×

Helmer To ankles as China Star chief

Director to return to filmmaking

HONG KONG — After two whirlwind years as the chief operating officer of local production house China Star Entertainment, Johnnie To has resigned to focus on what he does best: make films.

Speaking Tuesday, on the eve of the release of his latest directorial effort, “Fulltime Killer,” To confirmed rumors about his departure that had been building for the last few days.

“I want a change,” To said. “Doing an administrative job just wastes my time.”

Unsatisfied

To also was unhappy with the kind of commercial films he’s had to make while at China Star. He made no secret he’s had a hard time stomaching his successful romantic comedies like “Love on a Diet” — which is locked in a battle for second place at the Hong Kong box office with “The Mummy Returns.”

“Those films belong to the audience. Now I want to make films that belong to me,” To said.

To deserves much of the credit for the renaissance at China Star and, by extension, the success of the Hong Kong industry as a whole.

The 46-year-old director of almost 40 films, including classics such as “A Hero Never Dies,” To took the helm at China Star — an entertainment conglomerate that also has theater and Internet interests — in late 1999 and transformed it from a company lost in the territories’ doldrums at that time into a formidable force in local film.

To’s directing projects have included 2001 Chinese New Year hit “Wu Yen” and last year’s surprise romantic comedy smash “Needing You.” He also has helped kickstart a host of other films, including director Tsui Hark’s “The Legend of Zu,” which opens later this month.

To — who doesn’t own any shares in China Star and says he is leaving the company on good terms — is determined to nurture new talent through his own production house, Milkyway Image Prods., formed in 1996 with screenwriting and directing partner Wai Ka-fai.

And though it isn’t clear what his departure means for China Star, To said he’ll still direct films for the key summer and Chinese New Year holidays under the company’s banner — just as long as China Star doesn’t try and make him come back to the office.

More Film

  • Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big

    Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big At Durban FilmMart Awards

    DURBAN–Female-driven narratives and daring portraits of queer culture around the continent were the big winners at this year’s Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, which handed out awards at a ceremony Monday night at the Southern Sun Maharani Hotel. Among the prize-winners were the story of a Zimbabwean woman [...]

  • Oscar Nominations Reactions Phyllis Nagy

    Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy Runs for Writers Guild Presidency, Citing Agency Stalemate

    Oscar-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy is challenging Writers Guild of America West’s incumbent president David Goodman, citing his handling of the bitter stalemate between the WGA and Hollywood agents. Nagy announced her candidacy online Monday night, a day before the deadline for filing. She made the announcement  in a private online group as part of Writers for [...]

  • Klaudia-Reynicke

    Locarno: Summerside Picks Up ‘Love Me Tender’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rome-based Summerside Intl. has acquired international sales rights to Klaudia Reynicke’s “Love Me Tender.” The second feature from Peru-born and Switzerland-based filmmaker will receive its world premiere at the Locarno Festival in its Filmmakers of the Present competition, which focuses on first and second features. Summerside Intl. is the world sales agent, excluding and Lichtenstein [...]

  • Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham2019 Writers

    Writers Guild Announces 2020 Awards Show Date

    The 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place in coinciding ceremonies in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton and the Edison Ballroom in New York on Feb. 1, the Writers Guild of America announced. The WGA will begin voting in November and will reveal this year’s TV nominees Dec. 5 and film Jan. 6. [...]

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener Team on 'The Last Duel'

    Ridley Scott looks to have his next directing job, as he has signed on to direct “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attached to star. Damon and Affleck co-wrote the script with Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener. Scott, Damon and Affleck all producing along with Scott’s producing partner Kevin Walsh. Drew Vinton is also [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content