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John Woo

Film Producer, Screenwriter, Actor, Film Director, Film Editor
© yakobusan
Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 2.0 ]
John Woo Yu-Sen SBS (born 1 May 1946) is a Hong Kong film director, writer, and producer. He is considered a major influence on the action genre, known for his highly chaotic action sequences, Mexican standoffs, and frequent use of slow-motion. Woo has directed several notable Hong Kong action films, among them, A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, Hard Boiled and Red Cliff. His Hollywood films include Hard Target, Broken Arrow, Face/Off and Mission: Impossible II. He also created the comic series Seven Brothers, published by Virgin Comics. Woo was described by Dave Kehr in The Observer in 2002 as "arguably the most influential director making movies today". Woo cites his three favorite films as David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samouraï. --- Woo was born amidst the chaos of the Chinese Civil War in 1946. The Christian Woo family, faced with persecution during Mao Zedong's early anti-bourgeois purges after the communist revolution in China, fled to Hong Kong when he was five. Impoverished, the Woo family lived in the slums at Shek Kip Mei. His father was a teacher, though rendered unable to work by tuberculosis, and his mother was a manual laborer on construction sites. The family was rendered homeless by the big Shek Kip Mei fire of 1953. Charitable donations from disaster relief efforts enabled the family to relocate; however, violent crime had by then become commonplace in Hong Kong housing projects. At age three he was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Following surgery on his spine, he was unable to walk correctly until eight years old, and as a result his right leg is shorter than his left leg. Woo went to Concordia Lutheran School and received a Christian education (his Christian background shows influences in his films). As a young boy, Woo had wanted to be a Christian minister. He later found a passion for movies influenced by the French New Wave especially Jean-Pierre Melville. Woo has said he was shy and had difficulty speaking, but found making movies a way to explore his feelings and thinking and would "use movies as a language". The local cinema would prove a haven of retreat. Woo found respite in musical films, such as The Wizard of Oz and in American Westerns. He has stated the final scene of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made a particular impression on him in his youth: the device of two comrades, each of whom fire pistols from each hand, is a recurrent spectacle later found in his own work. --- In 1969, aged 23, Woo was hired as a script supervisor at Cathay Studios. In 1971, he became an assistant director at Shaw Studios, where he was mentored by the noted director Chang Cheh. His directorial debut in 1974 was the feature film The Young Dragons (鐵漢柔情, Tiě hàn róu qíng). In the Kung fu action genre, it was choreographed by Jackie Chan and featured dynamic camera-work and elaborate action scenes. The film was picked up by Golden Harvest Studio where he went on to direct more martial arts films. He later had success as a comedy director with Money Crazy (發錢寒, Fā qián hàn) (1977), starring Hong Kong comedian Ricky Hui. By the mid-1980s, Woo was experiencing professional burnout. Several of his films were commercial disappointments, and he felt a distinct lack of creative control. In response, he took residence in Taiwan. It was during this period of self-imposed exile that director/producer Tsui Hark provided the funding for Woo to film a longtime pet project, A Better Tomorrow (1986). The story of two brothers—one a law enforcement officer, the other a criminal—the film was a financial blockbuster. A Better Tomorrow became a defining achievement in Hong Kong action cinema for its combination of emotional drama, slow-motion gunplay, gritty atmospherics, and trenchcoat-and-sunglasses fashion appeal. Its signature narrative device of two-handed, two-gunned fire fight within confined quarters—often referred to as "gun fu"—would later inspire American filmmakers such as Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and the Wachowskis. Woo would make several more Heroic Bloodshed films in the late 1980s and early 1990s, nearly all starring Chow Yun-Fat. These violent gangster thrillers typically focus on men bound by honor and loyalty, at odds with contemporary values of impermanence and expediency. The protagonists of these films, therefore, may be said to present a common lineage with the Chinese literary tradition of loyalty among generals depicted in classics such as "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". Woo gained international recognition with the release of The Killer (1989). Widely praised by critics and audiences for its action sequences, acting and cinematography, The Killer became the most successful Hong Kong film in American release since Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon (1973) and garnered Woo an American cult following. Bullet in the Head followed a year later, which Mr. Woo has stated he still considers his most personal work. However, Bullet in the Head failed to find an audience that accepted its political undertones, and failed to recoup its massive budget. Among the director's American admirers are Martin Scorsese and Sam Raimi (who has compared Woo's mastery of action to Hitchcock's mastery of suspense). Woo accepted a contract to work in America at a time when the 1997 handover of Hong Kong was imminent. --- An émigré in 1993, the director experienced difficulty in cultural adjustment while contracted with Universal Studios to direct Jean-Claude Van Damme in Hard Target. As characteristics of other foreign national film directors confronted the Hollywood environment, Mr. Woo was unaccustomed to pervasive management concerns, such as limitations on violence and completion schedules. When initial cuts failed to yield an"R" rated film, the studio assumed control of the project and edited footage to produce a cut "suitable for American audiences". A "rough cut" of the film, supposedly the original unrated version, is still circulated among his admirers. A three-year hiatus saw Mr. Woo next direct John Travolta and Christian Slater in Broken Arrow. A frenetic chase-themed film, the director once again found himself hampered by studio management and editorial concerns. Despite a larger budget than his previous Hard Target, the final feature lacked the trademark Woo style. Public reception saw modest financial success. Reluctant to pursue projects which would necessarily entail front-office controls, the director cautiously rejected the script for Face/Off several times until it was rewritten to suit him. (The futuristic setting was changed to a contemporary one.) Paramount Pictures also offered the director significantly more freedom to exercise his speciality: emotional characterisation and elaborate action. A complex story of adversaries—each of whom surgically alters their identity—law enforcement agent John Travolta and terrorist Nicolas Cage play a cat-and-mouse game, trapped in each other's outward appearance. Face/Off opened in 1997 to critical acclaim and strong attendance. Grosses in the United States exceeded $100 million. As a result, John Woo is generally regarded as the first Asian director to find a mainstream commercial base. In 2003, Mr. Woo directed a television pilot entitled The Robinsons: Lost in Space for The WB Television Network, based on the 1960s television series Lost in Space. The pilot was not purchased, although bootleg copies have been made available by fans. John Woo has made three additional films in Hollywood: Mission: Impossible II, Windtalkers and Paycheck. Mission: Impossible II was the third highest-grossing film in America in 2000, but received mixed reviews. Windtalkers and Paycheck fared poorly at the box office and were summarily dismissed by critics. --- Woo married Annie Woo Ngau Chun-lung in 1976 and has three children. He has lived in the United States since 1993.

Wikipedia ]

Born
May 01, 1946 (age 77)
Profession
Film Producer, Screenwriter, Actor, Film Director, Film Editor
Spouse
Annie Woo Ngau Chun-lung
Parents
Wu Zhuoyun
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