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On December 1st, the Hong Kong filmmaker John Woo will release his first American movie in twenty years, a dialogue-free Christmas revenge drama called “Silent Night.” But his imprint on mainstream American cinema never went away. Woo’s approach to action filmmaking is detectable everywhere from Marvel movies to the “John Wick” franchise. At their best, Woo’s successors carry forward his style of visually spectacular action set pieces and bloody, balletic fight choreography. At their worst, they fetishize Woo-like action without Woo’s half cynical, half romantic style of melodrama.
Woo (originally Wu Yu-seng) was born in 1946 in the mountainous Chinese region of Guangzhou. He grew up in the slums of New Kowloon, formerly Shek Kip Mei, after his father, a high-school teacher, moved their family to Hong Kong. Raised a Christian, Woo studied at the Heep Woh Lutheran primary school, then at Concordia Lutheran middle school, followed by Matteo Ricci, a Catholic high school. When he was sixteen, his father died, and his family was too poor for him to continue his formal education. Woo had once wanted to become a priest, but he eventually fell in love with movies for the same reason that he took to the Church: as a mental escape from poverty.
Woo informally studied a range of filmmakers and styles, including the musicals of Jacques Demy and Bob Fosse, the Westerns of John Ford and Sam Peckinpah, and the crime dramas of Jean-Pierre Melville and Martin Scorsese. He also worked as an assistant director to the prolific martial-arts director Chang Cheh, whose blood-soaked kung-fu bromances also greatly inspired Woo’s “heroic bloodshed” action dramas, like “A Better Tomorrow” (1986), “The Killer” (1989), and “Hard Boiled” (1992), all three of which star Chow Yun-fat. Woo developed an international following; his American admirers included Scorsese, Oliver Stone, and Quentin Tarantino—and moved to Hollywood in 1992.
American John Woo movies, such as the 1997 Nicolas Cage–John Travolta body-swap actioner, “Face/Off,” tend to feature maximalist craftsmanship and over-the-top performances (not to mention his signature white doves, which symbolize brotherly love). He directed “Broken Arrow” (1996) and “Mission: Impossible 2” (2000); in 2002, the Times’ Dave Kehr called Woo “arguably the most influential director making movies today.” The following year, though, his Philip K. Dick thriller, “Paycheck,” proved a critical and financial disaster. “I couldn’t get any good scripts after ‘Paycheck,’ ” he told me. In the time since, Woo, who lives in Los Angeles, has mostly directed movies in mainland China, including the two-part historic epic “Red Cliff” (2008). The first installation became one of the highest-grossing theatrical releases in Chinese history. In our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, Woo talked about taking a break from Hollywood, his quest to make personal genre movies, and his enduring faith in friendship, onscreen and off.
Your father encouraged you to become a pastor. Growing up, how did you see your dad and his values?
My dad was a really tough guy. He was also a Christian. He taught me to love our neighbors, and to treat them like our brothers and sisters. I see my father as a hero. He despised his father’s fortune and just wanted to be a teacher. My grandfather was so rich and had so much land. He just wanted his sons to take care of their property. My father wasn’t interested. So he left home to become a school teacher. He was kind of a rebel.
My dad got sick with TB after we moved [from China] to Hong Kong. We also lived in a bad neighborhood that had a lot of crime. We were poor, but my father never begged for money. He always preferred to work for it, even though he was very sick. He was very good at Chinese writing, and some people paid him a little money for that. He took whatever he could earn.
My father always looked so young, no matter how old he was. He had a teen-ager’s face. [Laughs.] When I was growing up, we looked like brothers. He also had a birthmark on his nose, like me, which I always thought was funny. I miss him.
What made you want to go to seminary school?
I was trained at a Christian grade school, so I greatly admire Jesus and his teachings. I had seen pastors helping, praying for, and encouraging so many poor people. That meant a lot, because we lived in a very dangerous area and could have easily become gangsters. There were so many temptations and so many threats. I saw that these pastors had great hearts. They helped to bring people back to a normal life. That’s what made me feel that, if I grew up, I also wanted that job. Not just to give people food but to teach young people about love and to help them find the right way to live. I wish I could do that.
