John Woo

Biography

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-Nationalist purges after the communist takeover of 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. 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 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. Woo married Annie Woo Ngau Chun-lung in 1976 and has had three children. He has lived in the United States since 1993. An emigré in 1993, the director experienced difficulty in cultural adjustment while contracted with Universal Studios to direct Jean-Claude Van Damme in Hard Target. Characteristic of other foreign national film directors confronted with 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 highest-grossing film of 2000, but received mixed reviews. Windtalkers and Paycheck fared poorly at the box office and were summarily dismissed by critics. Recently, John Woo directed and produced a videogame called Stranglehold for games consoles and PC. It is a sequel to his 1992 film, Hard Boiled. He also produced the 2007 anime movie, Appleseed: Ex Machina, the sequel to Shinji Aramaki's 2004 film Appleseed.

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Birth Name

Yusen Wu

Birth Place

Guangzhou, China

Birth Date

5/1/1946
Known For
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Mission: Remarkable - 40 Years of Creating the Impossible

Self

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Plain Jane to the Rescue

John Woo (Guest Star)

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Bullet In The Head

Police inspector

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Chop Socky - Cinema Hong Kong

Himself

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Fast Funny and Furious: Jackie Chan - Veloz e Furioso

Self (archive footage)

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Jackie Chan: My Story

Self

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Hand of Death

Scholar Cheng

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Cinema of Vengeance

Himself (uncredited)

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Art of Action

Himself - Interviewee

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A Better Tomorrow

Inspector Wu

Starring In
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The Founding of a Republic

Liu Wenhui (scenes deleted)

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Mission: Remarkable - 40 Years of Creating the Impossible

Self

Movie Poster

Chop Socky - Cinema Hong Kong

Himself

Movie Poster

Art of Action

Himself - Interviewee

Movie Poster

Fast Funny and Furious: Jackie Chan - Veloz e Furioso

Self (archive footage)

Movie Poster

Jackie Chan: My Story

Self

Movie Poster

Cinema of Vengeance

Himself (uncredited)

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Bullet In The Head

Police inspector

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Hard Boiled

Mr. Woo (uncredited)

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Twin Dragons

Priest (as John Wu)

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Once a Thief

Stanley Wu (uncredited)

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Bullet in the Head

Policeman

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A Better Tomorrow

Inspector Wu

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Plain Jane to the Rescue

John Woo (Guest Star)

Movie Poster

Hand of Death

Scholar Cheng

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