John Woo (Director - 'Paycheck')
John Woo's illustrious career as a filmmaker began in Hong Kong where he spent over two decades at the center of a thriving film industry, directing over twenty-six feature films. He was known primarily as a comedy specialist until the mid-1980's when he created a series of inspired romantic and violent gangster dramas that broke box-office records.
Woo was born in Guangzhou, China, and came to Hong Kong with his family at age four. He was educated at Matteo Ricci College and, at age nineteen, began making experimental films. In lieu of film school, Woo sought entry-level positions in the flourishing Hong Kong film industry.
In 1983, Woo began a successful partnership directing actor Chow Yun-Fat with the gangster films 'A Better Tomorrow', 'A Better Tomorrow II', and the comedy caper 'Once A Thief'. Woo's lush crime thrillers put him into film history books around the world; the most famous include the brilliantly choreographed, character-driven action films 'The Killer', 'Hard-Boiled' and 'Bullet in the Head'.
Woo made his U.S. feature film debut with 'Hard Target' starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. In 1994, he formed WCG Entertainment with his producing partner Terence Chang. Under this banner, Woo had his first Hollywood hit, 'Broken Arrow', starring John Travolta and Christian Slater. Together with Chang, Woo executive produced the successful low budget films 'The Big Hit' and 'Replacement Killers'.
His third Hollywood film, 'Face/Off', starred John Travolta and Nicolas Cage and was praised as a masterpiece by critics around the world. Woo then directed Tom Cruise in 'Mission: Impossible II', which grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. His most recent films have been the WWII movie 'Windtalkers' and the Christmas-released 'Paycheck' with Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman.
Were you a fan of Philip K Dick before you made 'Paycheck'? "To be honest I hadn't read any of his books before 'Paycheck'. But I had seen several movies made from his book, like 'Blade Runner' and 'Minority Report' and 'Total Recall. I was so amazed by those movies. I remember when I watched 'Blade Runner' I cried, I was crying for the robot! I find Philip K Dick's work very human, besides having a lot of good ideas and some philosophy. 'Paycheck' is a really clever script from a really clever book. It had a lot of great suspense, great surprise and a very good love story. It really interested me. It had a very good theme: a man's control over his own destiny. It really excited me."
There's just the one dove in this movie - was that a nod to your fans? "I didn't want to use it again at the beginning, but when we shot the scene about Michael Jennings [Ben Affleck] seeing his own death, I had the idea of cutting to the dove flying through the door - to make the moment more spiritual. I just couldn't help it. It is hard to change my own character."
Is it true that Matt Damon considered 'Paycheck'? "Yeah, we talked to him about this project. He read the script. Unfortunately, he already had committed to another movie ('The Bourne Identity') and he didn't want to repeat the same role, but he highly recommended Ben Affleck! And he said Ben will do it better than him. I love Ben, I love all his work, especially 'Good Will Hunting' and 'Changing Lanes'. I find he has a great charisma and he also remind me of the young Cary Grant."
What's he like to work with? "He's a real person. He's really right for the role. He's so humble, he's happy to work with anybody. The great thing about working with Ben is he's such a great filmmaker. He knows about movies. He helped me figure out some good dialogue, some good moments, he helped me a lot. Especially for the ending sequence. He came up with some very good ideas."
What was Uma Thurman like to work with? "She's a real actress. Extremely hard working. And a professional. Every time she came to the set she never like talking to anyone, just want to stay in a corner building up her emotion. And sometimes when I try to explain the camera angle for her, she never care. She never care if the camera saw her face or not. Some actors are very conscious about cameras. They all want the camera to see their face, make them look beautiful. She's not that type. I think Uma and Ben have great chemistry and they're both very charming. The only problem working with them is I had to look up all the time! They're so tall. It made my neck hurt!"
Interviewed by Nev Pierce
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