Unfortunately, I was so fond of art that some of my schoolmates and even the missionaries from the school didn’t think I could fully concentrate on the Bible. They told me that I’d be a better artist than a priest. [Laughs.] I was already in love with movies, and couldn’t help having that in my heart. I still love people from the Church, and think that they’ve done a great job taking care of people in Hong Kong. But, for me, being an artist is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m more than happy to make something that helps people to enjoy life.
What was the neighborhood you grew up in like?
I would get bullied every day by the local thugs, who tried to force me to join their gangs. They beat me up, but I refused. My father told me that being a man means never giving in to bullies, so, when I left the house, I would take either a brick or a stick to defend myself. One day, someone poured acid on my face. Luckily, I used my arm to block the acid, so it burned only my forehead. My mother also dunked my face into a nearby water tank, which helped with some of my wounds. That took a month to heal.
You renamed yourself John because you loved John the Baptist. When did you choose that name, and what did you admire about John the Baptist?
When I was in elementary school, my teacher was an Englishwoman who found it very hard to pronounce our Chinese names, so she gave us English names. I chose John, after John the Baptist, because I think that, of the apostles, John had the strongest sense of friendship. He paved the way for Jesus’ arrival, and, when he did arrive, John became one of the most devoted apostles. I think that, over all, John is my favorite.
Where did you watch movies when you were growing up?
There was no film school in Hong Kong—we had to learn by ourselves, from watching movies. In my twenties, I joined a group of young people who really loved movies. They knew so much about film and even translated some foreign film critics. At that time, European movies, and especially the French New Wave, were quite popular in Hong Kong. We watched art films at the Italian or the French Embassy. I also sometimes stole film books from libraries and bookstores.
Our film group shot experimental films together. Whoever had some money, he was the producer. Whoever came up with the idea for a story, he was the writer. I made about six 16-mm. or Super-8-mm. films that I mostly wrote, produced, and directed by myself.
You have no martial-arts training, but you studied dance when you were in high school. You also taught dance classes in your church, right?
You’re right, I never learned martial arts. I felt those movements looked too much like exercise, you know? [Laughs.] But I love dancing. Our schoolmaster and his wife came from Texas, and every Sunday they taught us American folk dancing. I thought that I could teach the younger kids to dance because I’d learned folk dancing from the headmaster. I wasn’t really a dance teacher. I was just dancing with them.
I’m also crazy about musicals. I must have watched “West Side Story” twenty times in the theatre. I kept chasing after that movie, from urban movie theatres to the countryside. I saw “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Wizard of Oz” so many times. I find a kind of beauty in those movies: people look beautiful, and the songs are beautiful, too, and the movies are always full of hope for a beautiful life. I was raised in a slum, and musicals really made me dream. That’s why I wanted to dance like “West Side Story,” you know? I still love musicals and really want to make one.
When I was just starting out, I apprenticed for Chang Cheh, a director whom I admired so much, at Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers Studio. I learned from Chang that action choreography is like ballet dancing. I was so amazed by the way stuntmen punch and kick, as well as how their bodies move. That gave me the idea to create my own style of action, combining dance and martial arts.
Chang’s influence on your movies seems pretty significant. What did you learn about drama from working with him?
He was a star-maker. Each of Chang’s actors had a different specialty, and he knew how to use them. I learned a lot from Chang, not about fighting or slow motion but about how to love your actors. When I’m working with my actors, I’m using [Chang’s] way. All the actors in my films are very important. When I’m shooting, I’m most concerned with the actors, how to lead them to deliver their best performance, how to find the right camera angles to make him or her look pretty. I’m trying to discover my actors’ goodness, or special qualities.
You were known as a director of comedies before you made your iconic nineteen-eighties action movies. It doesn’t seem like you enjoyed being associated with the comedy genre, though. . . .
My dream was to make a movie like the French films I admired, like Jean-Pierre Melville’s crime drama “Le Samouraï,” starring Alain Delon. I was told that the timing was wrong to make this kind of movie, and that there were only two types of movies I could make: “the fist and the pillow,” so either kung-fu or sex movies.
