r/movies Oct 18 '22 Silver 1 Gold 1 Super Heart Eyes 1

Hello Reddit. I'm John Woo, director of Face/Off, Mission Impossible II, Hard Boiled, The Killer, Hard Target, A Better Tomorrow, and my newest upcoming film, Silent Night. AMA. AMA

I was born in Guangzhou, raised in Hong Kong, and educated at Matteo Ricci College. My career in film started when I was in my 20s, when I started working as an assistant director for Shaw Brothers Studio. My more popular Hong Kong films include The Killer, Hard Boiled, and A Better Tomorrow. My Hollywood studio films include Hard Target for Universal Pictures, Broken Arrow for Twentieth Century Fox, Face/Off, Mission Impossible II, and Paycheck with Paramount Pictures, and Windtalkers with MGM Studios. My latest film, Silent Night, starring Joel Kinnaman, is currently in post-production. I'm excited to answer your questions!

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/john_woo_filmmaker/

Proof: https://i.imgur.com/cIrlU52.jpg

Back for more! Answering more questions today.

3.2k Upvotes

645 comments sorted by

115

u/Stonewalled89 Oct 18 '22 edited Oct 18 '22

What's the significance of the repeated use of white doves in your work?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

I think the white doves represent purity and spirit. White doves to me are a messenger from god. They are a noble creature with many symbolic meanings. When I was in middle school, every Sunday there was a service at my church. I was tasked with drawing the poster and I used white doves for it all the times. When I was making the Killer. The story is about a cop and an assassin. Each of them has their own ideas about justice. I was trying to come up with an idea of a Montage to show their righteousness. When I was shooting the final sequence, I had this idea to have the white doves flying past the candles to represent the precious spirits within them. I’ve been using them ever since and sometimes when I don’t use them, my crew will tell me, “John, we have to use the white doves!” So sometimes I use them because the crew say so. Ha!

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u/Stonewalled89 Oct 19 '22

Thank you for the very interesting answer.

22

u/FancyShrimp Oct 19 '22

"Hey, we haven't filmed any doves yet."

"Bring them to me."

13

u/masterpainimeanbetty Oct 19 '22

i think he gets them wholesale

61

u/tedbawno Oct 18 '22

I used to see you and Chow Yun Fat dining together at the Szechuan Chonqing in Vancouver. In my opinion your collaborations with him have resulted in one of the greatest duos in cinema alongside DeNiro and Scorsese. Do you have plans to work with him on another film?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

I would love to work with him again when the right opportunity come along.

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u/Dispositionpsn Oct 18 '22

Have you ever wanted to make another action epic, like Hard Boiled with Chow Yun-Fat?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

There are three types of movies that I want to do. 1. Western. I am dying to make a western! I have so many ideas about how my western would look like. I am ready to make a. 2. I want to make a movie about early Chinese immigrants in the 1800s and hopefully through that movie, I can act as a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures and truly mold the two together so that we are learn about each other better and become good friends. 3. I want to make my first WuXia movie, unlike any other already made WuXia movies but more similar to the early Japanese samurai movies like the ones from Akira Kurosawa. I want to incorporate my life experiences into the story.

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u/Dispositionpsn Oct 19 '22

Wow! I'm sold on all three and I really hope to see them one day. Thank you for the reply! Your work is incredible! I show it to all my friends and I always start with my favorite The Killer.

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u/Acolyte_of_Swole Oct 20 '22

I look forward to seeing you make a Wuxia film.

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u/heyimrick Oct 27 '22

Late to the party, but wow that would be amazing from him. Need a new Wuxia film these days.

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u/asianfilmfanatic Oct 20 '22

John, I would consider Last Hurrah for Chivalry your wuxia movie, and an enjoyable one at that.

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u/aegaetis3379 Oct 18 '22

Will we ever see proper 4k releases of the killer or hard boiled?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

I hope to see them too.

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u/peanutmanak47 Oct 20 '22

Man, I would love to have Hard Boiled in 4k.

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u/Naive_Needleworker32 Oct 18 '22

You’ve often cited Jaques Demy’s movies “Young Girls of Rochefort” and “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” as being a big influence on the way you choreograph scenes. Which film is your favorite out of Demy’s filmography and why?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

Great question! Jaques Demy is my favorite director. "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" taught me what Romanticism is in movie. This is my favorite movie of all time. It is the most beautiful movies that I've seen, including how pretty the main characters is, which is the reason why all the main cast in my movies are good looking too. haha!

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u/Dispositionpsn Oct 18 '22

What's your favorite action film of all time?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

The Wild Bunch.

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u/Dispositionpsn Oct 19 '22

Thanks for the reply, and an amazing choice!

26

u/Jackz94 Oct 18 '22

Hello! What is your favorite food to eat during a filming session?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

I am very simple, whatever the catering has, I'll eat it. From a piece of bread to a bowl of rice.

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u/Hillbilly_Elegant Oct 18 '22

Who was less difficult to work with: Travolta or Cage?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

They are both very great and easy to work with!

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u/JackThorn16 Oct 18 '22

Huge fan of your Hong Kong work, what are your thoughts on bullet hit squibs vs cgi blood?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

I never liked CGI blood. I like the squibs because I can see on set what it looks like. I need to be able to feel the pain of the character when we are filming. The squib translate this very well. It is very important to understand the feeling on set.

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u/Kozo-Klf-1187 Oct 18 '22

Mr. Woo I'm a Filmmaker living in Japan loves your films. Every movie you've made so far has been a great and exciting compilation. Is there anything you cherish when editing a Film?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

My favorite part of post production is editing. I have a habit when I make movie is that before the movie is shot, I can already see it and when I'm in production, it feels like I'm just re-creating the images so to me that is boring. I keep changing the original ideas by following my instinct on set so that it feels like I am making a new movie again. When I get to editorial, I re-create the movie again that is different from the movie that I shot. I am very thrilled about editing because it feels like we are creating something brand new and that is very exciting!

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u/TheBigGAlways369 Oct 18 '22

Is there any info on what your original cut of Mission Impossible II that you can share? And would you do a superhero movie at all?

