Golden Lion winner reflects on "Assassins," China and Hollywood

John Woo dominated the Lido on Friday when he received the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement just as martial arts epic “Reign of Assassins,” which he helmed with Su Chao-Pin, world preemed to warm response.

Woo, in an interview with Variety, said he sees himself as “a bridge” between Hollywood and China.

“From now on I want to make more movies to bring together the good things from the West, and the good things from the East,” he vowed.

“Assassins,” which is shot in China, and set during the Ming Dynasty, stars Michelle Yeoh as an assassin who falls in love with the son of a man killed by her gang.

Pic is an entirely Chinese production shepherded by Terence Chang and sold by Fortissimo.

The Weinstein Co. will release “Assassins” stateside.

“In China we had not had a film with a real female hero for a long, long time,” said Woo. “Assassins” is his first film with a femme protagonist.

“Some people think martial arts movies are about men and about their friendships. But I think this is changing,” he said. “Young audiences in the Far East want more; they want to see movies — even martial arts movies — that can make them think, that can make them feel. This was our goal.”

Woo said Venice jury prexy Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” starring Uma Thurman as a female warrior, provided inspiration for “Assassins,” which is screening out of competition, but said aspects of the Thurman character were very different.

“The female hero in ‘Kill Bill’ is very American. She’s strong and powerful,” he said.

Yeoh’s “Assassins’ ” character is Chinese, and so “beyond her determination and strength she is more emotional. She is willing to cry and suffer for love,” he said.

And here’s Woo’s take on what it’s like to work in China, after his long Hollywood stint.

“In China the director is everything. The director controls everything. We don’t have to take notes from anyone. We don’t have to take any meetings. We just walk into the studio and let them know: ‘I want to make a movie called ‘Red Cliff’ or ‘Reign of Assassins.’ You don’t even need a script, and they just say: OK, let’s do it.”

The other difference is that “after working, and living, in Hollywood for so long, I just find that even though they are so nice to me and give me a lot of great respect I still think that people don’t know much about our culture and our spirit.”

And don’t expect Woo to make a 3D movie.

“Call me old fashioned, but cinema is about (two-dimensional) film,” he said. “I think film is a piece of art. 3D is fantastic, but it’s too much like a (video) game. That’s just how I feel. For myself, I’d rather stick to film.”

As for getting the Golden Lion, Woo called it “an impossible dream come true.

“When I was a child my family was extremely poor,” he reminisced.

Not being able to afford a ticket, he used to sneak into movie theaters, and when he got caught he was usually beaten and kicked out.

“Then I would stand there with a bleeding nose, outside, and watch the movie through the cracks in the walls of those old theaters,” he said. “Now, I see my movies through the viewfinder.”

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