I helped [the director] Michael Hui to make his first comedy [as a co-director for “Games Gamblers Play,” from 1974]. It was a huge success, so the studio asked me to make a comedy for them. I said, “I’m not a comedy director, but O.K., I’ll try, since I need work.” I made my first comedy [“From Riches to Rags,” about an unlucky lottery winner who’s stalked by an assassin] in 1977. I spent only two weeks writing a script and two months finishing the whole movie. “From Riches to Rags” ’s sense of humor is like Mel Brooks mixed with Blake Edwards. That movie also has some funny kung-fu action, too. It was a big success, and nobody expected it to be, because it was more like a Western comedy than like something from Asia.
After that, the studio people asked me to make more comedies, though my heart was set on making a movie like “Le Samouraï.” I became angry because I didn’t get a chance to make that movie. I was also very angry about Hong Kong society. Corruption was everywhere; the rich were very rich, and the poor remained very poor. It never got even, so that’s why the comedies I made were very angry. Hong Kong audiences didn’t have a sense for dark humor, so that’s why my comedies flopped.
Thankfully, in 1986, my good friend [the Hong Kong producer and director] Tsui Hark supported me in making “A Better Tomorrow.” That was my first opportunity to make something in the “Le Samouraï” style. It was my first auteur movie for myself.
In “A Better Tomorrow,” Chow Yun-fat plays a character whose behavior was inspired by your real-life friendship with Tsui. How were you influenced by him?
When I was directing comedies, I stumbled on Tsui’s TV movies. I thought he was a genius, and before I even met him I strongly recommended him to the studios. I told them that we should hire young directors if we wanted to change Hong Kong movies, but no one believed in me for a couple of years, so no one cared about him. Tsui was so artistic, but he was box-office poison when we finally met. I remember encouraging him over drinks one evening. Then we looked out at the Hong Kong harbor together, where there was a beautiful sunset. We swore to each other that we’d make Hong Kong movies look good. We share a bond to this day.
I recommended Tsui to a then new independent film company called Cinema City. He became a big international star, but my reputation fell while his rose. I became box-office poison, too. Somebody even said that I should retire, that I should go home and watch videos to see what’s popular. Tsui ultimately got me the support I needed. We worked on “A Better Tomorrow” ’s script together. I said to him, “You know, this story is so plain and not very exciting.” Tsui said, “Why don’t you put yourself into the film? You know how to write dialogue—what are you trying to say? If producers look down on you, why don’t you take this opportunity to stand up to them?”
I rewrote everything, including dialogue for Chow Yun-fat’s character that came from deep in my heart. I worked with Chow so closely on his character that I said to him, “You are me.”
When it came out, “A Better Tomorrow” was the highest-grossing movie of all time in Hong Kong. You also made good on your promise to make Hong Kong cinema look beautiful, since Chow Yun-fat’s character started a fashion trend in Hong Kong, even among Triad gang members, who imitated his character’s Armani trenchcoats and Ray-Ban sunglasses.
Before that, Hong Kong gangsters dressed like gangsters—you know, pretty rough and with no taste. Then they saw “A Better Tomorrow” and started to buy the same shoes, long coats, and sunglasses. They bought those flowing coats, even though Hong Kong is so hot.
You seemed to respond to “A Better Tomorrow” ’s success by challenging yourself to outdo that movie, especially its elaborate action sequences. Were you trying to top yourself?
Yeah, you could say that. I also tried to make my films more personal. I paid tribute to the filmmakers I admired, like how “The Killer” was obviously an homage to “Le Samouraï.” “Bullet in the Head” was also an homage to Martin Scorsese, since I was greatly influenced by his film “Mean Streets.” And for “Hard Boiled,” because Hong Kong had so much crime that it was nearly out of control, I made an homage to Clint Eastwood, my idol, in “Dirty Harry.” I was really lucky to get to be myself.
When did you fall for Clint Eastwood, and what did you like about “Dirty Harry”?
I started liking Clint Eastwood after I saw him in the spaghetti Western “For a Few Dollars More.” I was also mesmerized by his performance in “Dirty Harry.” Actors like Clint Eastwood, James Dean, and Steve McQueen don’t need to have a lot of dialogue or body movement to give the best performances or to cover the fact that they can’t act. Clint says only the lines that need to be said, but he doesn’t need to perform a performance. He expresses himself by just being himself. “Dirty Harry” gave me a lot of confidence that I could be a man like him and not feel so insignificant anymore.