On a side note, I'm really hoping for Hard Boiled and The Killer to finally get the Blu-ray releases they deserve

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 24 '22

The Mission Impossible II only has that one version which was the one that it was released. A movie will always have a version that is longer but that would be a work in progress. We then work very hard to trim some of it away to keep the essence of the movie there.

I haven't seen any recent superhero movies. I loved the older Superhero movies like Superman. The recent ones had never been my imaginations. Although, I am working on a project that combines Hindu and Chinese superheroes together.

Me too on the Blu-Ray release. That would be cool!

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u/Elvis662 Oct 19 '22 edited Oct 19 '22

John, your work with Chow Yun Fat in the 80's and 90's means more to me than I can even express in words. I grew up obsessed with your movies as a boy and your eternal passion for cinema shaped my life as an adult. BETTER TOMORROW I & II, BULLET IN THE HEAD, THE KILLER, HARD BOILED. It's hard for me to conceive of anyone having the connection to cinema that you had during that time with this run of films.

I have two questions for you:

How did you feel about your contemporaries of the time when you were more or less creating and defining your own new genre in Hong Kong cinema (the genre Rick Baker coined Heroic Bloodshed)? Did you have a favorite among the filmmakers who were doing simiar work in Hong Kong at the same time as you (Ringo Lam and Johnnie To for example)? And of all the John Woo imitation films is there one that you feel you wished you'd have made?

My other question is about two projects that fell through between you and Quentin Tarantino and another between you and Roger Avary in the mid 90's. I read that Quentin had an idea for a hostage thriller with Chow as a psychopathic killer and Roger had a project called Hatchet Man. Can you elaborate on what these projects were about and why they fell through?

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u/pantsonheaditor Oct 18 '22

What happened to all of the Hong Kong actors, comedians, producers , writers, directors? Will the Hong Kong movie industry ever recover?

Big fan of a lot of your films. Both USA and HK . Everyone should check out The Replacement Killers if you haven't seen it.

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u/StevenHerrada1216 Oct 19 '22

Mr. Woo god bless we love you and your work very dearly. I love A Better Tomorrow 1&2, Heroes, Shed No Tears, Hard Boiled, Broken Arrow, Face-Off, Hard Target, The Killer, Windtalkers, and more. Your my favorite action director and one my favorite director ever maybe even my favorite ever. What was it like filming Heroes Shed No Tears? Do you know if some of your older hong kong films can come to bluray here in the U.S.? Is it true your making a new film with Joel Kinnaman? Regardless if you answer my plethora of questions I want you to know we all love you and hollywood needs you and more people like you more than ever.

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

Heroes Shed No Tears was a disaster to shoot. That was my first attempt on making gunfire movies. Things were not ideal. I had to keep tweaking the stories as I shot. Yes, I am making a movie with Joel Kinnaman. I am currently in post production of the movie Silent Night and he is a very talented, and thoughtful actor. He did all of his own stunts and is very dedicated. I chose this script because it was a challenge for me to make a movie with no dialogue. Movie is about sight and sound but in this movie, the sound has no dialogue. I have to find a way to tell the story visually with only sound effects and music and more importantly, how to get the audience understood and engaged. This is also a movie that is completely different from all of my previous movies and this will be the first low budget independent film with a very limited shooting schedule. It was a very interesting challenge and I welcomed it. I am excited about movie!

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u/StevenHerrada1216 Oct 19 '22

I’m sorry it was so disastrous to shoot, sir if it makes you feel any better I thought the end product was great. I am looking forward to Silent Night and wow Kinnaman did all his own stunts! He must have been a great guy to work with, I didn’t know he did his own stunts for action that is super cool.

20

u/sardinia_dun Oct 18 '22

Hello, sir!

What are the chances of getting a 4k Bluray release of BULLET IN THE HEAD? I think it's your best film and deserves a wider audience.

On a similar note, is it true that there is a longer cut of BULLET IN THE HEAD? Would you happen to have the lost footage, sir?

I just want to say that I have always loved your movies, and they have been a source of inspiration to me my whole life.

Thank you!

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 24 '22

I don't know if there will be a 4k Bluray release of Bullet in the Head. I know that our investor had sold the rights of the movies and I don't own the right of the movie but I do hope that if we can do a re-release of that in 4k.

Unfortunately, all the lost footage were already tossed out.

And Thank you so much for supporting our movies. BTW, a lot of the Vietnam War scenes was inspired by the Dear Hunter. Great movie. When I first came to Hollywood, I almost had a chance to work with its director, Michal Cimino. He had brought over a script but we couldn't find a financier for it. It was very unfortunate.

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u/Eccentric_Cardinal Oct 18 '22

All these years later, what are your thoughts on The Killer? Most people seem to know you from Hard Boiled or your later American films but The Killer has always been a favorite of mine since it's so tragic.

Good luck on your new film and best wishes on it being a success!

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

Killer

Although I love all of my films, I have to say that I love the Killer the most. When I studied movies back then, I was influenced the most by the French New Wave, the Italian, British and Early Hollywood movie. I was particularly impressed by the Auteur theory. I believe that the director is an author creating a piece of literature every time he makes a movie. When I was working with Tsui Hark on “A Better Tomorrow”, he was the producer and I was the director. I wasn’t very happy with all the screenplays that I received from other writers. I want to create a gangster movie that feels genuinely human. Tusi suggested that why don’t I write my experience into a movie and that’s when I created Chow Yun-Fat’s character. He is based on my own experiences. When I was making the Killer, Tsui was the only producer on it and this entire story was created by me. Basically, I want to make a movie that pays homage to Jean-Pirerre Melville and Martin Scorsese. This is a movie that the director has total control over. Luckily, as an established director, it wasn’t very hard for me to convince the investors to shoot a movie with no script. When I was making the movie, very few people had seen the old French New Wave movies so it was very hard for me to explain what my vision was. I did a lot of improvisation when we were filming because a lot of ideas came to me on the spot. I had the vision of the entire movie in my head already. I want to make a movie that is not limited to all the traditional movie structures and genres to depict the story of an assassin very romantically. Because all of the vision was in my head so I get to be very focused on creating the movie and I think this mentality is the same as Chow Yun-Fat’s character in the Killer. His compassion and righteousness are all shadows of myself in real life. The beginning of the movie he is in the church because just like me when I was a kid, he would go to church to find peace. When I was designing this movie, every action, gun fire, camera movement etc, were designed by myself, even the editing in order to preserve the original vision of the movie. Generally, not a lot of directors can do the action sequence as they usually will leave it to the stunt coordinator to come up with the shot list and even the plot of the fight so you tend to see a movie with two different styles. I, on the other hand, like to keep the style consistent by designing every frame myself. Since the Killer is so different from all the other movies at that time, no one knew what I was trying to create at that time, even my Cinematographer left halfway through the movie. However, after I finished editing the movie, everyone realized and understood my vision of a very romantically depicted story about an assassin. I am preparing the remake of the Killer because the new writers came up with a very innovative way of telling the story and this would be a brand new challenge for me. This will be a Universal production.

