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Interview with a new John Woo
Red Cliff 1/1 - Page 2
Author(s) : Thomas Podvin
Date : 7/4/2007
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Terence Chang Chia Tsun
Lin Chi Ling
Sally Yeh Tse Man
Vicky Zhao Wei
Movies :
Broken Arrow
Hard Boiled
The Killer
Red Cliff - Part 1
< Previous
Page 1 : John Woo’s style
This interview was conducted by Thomas Podvin while Red Cliff was on production (in 2007).

Parts of the quotes were used in articles for that’s Shanghai magazine in China and for the UK-based Impact Movie Magazine. More quotes were provided after the film was released.

This editor is forever grateful to Terence Chang and Britany Philion. Special thanks extended to Eileen Chen.

HKCinemagic: What elements attracted you in Red Cliff project? After successfully conquering Hollywood, is Red Cliff the project that will help you conquer mainland China?
John Woo: I have never tried to conquer Hollywood, but I am so grateful to have had the chance to learn from a new environment. It has been great for me. I have a great friend and a great business partner, Terence Chang. He helped me break into the business and supports me through my career. After working in Hollywood for over ten years, we really wanted to go back to China and make a Chinese film. We have been living in America for so many years and I gained such respect for the people here. I had the opportunity to work with so many great people in film.

But I still want to be a bridge between these cultures. I want to bring the great things from the East and the great things from the West together. It is my goal. There are a lot of people in the world who don’t understand the true culture and spirit of the Chinese and I want to bring that to them.

John Woo on the set of Red Cliff

So we have decided to go back to China to do ‘The Battle of Red Cliff’. It is the great Chinese history. Most Asian people know the story of the ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms.’ In this battle, the two weakest groups join together against the strongest power. It took a lot of wisdom, a lot of courage and very strong will to win this war. All the characters are very popular in Chinese history. The way they fight the war, their methods, are like the Art of War. Through this story I could show the true wisdom and spirit of the Chinese culture.

Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu

On the other hand I have learned such great technique from American movies and I can take that back to China and share what I have learned with them. There are a lot of great directors there, great actors and great producers and we can share our experiences to create a great movie. I am not trying to conquer Mainland China cinema. I just want to make great movies. I love China and I want to make a beautiful movie about it. At the same time, I have had an amazing journey shooting movies in America, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China. It makes me want to make movies in new places, to learn new things and make new friends. Who knows? Maybe the next movie I make will be in Moscow or South Korea or France…


Zhuge Liang


HKCinemagic: Red Cliff, is an obvious difference from your previous films where bursts of violence and bloodshed provided cathartic and satisfying conclusions for the audience. I understand the source material and the specificity of the mainland market could have influenced that, but why this change?
John Woo: In my earlier works, I used to focus on the tragic hero. It had much to do with my growth experiences. As the years go by, my views on life and value have changed a lot. I prefer my hero a broadminded man. He started this war not for vengeance, but to stop the war. That’s why I made such ending in Red Cliff. I believe people will accept this, for we always appreciate the Chinese “code of yi” [Ed.: An unwritten code of brotherhood, honour, loyalty and justice binding members of a group, such as a triad or a knight clan].


The final inferno


HKCinemagic: I feel that the two women in Red Cliff are the two strongest female characters (Zhao Wei and Ling Ching-ling) you’ve ever portrayed in your whole career (except maybe for Song Song & Little Cat). How do you see Red Cliff 1 and 2 in the evolution of your cinema?
John Woo: I did try to make strong female characters in the past, but somehow, it never worked out. For example, when I was shooting The Killer, the original concept was a triangular love story, and the female character was supposed to be very strong, very brave and very smart, even though she's blind. But the actress [Ed.: Sally Yeh], didn't concentrate on this movie, and she gave me limited time to shoot. So that forced me to change the script and focus more [on the friendship between the two men]. In Hard Boiled and Broken Arrow, I tried again to bring out the female, but the scripts weren't going that way.

Xiao Qiao (Lin Chi-ling]

In Red Cliff, I got the chance to make it happen. The character of Xiao Qiao (Lin Chi-ling] is beautiful and graceful. She's also strong and brave, and she transcends above war with the strength of love. She offers a softer side to the film. Sun Shangxiang (Vicky Zhao Wei), like most of the modern girls, is lively and independent. When I depicted these two female characters, they represented my wife and my daughters.


Sun Shangxiang (Zhao Wei)

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Page 1 : John Woo’s style

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