Also, Harry Callahan, Eastwood’s character, is very decisive. He knows right from wrong, and he believes in his instincts, just like me when I direct. “Instinct” is the key word for my directing style. He’s a hero to me.
What would you say to people who might wonder how you, as a Christian, could make such violent movies?
I’ve never thought of that. The only thing I consider religious in my movies is my understanding of love. All of that comes from my real life and the people around me. At the same time, I know that there might seem to be a conflict because I’m a Christian, so why all this violence? The violent scenes in my movies also express my feelings. Typically, my violence has a good thought behind it, like helping others or serving justice. Sometimes the more extreme violence in my movies is a response to evil. There are two qualities in my movies that reflect man’s true character: honesty and loyalty. And a love for other people. I also hate dishonesty. So I don’t feel any conflict with my religion.
As a filmmaker, when do you feel dramatized violence crosses a line?
I don’t know how to answer that. I use the camera to express myself, so it makes me feel like I can do anything. There are a lot of things that I’ve had in mind, but didn’t feel like I could tell anybody. I wasn’t good at using language or any tool to tell my story, so I felt free when I found out I could express myself using cinematic language. I feel no worries and no limits.
You don’t always strictly shoot from your scripts, and some of the resulting action scenes are now among the most iconic images in your movies—like in “Hard Boiled,” when Chow Yun-fat slides down a stairway bannister while shooting two guns at the same time. Do you feel more free or inspired when you aren’t sticking to a script?
I shoot every action scene—and some dramatic scenes—based on my instincts, and I get a lot of my instincts about how to shoot a scene from when I’m on the set. Because “The Killer” was an homage to a French film, I shot that movie without a script. I had only an idea and a very simple outline, so the crew and the actors didn’t know what the story was about and what was going to happen next. I didn’t know, either. I just had a rough idea to make it like a French movie. The producer didn’t get it; he didn’t know about French movies. Still, I had total freedom to be myself when I was on set. There was no producer on set, so I could shoot whatever I was thinking of.
For “The Killer,” I told Chow Yun-fat that his character was betrayed by an old friend who tried to kill him. So I said to him, “In your life, have you ever been betrayed by a good friend?” Chow told me a story about how, after he became successful, he wanted to give a friend money to build his own company, but his friend stabbed him in the back. So I asked him, “How did that make you feel? What did you say to your friend? Do you still hate him?” He still remembered.
I asked Chow, “Why don’t we use that for the scene? Just say the same thing. Do you see this guy now as a friend or an enemy?”
“I still respect him.”
“O.K., let’s do that. Let’s bring back all of that stuff you wanted to say to your friend, even though you feel pain inside your heart.” That scene was successful because it came from real emotions.
After “The Killer,” but before “Hard Boiled,” you made the devastating 1990 Vietnam War drama “Bullet in the Head,” which is partly autobiographical, right?
The first half of “Bullet in the Head” is based on my life. I grew up in the same kind of slum as those characters. And when I was a teen-ager I had the same kind of close friends as the characters you see in the movie. One character, played by the pop singer Jacky Cheung, is based on someone I knew growing up. He had a tragic upbringing: his parents gambled, and they physically beat him up all the time. I protected him, even though he made trouble and was chased by the police.
There’s a scene in “Bullet in the Head” set in Vietnam in which local police attack antiwar protesters and a riot ensues. Were you trying to make a political statement when you made “Bullet in the Head”?
No. That scene reflects how I experienced the 1967 riots in Hong Kong. Those riots were so violent, and those memories never left me, so that’s what you’re seeing in “Bullet in the Head” ’s riot scene.
“Bullet in the Head” was released almost a year after the Tiananmen Square massacre. Is the timing just a coincidence?
Yeah, the timing’s coincidental. I admit that I was influenced a little bit by that event, but it mostly brought back my horrible memories of 1967 in Hong Kong.
“Bullet in the Head” was deeply personal for you, but it was also a box-office failure. Why do you think that it didn’t connect with Hong Kong audiences?