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u/Eccentric_Cardinal Oct 20 '22

Thank you kindly for such a detailed answer! I'll be waiting anxiously for that remake!

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u/DelboyLindo Oct 20 '22

Wow. Thank you so much Mr Woo, what a brilliant, insightful answer that which explains really well why The Killer is it’s on beast and a brilliant one-off classic.

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u/Altruistic_Ad_7452 Oct 20 '22

This is incredible. Thank you. Im getting goosebumps!

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 24 '22

Do you know the original story of the Killer?

It was a love triangle between two men and one woman. The cop empathizes with the Killer and the Killer vice versa. They both fall in love with the woman.

However, because back then, the contract that the lead actress had signed was for only 45 days of filming but the shooting schedule of the killer was 90 days! So I lost my lead actress towards the end of the filming and I had to keep changing the script as I went, then it gradually became an action piece.

How’s that for a goosebump? I will keep thinking of more of them as I go.

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u/Altruistic_Ad_7452 Nov 28 '22

Wowowowow. That is absolutely insane.

I really admire your fearlessness. To just go for it. Shoot the scenes and change the script all at the same time. Was making Face Off a more 'controlled' affair?

I am also very excited for the up coming Silent Night.

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u/FredoMcBoxhead Oct 18 '22 edited Oct 18 '22

Is there any update on when your movies The Killer, Hard Boiled and A Better Tomorrow will be getting re-releases on physical media in the US? I'm a huge fan and want to show my friends the excellence of your work! I own the two US releases of The Killer and Hard Boiled, but I feel the transfers dont do justice to the films. Big fan and many thanks.

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 24 '22

Thank you for all your love and support!

I would say keep an eye out for your local independent theater and see if they would do some limited theatrical release of those movies.

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u/Naiveseeker Oct 19 '22

Any funny stories or happy accidents on set you would like to share, good sir?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 20 '22 edited Oct 20 '22

When I was making the Killer, I would write the dialogue before we shoot and Chow Yun-Fat would read and then tell me that is exactly what I was trying to say. All the dialogue that I wrote came from my heart and is based on my life. I realized that Chow and I share the same situation when we were young, we were both poor, wronged and bullied so I really cherish my time working with him. We both understand each other so well.

Also, when I was making Face/OFF. I was under a lot of pressure as it was a huge budget and I was held at a very high expectation. I would lean my head next to the camera being depressed. John Travolta would walk over and tells me, "John, it's ok. Don't worry. it is just a movie." and he would go out of his way to make me laugh. It was very heartwarming! He would also notice anyone who appeared to be unhappy and he would try to cheer them up. Every time when John appears on set, we were all very happy! He's good man!

Since I did a lot action movies that has guns, so accidents are rarely happy on my movie sets.

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u/No-Box-3254 Oct 18 '22

Which recent movies impressed you and how do you see the future of cinema in your eyes?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

Another Round impressed me the most recently.

I think that the future of cinema will be more realistic as now the superhero genre become saturated. Cinema will go back to exploring the value of life, honor and compassion among people.

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u/No-Box-3254 Oct 20 '22

Thanks for the answer sir, that one is now on my watchlist I agree that superhero films are on the decline as audiences are having enough of the same stories over and over again, will you be missing the genre if it ever disappears?

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u/nproblom Oct 18 '22

Director Woo, thanks for doing this. You were Assistant AD to director Chang Cheh back in the 70s. What was he like?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 24 '22

Chang Cheh was a externally successful and famous director in Hong Kong back in the 60s and 70s. He had created the Chinese Martial movie. He was a pioneer.

Back then the movies were mostly about woman and Chang was the first one to start promoting the idea of Wuxia and Kung Fu. He was the founder of the modern Chinese Kung Fu movies.

Aside from being commercially successful, he is also know as the Hong Kong Akira Kurosawa.

Working with him as a 2nd AD was interesting. He loved to scream and for some reason, I was the only one that was able to calm him down. I worked with him a lot on the aspect of the editing and sound design, which is where I learned how to edit.

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u/Faithless195 Oct 18 '22

Always loved your movies, Hard Boiled was what got me into watching more foreign films with subtitles, as well!

