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Choi Min-shik (b. 1963) first made a name for himself in theater before breaking into the film world with roles in Park Chong-won's early films Kuro Arirang and the acclaimed Our Twisted Hero. In the mid-nineties he continued to act in theater productions as well as in several TV dramas, including Moon Over Seoul with Han Suk-kyu.
1997 marked his return to motion pictures, with a role as a tough-talking police investigator in Song Neung-han's No. 3. After a turn in Kim Jee-woon's debut film The Quiet Family, Choi's breakthrough would come in 1999, when he was cast in the record-breaking Shiri. His portrayal of a North Korean agent garnered him much praise and a Best Actor Award from the 1999 domestic Grand Bell Awards. After starring in a theater production of Hamlet in spring of 1999, Choi took on his first lead role as a husband who discovers his wife's infidelity in Happy End, and in early 2001 starred as a third-rate gangster opposite Hong Kong actress Cecilia Cheung in the cult melodrama Failan.
In 2002, Choi took on his most high-profile role yet in Im Kwon-taek's Chihwaseon, where he played the famous nineteenth-century Korean painter Jang Seung-up. The film won a Best Director prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. Two years later, Choi would be back at Cannes with Old Boy, Park Chan-wook's Grand Prix-winning story of a man locked up for 15 years without knowing the reason why. Choi's impassioned and cool acting in Old Boy caused his popularity in Korea to soar, and made his name known to many overseas viewers.
More recent efforts from Choi include the role of a trumpet player who agrees to teach a school music class in Springtime, and that of a down-and-out former boxer who struggles to put his life back together in Ryoo Seung-wan's Crying Fist. Together with Song Kang-ho and Sol Kyung-gu, Choi is now considered among the very top echelon of Korean actors in terms of presence and talent.