I think they felt it was a little too heavy. Before “Bullet in the Head,” all of my movies glorified friendship. “Bullet in the Head” is about a test of friendship. I had also felt betrayed by a good friend at that time, so when I made “Bullet in the Head” it reflected what I felt about friendship. I wasn’t surprised when the movie failed, but, I must say, I spoke from my heart.
Were your feelings of betrayal inspired by your friendship with Tsui Hark? I ask since “Bullet in the Head” was originally conceived of as “A Better Tomorrow III,” but it became a separate project. So you developed the movie that became “Bullet in the Head” while Tsui Hark directed “A Better Tomorrow III.”
Yeah. But I didn’t just feel betrayed by Tsui Hark. I felt betrayed by a lot of people whom I gave help to, but they didn’t care much about me. I felt like friendship was a joke, though only at that time. Later on, I didn’t care so much about what happened. I didn’t lose my faith in friendship.
In 1992, you decided to move to America to make movies. Some American critics, including The New Yorker’s James Wolcott, assumed that you moved here because you anticipated Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to China. Was that a motivating factor for you?
Oh, no, not at all. Hong Kong is a purely commercial city. They didn’t have the market for the kinds of movies I wanted to make. I also felt like I had reached the top after making “Hard Boiled,” and I couldn’t go any further in Hong Kong. I also couldn’t get any good scripts after that.
I never dreamed of coming to Hollywood. I wanted to do my own thing and continue shooting in Hong Kong, but there wasn’t a lot of good material to shoot. In the meantime, “The Killer” had drawn so much attention from the West, though I didn’t know that until then. All of a sudden, I got so many stories and scripts from Hollywood—I got nearly fifty scripts from studios and independent companies like Twentieth Century Fox and New Line Cinema. I wasn’t interested in most of them, because everyone wanted me to make an action movie. I needed to make something new, and I wanted to learn how to make better movies, so I took it as a challenge to come to Hollywood. Just to learn more and meet more people.
Even though I had the language problem, I still wanted to try. I was also the first Chinese director working in Hollywood, so I felt obliged to set a good example.
What did you dislike about the first American scripts that you received?
When I first came here, American filmmakers were so amazed that my movies had so many different elements to them, not just strong action but human drama and a sense of humor. That’s when I found out that they think action movies are strictly for action fans. Melodramas don’t have action in them, and comedies are for the whole family, so they’re just for laughs. I was still hired to make an American movie in my own way, with different elements all in one movie.
What was it like to work on “Hard Target,” your first American movie, which starred Jean-Claude Van Damme and was a sort of remake of “The Most Dangerous Game”?
I was so amazed by everyone I worked with. The crew was so professional, but I didn’t realize there were so many rules in Hollywood, like how actors usually have final-script approval. They also sometimes get to have approval over the final edit. I was so shocked. In Hong Kong, I was treated like an auteur. It’s the director who controls editing, not the star, you know? Fortunately, we had very good producers, like Sam Raimi and Jim Jacks. They tried to protect me and fought to get me back all kinds of rights, including final approval over the editing.
“Face/Off” is the first American movie that feels like a fully realized John Woo movie. Sherry Lansing, the president of Paramount Pictures, supported you on that project, right?
Yes, yes, that’s true. Before we started shooting, she gathered everybody, including producers, writers, and key people from the studio, and said, “Don’t give him any notes. All I want is a John Woo movie.” I was so grateful. Everybody was so surprised, too. Usually the director gets a lot of notes from everybody. But, no, Sherry Lansing set me free, so I was able to collaborate with the screenwriters at the end.
“Face/Off” was originally a science-fiction movie, but I took out about ninety to ninety-five per cent of the planned visual effects. I also set it in the modern day, or something like ten years from now, not so far away. I also wanted more of a dramatic focus. The original story idea was pretty simple: the good guy exchanges faces with the bad guy to break up his criminal organization and save the world. I changed the story so that the good guy’s also saving his own son.
At the beginning, some people at the studio got a little worried. They weren’t sure if action fans would accept this kind of movie, because action fans want to see action, not a drama. But we did a test screening, and people loved it.
You were also able to make a John Woo movie with “Windtalkers,” the 2002 Second World War drama about Navajo marine code-talkers, starring Nicolas Cage. In my opinion, that’s your best American movie to date. Did you feel like you had creative freedom on that project?