Of all the movies you've done, which one was the most technical challenge to film?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22 edited Oct 19 '22

The opening sequence of the shootout at the Tea House was shot before the script was written. It was a historical building and it was set to be demolished after a week. I tried to shoot that action piece before that in order to set the tone of Chow Yun-Fat’s character and in order to create a Hong Kong version of Dirty Harry. Later on, as we are coming up with the story, I saw a new clip about a Japanese maniac that injects lethal substances into baby food thus killing and sickening infants. I wanted to have Tony Leung play the maniac and Chow Yun-Fat as the Dirty Harry and the story is about Chow catching Tony. However, to avoid negative influence on people as well as preserve the image of Tony Leung, I decided to not go with that narrative but instead make him an undercover cop as it is in the movie. The sequence in the hospital is created in a warehouse as a set and all the windows are covered in order to create day for night. We shot there non-stop for a month. We would sleep on the set as well. The crew were exhausted and it felt like we were in hell. I came up with this idea of breaking out of hell and hence the long shot. We only created one level of the hospital set and in order to do this long shot, after the camera goes inside the elevator, everyone has to reset the set within 20 seconds to make it look like a new floor when the camera comes out. We shot 4 days for that one shot to a point that even I didn’t want to do it anymore but my crew told me that this would be a historical moment of Hong Kong Cinemas and that I need to finish this shot. I’m glad that I listened to my crew. In this story, Tony’s character is supposed to be dead in the end but since the cast and crew are so involved in the process of making this movie, they loved this character and Tony’s performance. They believe that we should have a happy ending so I “resurrected” his character and did some additional photography of him on a boat, under the request of all the cast and crew. Strangely, the Hong Kong composers are very scared of using Jazz as an element in movies. After I finished principal photography, I shot the scene where Chow Yun-Fat was at a bar playing saxophone.

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u/Ziggy_has_my_ticket Oct 19 '22

Hello Mr. Woo.

I rate Face/Off as one of the best action films of all time, it's mesmerizing.

I'm very curious to know how much Nicolas Cage's expressionist performance influenced your own vision of the tone of the film. Did you change your original concept to accommodate that idea, or was it just Cage doing his thing?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 24 '22

Me and Nic has the mutual respect for each other. He is great at adding more depth to the character as he is a method actor. We have discussed extensively about his characters previously. When I shoot it, I'll just roll the camera and he will do his magic. I gave him a lot of creative because he is Nic Cage and he had shattered a lot of old stereotypes of acting. His performance definitely enriched my movie.

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u/goodbyeohio666 Oct 18 '22

If you were to make another Killer/Hard Boiled type of movie in Hollywood today, who would be your ideal leading man to follow in Chow Yun-Fat’s shoes?

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u/ryanreigns Oct 18 '22

Mr. Woo, did you tell Tom Cruise to grow out his hair for MI 2 or did he just show up on set with that glorious flow and you said let’s do it?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 24 '22

Tom's hair was already long but not that long. I thought it would look cool with his long hair flowing with the wind in slow motion when he is riding a bike so I told him not to cut it. We can call it a mutual decision.

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u/JarvisCockerBB Oct 19 '22

Could you eat a peach for hours?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 24 '22

No I can only do one bite.

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u/Thedrunner2 Oct 18 '22

I still remember Jean Claude sweeping his trench coat aside to show his leg -then slow motion kicking that guy in top of the car. Great idea and shot .

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u/white_male_centrist Oct 18 '22

I love this scene also. Like old school cool. A modern western.

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 24 '22

That is precisely my idea, a modern western.

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u/Heinz_Klett Oct 18 '22

Good afternoon 吳師傅!

Longtime fan here with lots of questions, particularly concerning Bullet in the Head.

  1. It's generally believed that all the extra scenes that were cut from Bullet in the Head are lost or have been destroyed. However, I've seen several comments on the internet by Taiwanese users who claim to have seen an extended cut of Bullet in the Head on Taiwanese television. The additional scenes that were described were Lau Sek-Yin helping the three friends steal fancy suits for the wedding, an extended sequence of Tony Leung escaping from Vietnam (he gets into some trouble with soldiers and makes a run for it in the ensuing chaos when a booby trap detonates) and an extended ending that is a mix of the boardroom and car chase ending (Tony Leung points a gun at Waise Lee, Waise Lee makes a tearful confession, the gangster boss disowns him on the spot, later on in the parking garage Waise Lee goes into a rage and yells that he has no regrets about shooting Jacky Cheung). Can you please confirm whether these scenes were actually in the movie at some point? And if they were, someone should get in touch with the Taiwanese distributor, as they might be sitting on an extended print without realizing it.
  2. While on the subject of Bullet in the Head's deleted scenes: Can you name some scenes that were particularly painful for you to cut? Or maybe you can remember some memorable lines of dialogue that didn't make it into the film? You mentioned in an interview that Waise Lee's character ended up being the most distorted by the cuts. Please elaborate on that.
  3. Some other scenes that I'm aware of is Tony Leung getting his face burned with acid (I heard this actually happened to you in your youth) and Tony Leung's mother falling ill from overwork and dying. Were these scenes still in the premiere version or were they already discarded during post production?
  4. Do you know what happened to the prints of Bullet in the Head that were shown at the premiere? (To my knowledge there were two simultaneous screenings) Were those prints disassembled for the theatrical release the next day or did the theatre or some individual get to keep them? Are you aware of any early cuts or preview copies being sent out to foreign distributors?
  5. If indeed all hope is lost and no 'complete' print of Bullet in the Head can be found, is there maybe some other way to experience your original vision? Perhaps by making a remake of the first half of the film, or by turning the original script into a novel? Do you still have the original script by any chance and is there a way to obtain a copy?
  6. Finally, a non-Bullet in the Head related question: I've seen an old Korean VHS of Hard-Boiled and it differs quite drastically from the Hong Kong version. It cuts most of the comedic dialogue at the police HQ, it cuts your cameos at the Jazz Bar almost entirely and it features a different ending where Tony Leung succumbs to his gunshot wound and dies. I'm curious: Do you know the backstory to this version? Was it an early cut that somehow ended up in general release? Did you make or approve of these trims or were they possibly done by the Korean distributor?
  7. Speaking of Korea: Have you seen the Korean cut of Heroes Shed No Tears? Would you say that it corresponds to your original cut of the film before Golden Harvest ruined it?
  8. Have you seen any good movies recently?
  9. When are you going to team up with Chow Yun-Fat again?
  10. Ti Lung cast you for a quick cameo in his film 'Young Lovers on Flying Wheels'. How did that come about? Do you still keep in touch with former colleagues from the Shaw Brothers days?

Sorry for the long-winded, oddly specific questions, but as you can probably tell these films are near and dear to my heart. Thank you very much for any prospective answers and thank you for making some really wonderful films! 多謝 Best of success with Silent Night!

