×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto: John Woo on Why ‘Manhunt’ Is a Return to His Roots

John Woo, the director who helped define the style of Hong Kong films before applying his style to Hollywood and then China, returns to action with “Manhunt,” a reworking of a Japanese film that was the first foreign movie to be shown in post-Cultural Revolution China. The new film unspooled at the Venice Film Festival before moving on the the Toronto Intl. Film Festival. Woo spoke to Variety’s Patrick Frater about the film.

You have recently said that that you wanted to go back to smaller films, in particular the style of “The Killer.” Do you see “Manhunt” as a return to basics?  If so, why?

I wish to go back to smaller films because, as the budget gets larger, the pressure gets bigger too. This pressure makes it difficult for me to enjoy the creative process. We are being controlled by the numbers during the entire process, or decide how to shoot a scene because of the budget, not inspiration. Film markets care more about how many tickets you can sell, the quality of our work is decided by whether it is blockbuster. This is an unhealthy atmosphere, with more and more pain. Therefore, I want to go back to the past, and start making some small films, in a way that I will have a relatively free creative environment, and truly enjoy the movie-making process. I like ‘Manhunt’ very much myself, it is very close to my previous style.

And yet “Manhunt” is a still big-budget film, with major Asian stars

It is considered a big-budget film in China. Moviemaking costs are much more expensive compared to the old times, and some of the big scenes required substantial cost. But the theme and the content of the story is very much close to my previous interests. It’s a small and simple story about brotherhood, justice and a little romance. In Hollywood, it would be considered a medium-budget production.

Are you still planning to direct other movies after this? 

Yes, I will be shooting a Hollywood picture after this.

Why did the 1978 “Manhunt” story need to be revisited and updated?

I’ve always loved [Japanese star] Ken Takakura’s films and adored his image. His way of acting had a great influence on me when designing characters for my films. For example, Chow Yun-Fat in “A Better Tomorrow” is a quasi-embodiment of Ken Takakura. When learning that Ken Takakura passed away, I was very sad. Therefore, I wanted to shoot a movie or remake his previous films to pay tribute to him.

Another reason is that I love the Japanese gang films of the 1960s. When Media Asia invited me to re-shoot “Manhunt,” I was very happy and agreed without asking anything. In addition, this story tells about a wronged good man who finds out the truth through his courage and wisdom. Such a story is very inspirational.

What is the significance of telling the story at this time with a Chinese protagonist against the Japanese justice system? 

There is no special meaning relate to that aspect, the story simply tells how a framed Chinese man is seeking the truth. It could happen in any country. It’s a story about friendship. Such plots have always been the main theme of my work. Of course, there are also love stories between the hero and heroine.

How did you find directing your daughter Angeles Woo in a major role?
I treated her the same like any other actors, my relationship with actors are like friends, I gave them a simple instruction and give them enough freedom during acting. I didn’t give her any special care. This is my way of showing respect to her.

More Film

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content