BEIJING — The death of despotic North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on Saturday at age 69 marks the passing of one of the truly odd footnotes to cinema history — a man who built up a deep, if twisted, relationship with stage and screen.
Like Adolf Hitler, who supposedly loved Disney movies, Kim was fascinated by film and collected 20,000 foreign pics. “Daffy Duck” and horror movies were among his favorites, as were James Bond films, though he was said to have been furious at the way North Korea was depicted as a basket-case evil state in “Die Another Day” in 2002.
He produced several films himself, mostly ideologically driven historical epics, including the propaganda classic “Sea of Blood.”
His movie mania drove him to kidnap South Korean actress Choi Eun-hui and her helmer boyfriend Shin Sang-ok in Hong Kong in 1978. They were held separately until 1983 and forced to produce seven films while in captivity, before they escaped on a visit to Vienna in 1986.
If you believe the official propaganda, Kim wrote six operas in two years, although the same notes also say he hit 11 holes-in-one in the first round of golf he ever played.
The “Dear Leader” was said to have been incandescent with rage at his depiction in 2004’s “Team America,” a film satire using puppets by the creators of “South Park,” Trey Parker and Matt Stone, which depicted him as a solitary lunatic feeding U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix to the sharks.
“I’m so lonely, so lonely, so lonely and sadly alone. There’s no one, just me only, sitting on my little throne. Seems like no one takes me seriously,” he sings.
The fondness for Disney seems to have been passed on through the family. Kim’s eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, 38, fell out of favor with his father after he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport in 2001 saying he wanted to visit Disney’s Tokyo resort.
Kim is succeeded by his younger son, Kim Jong-un, born in 1983 or 1984, to his late wife, a Japanese-born professional dancer, Ko Yong-hui.