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

Bullet in the head was not a big hit in Hong Kong but it was very well received in the western markets like the US and France. I truly appreciate all the fans for enjoying it as it had saved me from the sorrow and I have resigned my passion about filmmaking through the fans who loved Bullet In The Head. After the movie flopped in Hong Kong, I approached my investor trying to apologize to him about the movie but he encouraged me to not worry about this and he had enjoyed the movie and thought that this was my best movie so far. I then swore that I would help him make his money back and that’s when I made Once a Thief and Hard Boiled, which made all of the money back. I am still very grateful about that. Since the Hong Kong movie industry was so booming back then and they need to play 7 to 8 movies per day per theater, it is an unspoken rule that the movies need to be around 90 minutes. Bullet in the Head was about 3 hours long as I wanted to make it an epic movie like Ghandi and Lawrence of Arabia. Three days before the movie premiered, we were told that we had to cut the movie shorter. We hired 13 editors as we have 13 reels of films. We worked overnight to shorten the movie and we came up with two versions of the films with one being 120 minutes and the other 130 minutes. The 120 minutes version has no ending of the dual and the 130 minutes version has the ending. Most of the cut footage would be seen with Tony and his mother and Simon and his love interest in Vietnam. After I came to the US, I had tried to acquire the rights of the movie and tried to restore the original version of the movie but then I found out that they had thrown out all the footage that I had cut out. This is because the Hong Kong industry has so many movies that they don’t have enough space to store all the print of the movie. They threw all the prints out after storing for a year. Bullet in the head is also a semi-autobiography of my life as I have lived in the slum during my youth. Originally, the story was written as a prequel to A Better Tomorrow but the investor and the production company didn’t accept my ideas as I was suggesting using younger actors but they insisted on using Chow Yun-Fat, so I decided to keep the story to myself and later on it became Bullet in the head.

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 19 '22

For the Korean Hard Boiled. I have no knowledge of the edits as it is their creative freedom to remake the movie.

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u/MrOscarHK Oct 19 '22

Thank you for giving thoughtful, detailed answers. Am loving your responses

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u/Heinz_Klett Oct 19 '22

Thank you for the detailed reply and my sincere thanks for taking the time to do this AMA for your fans!

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u/pantsonheaditor Oct 18 '22

great questions. we need fully uncut versions of all these films!

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u/dontbajerk Oct 19 '22

I wasn't aware of quite a few of those details (I also wanted to ask about the Bullet in the Head cuts and missing scenes, personally), so your questions on their own were great to read! Never heard of the Korean cuts in particular, interesting stuff.

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u/Brown_Pudding Oct 18 '22

Are there any plans for another video game? Stranglehold was awesome, I'd buy a remaster for current generation.

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u/starfox505 Oct 19 '22 edited Oct 20 '22

Scott Mescudi recently joined the cast of your new film Silent Night. Can you give any insight on how that came to be and how it's been to work with him as well as the lead star Joel Kinnaman?

23

u/John_Woo_Official Oct 20 '22

I really appreciate Scott for being part of the project. Everyone likes him because he is an icon for many young folks. He is not only a very talented artist but also a very humble one too. He has a very good potential as an actor and I see great future in his acting career. It is my best pleasure recently to be able to work with such talents like Joel and Scott. Matter of fact, Scott respected me so much that I gave him two guns in the movie. You'll see when it when the movie comes out.

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u/TitsMagee423 Oct 18 '22

Hi John, what qualities do you think make a great film editor?

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u/John_Woo_Official Oct 25 '22

You have to treat yourself as a director when you're editing the movie and treat the all the footage you have as scattered ideas and find a way to piece it back to a brand new movie. For example, back in the day, I was helping a friend editing a TV comedy movie but the director shot it as a serious drama but I managed to cut it into a comedy and again and it was widely accepted and did very well commercially.

9

u/curak76 Oct 19 '22

What's your favorite book?

26

u/John_Woo_Official Oct 20 '22

I don't read much books anymore unfortunately. When I was younger I like to read books that are very philosophical as I don't have any patient with novels.

My favorite books would be the Bible and any books about Existentialism.

21

u/GreatForestDragon Oct 18 '22

What's the biggest difference between American and Chinese approaches to storytelling? Also what's your favorite thing to eat for dim sum?

13

u/John_Woo_Official Oct 24 '22

Simply put, in America, to make a movie to happen, it takes so long as we need to talk with the studios, all the executives, stars and to secure the script rights. In Hong Kong, it is simpler since all the investors trusts me so I would just need to present with the synopsis, a budget and proposed stars. Then the investor would give me the money and let me go make the movie just like Stanley Kubrick. :)

Favoriste Dim sum is Har Gow. (Shrimp Dumplings)

6

u/joegetto Oct 19 '22

Hi John woo,

How do you react when you see John woo moments (doves, slow motion action) in movies? When I see it, I say to myself “oh very John woo”.

6

u/Express-Newspaper806 Oct 18 '22

Is there one subject you have not tackled yet, that you really want to make a movie about?

6

u/sgmctabnxjs Oct 18 '22

Mr. Woo, what core aspects have changed in your film making, and what have stayed the same over the years, and why?

6

u/ediblecutlery Oct 18 '22

Will we ever get a proper 4K release of the complete Taiwanese version of the killer?

6

u/MexicanUchiha Oct 19 '22

Any chance we get 4K UHD releases of Hard Boiled or The Killer in the USA?

6

u/raygunner14 Oct 19 '22

Is there anything you miss most from making movies in the 90s vs modern movies today?

Wanted to say Thanks for all your amazing movies also!

5

u/asianfilmfanatic Oct 19 '22 edited Oct 19 '22

Hello Mr. Woo, what are your thoughts on the current state of the Hong Kong film industry?

How would you compare your approach as a filmmaker today vs. during the 80's and 90's?

Is there a movie that you made that you feel is underappreciated?

What movie did you enjoy working on the most?

Last of all, are you ever going to make a musical? A modern Cantonese musical love story?

Thank you for your films and AMA.

5

u/DigitalGrub Oct 19 '22

What are the main differences between directing a film in China versus directing a film in the US?

