Legendary director John Woo had disappeared from the radar in recent years. Before reappearing last November with a Hollywood film project: “Silent Night”. Passing through Montreal for the Fantasia festival, the Chinese director provides more information on this new project, among others…
John Woo: the master of Hong Kong action cinema
For many decades, Hong Kong’s film industry has shown its talent and influence to the rest of the world. However, rare are the artists who have been able to enjoy both success on their land and in the United States. John Woo is one of these exceptions, being both respected in the Middle Kingdom and across the Atlantic. Indeed, the latter was revealed in the mid-1980s when he made The Crime Syndicatein which he collaborates for the first time with the one who will become his favorite actor: Chow-Yun Fat.
The two men thus shine in the eyes of the world, in front of and behind the camera. And this thanks to masterpieces such as The Killer and Foolproof. John Woo’s very flashy style, focusing on slow-motion and stylized gunfights, attracts international festival interest and American directors who will advertise it (such as Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino).
Became king of Hong Kong action cinema, John Woo then sets himself the challenge of becoming an outstanding director in Hollywood. If the beginnings are complicated (his Manhunt with Jean-Claude Van Damme experienced mixed returns), he later enjoyed success with Broken Arrow, Flip/Face and mission impossible 2.
But, thereafter, it will multiply the flops, about to return to China to return to success thanks to The Three Kingdoms.
In recent years, John Woo has become very rare, his latest productions proving to be very anecdotal. That’s why his appearance at the Fantasia film festival is a real event.
The king’s return
Present in Montreal to receive an honorary award for his entire career, John Woo took the opportunity to give an exclusive interview to Deadlinebetween screenings of his films Foolproof and Flip/Face. A few months ago, the director surprised his world by announcing his return to Hollywood with the film silent nightworn by Joel Kinnaman.
Admitting in an interview that his motivation for making this film was linked to the fact that he did not receive any really interesting project in China (his last production dates back to 2017 with Manhunting), he acknowledges, however, having accepted the script of silent night, because the latter did not include any dialogue.
Being quite pessimistic about the current state of Hong Kong cinema, which he believes lacks funding and creativity, the filmmaker nevertheless intends to make a film that will bridge the gap between Chinese culture and that of the West. It is true that in a news where China-US relations have never been so bada movie like this would be welcome:
There are a few stories I’m working on. One of them is inspired by a true story: that of a Chinese, Dean Lung, who worked as a servant in New York in the 1870s. He donated all his savings to Columbia University so that she can set up language and Chinese culture courses. Then he convinced his master to also be a donor. Today, he still has his picture displayed at Columbia, and the classes still exist. Hopefully stories like this can help both sides understand each other.
Remake of a long-awaited cult film
During his interview, John Woo also returned to another of his projects highly anticipated by his fans: the american remake of The Killer. Released in 1989, the feature film had the effect of an international bomb, influencing filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.
33 years later, the director announced last May that a new version of his masterpiece would be directed by himself and broadcast on the American streaming service Peacock. With Lupita Nyong’o in the lead role? Here again, John Woo is very transparent:
Maybe we shouldn’t call this movie The Killer, because it is a very different version in which the main character will be played by a woman. We’re doing the casting right now. We spoke with Lupita Nyong’o, but she had to decline, so we are looking for someone else. The story is similar to The Killerbut it will be more a story of friendship than a love story.