Source: By Xu Fan (China Daily)
In addition to his numerous crowns, such as “the first Chinese film director to conquer Hollywood” or “Asia’s highest-grossing film’s director”, John Woo has won his latest, perhaps biggest, honor as “the most influential Chinese person in the world” in the cultural area.
Amid applause and cheers, Woo, wore a confident smile as he strode to the glittering stage at Peking University during the March 27 You Bring Charm to the World event, sponsored by Phoenix Television and other Chinese media outlets.
The 64-year-old filmmaker attracted a burst of flashbulbs, far more than the other winners, who included notables such as Nobel physics prize winner Charles K. Kao and biologist Pan Wenshi.
Woo’s acceptance speech surprised the audience.
“My wife is so pretty,” Woo said, giving a nod to his wife, Niu Chun Long, as he lifted the golden cup.
It might have sounded absent-minded, but it revealed the soft side of the Hong Kong-based director, who struggled – and finally succeeded – in Hollywood.
“When I went to the United States in 1993, Some Americans judged Chinese with prejudice,” he said in a mild tone.
“I changed their bias with my films. Thanks to my pretty wife and family. Without their support, I wouldn’t have persisted until now.”
Woo said he and his friends often kid each other while saying hello, asking such things as, “Are you still with the same woman?” a joking acknowledgment of the assorted romantic dalliances Tinseltown is known for.
“Every time I reply, ‘Yes, the same one’,” Woo said, smiling.
Speaking little English and being a freshman in the world’s biggest dream factory, Woo in the early years in the US found he had no right to rewrite a line of script as a chief director, even though he had already reached the summit of Hong Kong’s movie scene with the film A Better Tomorrow, which starred leading Hong Kong actor Yun-Fat Chow.
“Woo established his fame as the ‘violent aesthetics master’ in the movie industry then. His work hasn’t been exceeded yet,” said Han Songluo, a film critic.
Zhang Jiazheng, Woo’s work partner and frequent collaborating producer, revealed more about Woo’s days in Hollywood.
“When Woo directed his first Hollywood movie, Hard Target, he had no final editing right and the America producer kept eyes on him all the time,” Zhang told the Liao Shen Evening News.
“Because Woo spoke little English, he couldn’t argue with the producer,” Zhang said. “When he was agitated, he roared to me in Cantonese.”
With so many obstacles, Woo’s first Hollywood movie foundered and suffered biting criticism. “A coarse Hong Kong movie dubbed in English”, one reviewer wrote.
“My employer lost confidence and I had to stay there without an income. I waited almost two years for the next chance,” said Woo.
Woo has never surrendered. He proved that Chinese directors could produce blockbuster movies. The first piece of evidence was the popular action thriller Broken Arrow, which featured the actors John Travolta and Christian Slater.
That kicked off a successful sweep of global hits, including the Travolta-Nicolas Cage movie Face/Off, the Tom Cruise film Mission: Impossible II, and Paycheck.
“What I learned in Hollywood is an excellent director should obey to three rules: save budget, work in a strict system and be charming enough to attract superstars. Then the companies will favor you,” Woo said.
Woo returned to the Chinese film world with the epic Red Cliff, which fulfilled his 20-year-old dream of making a movie adapted from the Chinese classical novel Three Kingdoms.
Red Cliff, a two-part series, is the highest-grossing Chinese movie in Asia. The film expanded the normal concept of what makes a hero, before traditionally considered mainly to be a stylized individual fighting bad guys to save the world.
“A genuine hero is not someone who wins a battle or kills evil,” Woo said. “A hero should love everyone like his own son.”
The director has been busy making preparations for a World War II epic, Tiger, which explores the friendship between Chinese pilots and the 1st American Volunteer Group, the fighter pilot mercenaries nicknamed the Flying Tigers.
“It’s a hot subject which always fascinates Hollywood. I have flown to Kunming to look for their previous headquarters and the draft script has already been finished,” said Woo.
He added that the new film would shoot air battle scenes in Yunnan province.
He revealed that actor Tom Cruise might be invited to play the role of the Flying Tigers’ founder, Claire Lee Chennault.
My daughter will play a role in the movie,” he added, taking on a role himself: of proud father.
Source article: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/life/2010-04/08/content_9702021.htm