5

u/cheap-thrills2022 Oct 19 '22

How many doves have you got standing by right now?

6

u/primitiverootweiner Oct 19 '22 edited Oct 19 '22

How did you get those amazing performances out of Cage and Travolta in face/off? This film has been a rewatch for me over the years because it has some of the best line deliveries. Cage and Travolta both taking turns playing the villain was great. It looked like both were having a fun time doing it.

5

u/Anon_interesante Oct 19 '22

Why are there no doves flying in the background!? Looking forward to your next flim!

5

u/Comanchovie Oct 19 '22

Can we just fucking talk about how awesome Hard Target is? Forever?

5

u/AI191919 Oct 19 '22

Who came up with the idea for JCVD to punch a snake? Also what’s with the doves? Thank you

5

u/mcnooj82 Oct 19 '22

Hello Mr Woo. You were so kind to let me take a photo with you right before you went up to the stage for a Q&A screening of THE KILLER at The Vista Theater in 2019.

I didn’t get an opportunity to ask a question that evening, but I mostly just wanted to tell you that I TRULY hope you get to make a grand Hollywood musical someday.

Also, I edited this MI2/The Killer video as a love-letter/tribute to the style of your Hong Kong films;

https://youtu.be/hgGMupsCRKw

5

u/nerdgirl37 Oct 19 '22

What is your favorite film you have directed?

Also I just want to say thank you for Face/Off, it has been one of my favorite action movies for years.

5

u/raylan_givens6 Oct 19 '22

I loved Mission Impossible II

IMO, its by far the best Mission Impossible

Any chance you'll direct another Mission Impossible movie?

5

u/[deleted] Oct 19 '22

Would you ever work on a video game like Stranglehold again?

12

u/hotrox_mh Oct 18 '22

I have no questions, just wanted to say your films rock!

4

u/GenericPCUser Oct 18 '22

How do you plan an action scene?

4

u/Haunting_opinion90 Oct 18 '22

What’s it like working with Nicolas cage? And what did you think of his latest movie where he plays himself?

5

u/ErnestDoodler Oct 18 '22

Hey Mr. Woo! Not a question, just wanted to thank you for being an amazing director and giving us all such wonderful movies!

3

u/starfox505 Oct 18 '22

Do you have any advice for young independent filmmakers who are interested in making action films, but are discouraged due to budget and the massive market that action films have become? I'm a huge fan of your work and consider The Killer to be one of the greatest action films ever made! Thank you.

P.S. Would love to see a John Woo Letterboxd account in the near future!

3

u/theSafeguard Oct 18 '22

What current actor or actress would you want to make a film with?

4

u/uniquecannon Oct 18 '22

What's your favorite Chow Yun Fat behind the scenes story

4

u/starfox505 Oct 18 '22

While you have made many explosive action epics, you started your career with many comedies, and while you do incorporate a lot of comedy into your action films, I was curious if you were interested in creating another feature length comedy film in the future or if you are more interested in sticking to the action/drama genre.

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u/climbingtime Oct 18 '22

What is your favorite part of the film making process?

4

u/Primary-Difficulty63 Oct 18 '22

Would you consider doing another Hong Kong shoot 'em up with Chow Yun Fat back in the lead role?

5

u/Gil37 Oct 18 '22

Hello Mr Woo, big fan!

What do you think of the state of "Action" movies today, vs the times when some of your bigger movies came out?

Also, which movie are you the most proud of for whatever reason, regardless of the viewer feedback?

4

u/WorldlyPhilosopher Oct 18 '22

Thank you for all the entertainment! Reading your filmography in the OP, both the Hong Kong and Hollywood stuff, brings me nothing but fond memories. I still can’t believe that Face/Off actually worked as a movie. Also a shout out to Replacement Killers.

My question: what is a movie you didn’t make, that you wish you had made?

4

u/Unclehomer69420 Oct 18 '22

If Mr. Disney or Mr. Warner Bros. approached you asking to make a superhero film with them, with whom would you prefer to work?

Would you want to make a superhero film like theirs at all, even?

4

u/Gun2ASwordFight Oct 18 '22

What can you tell me about working with Nicolas Cage twice on two very different films? He's always spoken fondly of his experiences working with you, so I'm curious how you regarded him from a director's perspective and was his acting style something you were used to?

4

u/boitrekkie98 Oct 19 '22

Whats your favourite personal Tom Cruise story?

3

u/FlyHighKick Oct 19 '22

Mr. Woo, as it's said your upcoming movie Silent Night will have no dialogue, how did you approach the story?

3

u/starfox505 Oct 19 '22

Any chance of getting a "John Woo Box Set" from Criterion in the future? I know The Killer and Hard Boiled have been in the collection before, but I would love to see your films return to the collection in the future separately or in a box set.

4

u/TooManyBulldogs Oct 19 '22

Just wanted to say “Hard Target” is one of my favorite movies!!

3

u/Bullmoose39 Oct 19 '22

Dear Mr Woo

I have forced more people to watch Hard Boiled than any other movie ever. I cherish my Criterion version of it. Is there any chance of getting a really good version of it and The Killer out to us( my introduction to your movies, thanks Siskle and Ebert).

Looking forward to silent night!

3

u/VoiceOverAndMocapGuy Oct 19 '22

Can you tell us about the influence of having eastern style martial arts in the action choreography of the hand-to-hand sequences with Tom Cruise? What was your reaction with his ability to learn turning kicks?

I love MI:2!

3

u/JannTosh12 Oct 19 '22

I enjoy Broken Arrow but it doesn't feel like it is 100% your film. Did you get any interference from the studio?

4

u/trevb75 Oct 19 '22

Hello Mr Woo, I would like to know how much direction you gave to Nicolas Cage for his role(s) in Face/Off. I love how random and bizarre he acts in this movie. Thanks for your time.

4

u/thesmellofsound Oct 19 '22

What was it like working with Sam Raimi on Hard Target? You are both masters of action cinema, in my opinion.

3

u/Canweshag Oct 19 '22

What’s the most beautiful scene in cinema in your opinion , whether it was shot by you or another cinematography?

