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Johnnie To Kei Fung

 
 
 
 
Other names : 杜琪峰
Do Kei Fung
Qífēng
Du4 Qi2 Feng1
Johnnie To
Johnny To
Johnny To Kwei Fung
To Kwei Fung
 
Birthdate : 22/4/1955
Nationality : Hong Kong
Workplace : Hong Kong
Activities : Director (58), Assistant Director (2), Producer (66), Writer (5), Actor (4), Brief appearance (1), Second Unit Director (1), Planning (3), Presenter (2)

Biography

Johnnie To is mostly famous in the West for his movie The Heroic Trio. It is one of the first movies to pop in the minds of US and European moviegoers when they are asked about new hong kong cinema (we say new in order to exclude the movies by Bruce Lee or King Hu). It is funny to notice that, just like Wong Jing's Naked Killer, The Heroic Trio has become a cult movie because of women, that is to say the fiendish trio formed by Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh and Anita Mui.

But Johnnie To is neither the man of one movie nor the man of one movie genre. Just like a Howard Hawks from Hong Kong (minus the genius, let's be reasonable), he has takled all the movie genres: drama, comedy, action, wu xia plan, historical movie, fantastic movie. As a consequence, he has been unclassifiable for years. Today, he seems to have found his favorite genre, the thriller or cop movie, but this doesn’t prove he’s going to stay faithful to it.

By three times To managed to do get his film the blockbuster of the year (in a country where success is more important than artistic achievement, it does have more value than a Hong Kong Film Award), in 1988 with Eigth Happiness, in 1989 with All About Ah Long and in 1992 with Justice, My Foot!. Since then, Johnnie To got more critcal lauds than box-office hits however.

The TV training years (1972-1980)
Let's first of all come back to To's career debuts. Just like most of the now established HK directors, Johnnie To started working for TVB. He was recruited by this TV Channel in 1972 in order to work as an administrative assistant. He became very soon attracted by the production of TV series and took acting courses dispensed by the Channel. He began working as a producer assistant (and sometimes screenwriter and director) for the channel.

Back to the roots (1980-1986)
He makes his directing debut in 1980 with The Enigmatic Case but, due to the result ( he doesn’t esteem having enough stature for such an enterprise), decides to come back to TVB. He’ll go on working for 6 years but the experience will not be worthless.

A new start : a director under the influence (1986-1988)
In 1986, To decides to come back to the cinema. Under the guidance of Raymond Wong, his cinematographic godfather, he will direct Happy Ghost 3, an horrific comedy, a trendy genre at the time. He will as a matter of fact direct 3 movies for this successful screenwriter/producer/actor (Happy Ghost 3, Seven Years Itch, The Eighth Happiness). At this time, it is clear that Johnnie To is there only as a good expert, a yes-man obeying his master. Beginning in the profession is his only goal then.

In 1988, Johnnie To is called by a talentuous man he admires, Tsui Hark, in order to replace Andrew Kam on the shooting of The Big Heat. The despot-producer asks him for adding action scenes in the movie, scenes which were not, at that time, the specialty of our man. Finally, Tsui Hark will finish directing the movie. Once again, Johnnie To will not have the freedom every artist wishes to have: the mark of the producer is still overwhelming.

Emancipation (1989-1996)
Thanks to the huge success of The Eighth Happiness ( most successful movie of the year 1988 ), he will have absolute power for the screenplay, the artistical approach and the budget of his next movie, All About Ah Long.

It is true that the bet wasn’t won in advance: a pure melodrama ( at the time crime movies were in), a long-haired Chow Yun Fat playing a loser, a sad end. Despite all of this, All About Ah Long is the most successful movie of the year 1989. This time, the presence of Raymond Wong as a producer is pore discrete: the disciple has won the trust of his sponsor.