Yeah. The studio, M-G-M, let me do what I wanted to, especially if I wanted to make changes. At the beginning, I argued quite a lot with the writers. They didn’t want to change their original idea, which was to follow one character’s painful inner struggle. Cage was pretty much like a John Wayne type, but I wanted to change the movie to be more about friendship. I wanted to change the story so that, at the end, he’s friends with his Native American partner, and they appreciate each other. I also wanted to change the Native American character from being cold-blooded to being a more heartwarming person. The writers didn’t completely like that idea, so we argued a lot. In the end, the studio sided with me: “It’s O.K., John, go ahead and do it.” [Laughs.]
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.
After working in Hollywood for eleven years, you made “Paycheck,” which was a box-office failure. How did you feel about filmmaking and your work after making that movie?
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. Scripts for historical dramas never came to me, either, because I’m Chinese. I’m a foreigner, so they couldn’t believe that I could make an American historical film. All I could do, in those people’s minds, was make action movies. I can make a lot of kinds of movies, but it’s hard to make people believe that.
You took a five-year break from making feature-length movies and then made the 2008 Han-dynasty war drama “Red Cliff,” your first mainland-Chinese production. How did you feel working in the Chinese film industry?
The reason I went back to China to make movies was that I met some friends from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong who asked me to help China branch out into the global film market. At the time, Chinese cinema wasn’t as big on the world market as it is now. Mainland audiences didn’t want to watch movies in theatres, either. They preferred to stay home and watch television. My friends wanted to change that, and I wanted to help them.
The mainland-Chinese film industry also wasn’t as advanced as it is now. It was fairly unique to have a soundstage and a recording room. We hired some Canadian and American technicians to help build modern technical facilities, like a soundstage and a mixing room, in Beijing. Not a lot of Chinese film people knew how to make big Hollywood-type movies, so I also thought this might be a good opportunity to teach Hollywood techniques to young Chinese filmmakers.
What was working on “Red Cliff” like?
I came up with the idea to do a movie based on [the historic Battle of] Red Cliffs. I made some changes, though, because I’d read that, when we made the movie, a lot of young people were committing suicide in Asia, especially in Japan and Korea, and even in Hong Kong. They had problems fitting into a changing society. Local people asked me to make something to encourage young people. I was very touched by that. I thought that I had a duty to remind young people that their lives are still beautiful. I changed parts of “Red Cliff” ’s story so that, ultimately, the meek and the fair win. They overcome disaster and keep looking for more hope. The Chinese audience’s response was very encouraging, even though some historians didn’t like my changes. They wanted the movie to be more about the strategy of war and not to be so romantic. I didn’t care.
We worked really hard on “Red Cliff” and spent a lot of money training the cast and the extras on how to work with horses. Even the camera crew, who usually worked on melodramas, had to be trained to shoot action sequences. I showed them a Kurosawa movie almost every week, like “Seven Samurai,” to show how to use a telephoto camera lens and how to shoot action. That was a tough shoot because everything was so new to the crew. That’s why we went way over budget. [Laughs.] I didn’t care. I knew the young crew members were learning so much. They worked so hard. I gave up my director’s fee, and even borrowed some money from my savings to make the movie. I didn’t earn a penny, but I was so happy.
Action films like the recent “John Wick” movies seem to have revived interest in action choreography and craftsmanship. Has it become any easier to make movies your way, or is that still a hard sell?
It’s still hard to find financing for the kinds of movies that I want to make, like a musical or a Western, which aren’t that popular anymore. Maybe my next film will be a Western. [Laughs.]
Do you like any recent action movies?
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.
What about superhero movies?
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.
What made you want to make “Silent Night”? Why come back to making Hollywood movies now?
I was so excited when I got the script for “Silent Night.” There’s no dialogue in the entire movie! I thought this would be very good for me because it lets me use my gifts for telling a story visually.
I’m always on the lookout for good stories. It just so happened that this is a Hollywood production. I also never felt like I was coming back to Hollywood, since, to me, I never left Hollywood. I simply made a few movies in China over the past two decades. Coming back to Hollywood actually feels like coming home. ♦