.
“I will say that part of the problem was, when I had my conversation with Aneesh, the director-writer, it was over the phone.”
“I think we didn’t really connect because it was through this device, and it wasn’t until we got face to face. Because he reached back out and said that he wanted to meet me again.”
“What he told me was, ‘Listen, there is going to be a camera on your face. But the second camera is what we are really going to see through your eyes.’”
“’And that camera is going to be very traditionally cinematic. It is going to zoom and pan and do all the things that you are used to, so it will feel like a thriller should.’”
“It was his force of personality that made me say, ‘I think we have a shot at doing this. And if anyone does this guy does.’”
Once Cho had finally signed up to star in “Searching” he quickly formed a tight bond with Aneesh, though, especially because he was had to take a huge “leap of faith” with what was being captured.
“Normally, I think I am much more involved, that is to say that I am always very involved with a director.”
“But in this case I had to trust him, I had to say, ‘Did we get it? Are we there?’ a lot more to him.”
“I had to rely on his opinion a lot more because there was so much that I couldn’t see. Even on the day, when I was having conversations with people, I didn’t see anything that was on the screen.”
“I just had to imagine all of that. So there was no sense that this was matching up to anything else. And the lack of other angles, it was all a direct close-up or extreme close-up for the entire movie for me.”
“We were trying to work within that language. Again, it was all just unlike anything that I had done before, so I felt like I wasn’t in control of my performance in the way that I like to feel I am in control of my performance.”
Despite his initial concerns and the required adjustment, it was all worth it for Cho, who is overjoyed with how “Searching” has turned out.
“I was just happy I said yes. Because the movie really works. I am really happy to be a part of, let me put it this way: it is really hard to be a part of anything unique in cinema.”
“And not to say that our story is super unique. But it is certainly a unique way of telling a story. And it is certainly difficult to do that in 2018. I just thought it was very original.”
“And I am super happy to be part of something genuinely original in this day and age, something that adds to the vocabulary of cinema. Again, that is just a hard thing to do.”
“I was just really interested also that our collective vocabulary in regards to the computer has reached a point where we could all participate in the telling of this story.”
“Young and old people have been able to watch this movie and follow it. And all those computer cues mean something.”
“It is a movie that we couldn’t have made 10 years ago. I just feel like this is the first possible moment to make a movie like this.”
“Searching” is released on August 24.