John Woo is perhaps the greatest action director of all time. No one can shoot action as kinetically as him, and his style paved the way for everyone from Sam Raimi to The Wachowskis to Chad Stahelski, whose John Wick movies are a love letter to the movies Woo made with Chow Yun-Fat. With his comeback movie Silent Night getting good buzz and hitting theatres on December 1st, John Woo recently sat down with The New Yorker for an extensive, wide-ranging interview about his life and career.
Of course, the magazine couldn’t help but ask Woo for his thoughts on superhero movies, with the legendary director coming down firmly on team Scorsese, who’s been outspoken about his dislike of the genre. “I’ve never liked watching movies with big special effects or anything based on comic books. I prefer Martin Scorsese’s movies, that kind of cinema. I can’t wait to watch “Killers of the Flower Moon.” I like old-fashioned movies, you know? Real cinema. There aren’t many movies like that lately.”
One of the movies Woo cited as liking was Hell or High Water, saying, “I really love “Hell or High Water.” Good performances, good action. It feels like a tragedy. Great cinematography, too. I tried to get its director of photography, Giles Nuttgens, to shoot “Silent Night,” but he wasn’t available.”
During the interview, Woo noted that his reason for leaving Hollywood to work in China, where he made the 2-part epic Red Cliff, was a lack of good scripts after the failure of 2003’s Paycheck. “I couldn’t get any good scripts after ‘Paycheck,” he told The New Yorker. “There were a lot of good scripts that I wanted to shoot, but they never came to me. Like a drama about a young kid from a bad neighborhood. Hollywood producers wouldn’t suggest me for that because they felt I wasn’t American, so I wouldn’t understand their life style.”
One movie of Woo’s that failed at the box office was his WW2 drama Windtalkers, which had the misfortune of opening the same weekend as Scooby-Doo and The Bourne Identity in the summer of 2002. Woo has no hard feelings on that film because he said that the studio, MGM, let him do whatever he wanted. They even took his side over that of the writers, who wanted less of a focus on the relationship between the hero, played by Nicolas Cage, and the Native American code-breaker, played by Adam Beach, that he has to protect and kill should he fall into enemy hands.
“Unfortunately, so many terrible things happened while we shot “Windtalkers.” We had very bad weather, for example. There were heavy rains for over a month while we were on location, so we lost a lot of money. I still love that movie, and tried to make all the war scenes as realistic as we could.”
Silent Night comes out on December 1st. Look for our review and our own interview with John Woo soon!