4

u/BigJamesBondFan Oct 19 '22

You are a legend!

3

u/AdAggravating2473 Oct 19 '22 edited Oct 19 '22

You forgot to mention your best movie in my opinion, Red Cliff, that movie is a master piece, one of the best movies ever made, thanks for that, sir

3

u/TheMelv Oct 19 '22

Curiously, have you seen both parts? Did you mean the edited into 1 movie version or the 2 full length parts as a whole?

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u/[deleted] Oct 19 '22

Hi John! Quick question, did you commission Limp Bizkit to remix the Mission Impossible theme for the movie? (MI:2) Or did they kinda do it on their own for you guys?

4

u/Myau337 Oct 19 '22

Is there a possibility of working with Chow Yun Fat in the future?

4

u/GardenGnomeOfEden Oct 19 '22

Mr. Woo, no question here. I just wanted to thank you for your work on the film The Replacement Killers. I must have watched that movie 50 times when I was in highschool .

5

u/Fernxtwo Oct 19 '22

What's your favourite potato based dish?

3

u/Cooolgibbon Oct 19 '22

Hey John, just letting you know you’re a legend and Hard Boiled is the best action movie ever made.

What do you think about Hollywood moving away from practical ‘blank’ gunshots in favour of CGI? Almost all recent American action movies use CGI gunshots, especially after the success of John Wick. Obviously your movies have some of the best gunshots and squibs ever put to to film, so I’m curious what you think about this trend.

Thanks for doing this, huge fan.

4

u/kaptaincorn Oct 19 '22

Thanks Mr Woo for the movies.

How's it going?

How's Chow Yun-Fat doing?

Did you ever want to make a version of the the count of Monte Cristo?

4

u/ch1kusoo Oct 19 '22

Dear Mr. Woo, any chance that you will work Chow Yun Fat again? Also, have you watched any recent Hk films? If you did, could you name some films that you like. Also, what do you think of the future of HK films? Is the future bright?

4

u/EightEightFlying Oct 19 '22

Is there an action sequence you dream of filming but have not due to tech limitations?

5

u/Broad_Mycologist3998 Oct 19 '22

hi John !

  1. is there any chance we will get to see the complete 3 hour version of bullet in the head ?

  2. are you planning to work with chow yun fat again sometime in the future or maybe a Hollywood project with chow ?

  3. what was your experience on working with tony Leung, Jacky cheung and waise lee on bullet in the head ? do you have any plan to work with them again in the future as they are still very active in the HK industry.

  4. what is your opinion on the mission impossible franchise as of today ? after 22 years since you direct the II installment. do you still keep up with these movies or enjoying the franchise.

  5. what was your reaction when you heard the passing news from one of your close collaborator, Leslie cheung.

thanks.

4

u/albatross_the Oct 19 '22

Face off is the greatest film ever made; was the only film that I knew every word of dialogue. Thank you for your service. What is your favorite memory of making that film? What was the greatest challenge? Anything you learned from making that film that you applied to Silent Night?

4

u/mrminutehand Oct 19 '22

Silly question, but does Chow Yun Fat's jazz solo at the beginning of Hard Boiled have a name or recording? It's seriously catchy and has been in my head since 2006.

10

u/SilverBeaver21 Oct 18 '22

Are you for or against Hong Kong's re-unification with the PRC?

12

u/Dr_Downvote_ Oct 18 '22

Why the white doves?

7

u/elirichey Oct 18 '22

What movies had the most impact on you as a director?

9

u/patchoulius Oct 18 '22

Hi Mr. Woo why all the doves and slo-mo?

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u/duketogo84 Oct 18 '22

Hello John Woo!

Any chance of getting remastered Blu-rays in the USA of A Better Tomorrow I & II, Bullet in the Head, The Killer, & Hardboiled? We are dying for these films over here.

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u/BlackFlagPiirate Oct 18 '22

Would you rather swap faces with John Travolta or Nick Cage?

9

u/MyrddinSidhe Oct 19 '22

Why are there no doves flying in your verification photo?

(But seriously, thank you for all the films)

7

u/monkelus Oct 18 '22

If you were to swap your face with any living being, who would it be?

8

u/mrsthurminator Oct 18 '22

Better question. Who would win a fight, Nicolas Cage or Chow Yun Fat?

3

u/AndreHawkDawson Oct 18 '22 edited Oct 19 '22

Did you ever consider switching the roles of Cage and Travolta in Face/Off? I would have loved more screen time of Castor Troy in Nic Cage’s body!

3

u/KamenSentaiForever Oct 18 '22

Will we get your Hong Kong movies released on a Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection or any other label in the near future?

3

u/Beef_Supreme46 Oct 18 '22

Hey, no real question. Just wanted to thank you for the awesome films you make.

3

u/lunaticfrin9e Oct 18 '22

I know people are asking why the doves. I just love that whenever I see white doves in other media I immediately think of your work.

3

u/BustermanZero Oct 18 '22

Why did Gan Ning die in Red Cliff?

3

u/SilverBeaver21 Oct 18 '22

Who do you think are some essential Chinese directors more people should learn here in the West

3

u/GoodShitBrain Oct 18 '22

How does Hard Target rate amongst your favorite films that you’ve made?

3

u/ericisshort Oct 18 '22

Which of your films is your favorite? Which film was the most difficult/frustrating to make? And why?

3

u/CrawfordShepard Oct 18 '22

What are the odds of remastered versions of The Killer and Hard Boiled coming to the Criterion Collection, since the current editions are out of print? Also I would love to see a Director’s cut of Hard Target!

3

u/dylanmhs Oct 18 '22

What’s your favorite scene you’ve directed

3

u/CheezyWookiee Oct 18 '22

My favorite film of yours is Hard Boiled because of the character moments, like the smoky standoff between Tequila and Alan as well as Mad Dog's death (actually, anything to do with Mad Dog).

what's a scene in one of your movies that you are most proud of?

3

u/PwoJima77 Oct 18 '22

Do you have a favorite film of your own? I have always enjoyed Windtalkers.

3

u/MrLazyLion Oct 18 '22

Dear Mr Woo, any chance of getting more wuxia and xianxia projects introduced to Western audiences?

3

u/theg721 Oct 18 '22

What do you think is the big difference between Hong Kong directors and Hollywood directors? What is it in your opinion that makes the action scenes in so many Hong Kong films, yours included, stand so far above most Hollywood action scenes?

3

u/Shesalabmix Oct 18 '22

No questions. I just love your stuff. You should be able yo just do what you want because you make amazing movies.

3

u/New-Corner-755 Oct 18 '22

Thank you Sir For the great Face/Off

3

u/Hex457 Oct 18 '22

What's the weirdest meal you've had?

3

u/Kavalkasutajanimi Oct 18 '22

I love your films! The Killer and Hard Boiled are the best. Will you work with Chow Yun Fat again??

3

u/Agt_Pendergast Oct 19 '22

No questions, just wanted to say I was a fan since I first saw Hard Boiled and appreciate how huge of an influence you are on not just action cinema, but action in general.

3

u/Kooky_Wonder_2379 Oct 19 '22

Got any advice on making movies

3

u/nealioh Oct 19 '22

What would you say the best meal you've ever had in your life is?

3

u/sixtus_clegane119 Oct 19 '22

Will this new movie back back to your gunfu roots? If not, will you ever make another gunfu movie?

3

u/doubleponytail Oct 19 '22

Hey Mr Woo, I’m a big fan of your work. I heard you speak at a film festival in Santa Monica a few years ago and you touched on how important friendship was in your films and then I saw “bullet on the head.” That movie is incredible.

Anyway, I was wondering: I thought I noticed a theme in some of your movies about identity. Whether that’s an identity as a criminal or a cop (for instance in a better tomorrow and face off). My thought was maybe this was a reflection of life as a resident of Hong Kong during colonialism. Am I far off the mark on that?

3

u/[deleted] Oct 19 '22

Hard Boiled is PERFECT action cinema. Best action movie I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait for Silent Night. Hoping it dethrones Die Hard as Greatest Christmas movie ever.

3

u/BubbleTeaAficionado Oct 19 '22

Hi Mr Woo! So happy you have decided to do projects again. I have a few questions.

1) Any interesting stories about filming Silent Night with Joel Kinnaman in Mexico? Why did you decide to make it without dialogue and what can we expect?

2) I read that you are a legit foodie, what is your favourite dish to cook?

3) Do you think directors based in HK and China find it harder to retain artistic integrity in China given that many topics are censored by the China Film Administration (previously SARFT). I know Johnnie To had to have two endings for Drug War to suit the censorship board way back in 2012. (no need to answer this if it's too sensitive)

3

u/gangkom Oct 19 '22

HI, John. Would you be interested in making a movie with Jackie Chan or an action-comedy movie?

3

u/Jpalm4545 Oct 19 '22

All I want to say is I LOVE your movies especially Hard Boiled and The Killer.

3

u/teek101 Oct 19 '22

Hello John Woo, how are you ?

3

u/Rockisinthe Oct 19 '22

Was the Van Damme mullet your idea or his? Either way it rules.

3

u/dunkaccino2020 Oct 19 '22

Silent Night 是繼Paycheck 19年後你的最新外語片!製作完華語大片(赤壁、太平輪)後製作這部電影有特別困難嗎?謝謝

3

u/Expensive_Zombie_697 Oct 19 '22

When will your classics be available in 4k UHD? Hard Boiled is one of my favs

3

u/MONKRAD Oct 19 '22

Will Silent Night have crazy action scenes?? Or will it be more grounded action?

3

u/Tater_t0t123 Oct 19 '22

Who or what was your biggest inspiration growing up?

3

u/smatchimo Oct 19 '22

Did you enjoy the video game Max Payne as it was created with you in mind?

Edit: something weird with your proof picture. Your name is double exposed but the rest is very crisp.

Who is doing this for you?

3

u/Col_Irving_Lambert Oct 19 '22

When you go to direct a chase scene now would you prefer doing a rough animation or do you still prefer using toys? After finding out how you did previz for the BMW short I have always wondered.

Also thanks. Some of your films definitely had a major effect on me as a child and beyond and now I make a living as an effects artist usually working on action. I'm sure there is a correlation there :)

Thank you.

3

u/Wormri Oct 19 '22

Most fun actor you worked with?

Most professional actor you worked with?

Best film that tried to emulate your style?

3

u/cprime Oct 19 '22

As a fan of your work, what other directors from HK do you recommend to audiences?

3

u/monstermops Oct 19 '22

What are the best and worst things, making movies nowadays vs. the "old days"? Is it easier now or was it better when you started out? Was it more fun back then?

And one more: Whats the best way to get into filmmaking or make movies for a living?

Really looking forward to seeing your answers, thank you in advance for taking your time to do an AMA!

3

u/NygelD Oct 19 '22

Will there be a physical release of A Better Tomorrow in the US?

3

u/TheNerdyGamerYT Oct 19 '22

Hello Mr Woo. Two questions.

  1. Is there any movie of yours pre A Better Tomorrow that you are fond of?

  2. Do you think it is possible that Bullet in the Head will see a future widespread re-release?

Thank you for all the great movies!!

3

u/edukated4lyfe Oct 19 '22

Will a sequel to the video game “Stranglehold” ever be released? I know Midway games went out of business when you were producing another one…

Or an additional film sequel to “Hard Boiled”?

The world needs more of Inspector Tequila!!

P.S. always been a huge fan of your work. My father is too.

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u/MoritzOnMars Oct 19 '22

Is there any chance of a remastered/restored version of your great films The Killer, Bullet in the Head and Hard Boiled?
A Better Tomorrow was remastered in 4k if I am not mistaken but what about the other films?

3

u/Summaboi97 Oct 19 '22

Action Movie recommendations?

5

u/Dispositionpsn Oct 18 '22

What do you think of Michael Bay?

7

u/[deleted] Oct 18 '22

How cool is Chow Yun Fat in real life?