Doped by success, Johnnie To chooses a directing policy based on success factors: in actors (Chow Yun-Fat, Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Stephen Chow, Lau Ching-Wan, Maggie Cheung, Anita Mui, Michelle Yeoh...), in producers(Wong Jing), in themes (science fiction, wu xia pian, comédies, crime movies...)... He shoots movies with the regularity of a metronome.

Alongside his career as a director, he starts producing movies in 1990. And his first producing is an artistic and commercial achievement : A Moment Of Romance, avec Andy Lau. He will produce a disappointing sequel 3 years after and a very good movie 2 years after again, Only Fools Fall In Love. His working rhythm as a producer is still quiet. He’s training waiting for the Milkyway Image…

During all these years, the genius of Johnnie To comes from his ability to use the best ones: Ching Siu-Tung, Wai Ka-Fai, Yuen Bun, Benny Chan... They will help him building his empire.

Birth and growth of the Milkyway Image Company (1996-1998)
The Longest Nite.Due to the technical brio of Lifeline, Johnnie To is getting propositions from Hollywood which still wants to attract a foreign talent. He decides to refuse them and to devote himself to the production company he created in 1996, the Milkyway Image Company, surrounded by promising and confirmed talents (director/ screenwriter/producer Wai Ka-Fai, directors Patrick Leung, Derek Chiu and Patrick Yau, screenwriter Yau Nai-Hoi, choregraphy technician Yuen Bun...).

The aim of the company is to make young directors famous by helping them making their first movies: it is a place for young talents over which Mister To is ruling ( anyway he remains less tyrannic than Tsui Hark used to be with the Workshop staff ).

The movies produced by the company, mainly arty and gloomy crime movies, are quickly made low budget movies. It is, according to Johnnie To, the sine qua non condition of survival in the cinematographical industry of the ex-colony: movies have to be made quickly profitable ( they remain in the average one week in theatres and are systematically bootlegged ). Moreover, it allows the directors to take artistical risks.

The Milkyway movies – just like the UFO movies before- have a real identity in comparison with the rest of the Hong Kong movies: characters have a psychological depth ( they have a life before and during the movie ), a pessimistic atmosphere is mixed with dark humour, the photography is very often remarkable ( mostly in the wonderful The Longest Nite ) and the hero is frequently an outsider close to an autistic man ( very often played by Lau Ching-Wan ) with an animal impulse.

The Milkyway became quickly the source of many achievements : Beyond Hypothermia, The Longest Nite, Too Many Ways To Be N°1, movies which are as fascinating as plastically achieved.

First signs of weakness for the Milkyway(1998-1999)
Things are getting worse in 1998 as Johnnie To accuses Patrick Yau of being an usurper : he declares in interviews that his former director assistant ( a man he knew while working for TVB ) put his own name on the credits without To’s knowing … Why didn’t he do anything when he was usurped for the first time? Why did he wake up suddenly afterwards? Some say he wants to direct movies in the Us ( the retrocession and the crisis of movie industry made lots of directors want to leave Hong Kong ) and therefore he needs a sizeable CV.

In order to prove he’s the real director of The Odd One Dies, The Longest Nite and Expect The Unexpected, Johnnie To directs A Hero Never Dies, something of a parody, an aesthetic but empty movie, a pale copies of movies by … Patrick Yau. And strangely Patrick Yau will recover his job as an assistant director on Where A Good Man Goes. Who did crack up ? Who did miss the other ?

A promising future? (1999- …)
Today, Johnnie To has allied with the movie company Mei Ah ( and therefore is sure to have his movies quickly released on vcd and dvd ) and is directing quickly made low budget crime movies with in actors. Some are smash hits, some are not. But he doesn’t care: if the audience gets tired, he will change his style!


"I like to direct movies which follow the trend and the times" -- Johnnie To to Miles Wood (in Cine East)


David-Olivier Vidouze - March 2000
Translation by Florent.
Updated March 2008.
 
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Filmography
 [ 2010 - 2000 - 1990 - 1980 ] 
 Alternate lists by alpha / genre / year
 
Title    ( HK -  All )  Year Activity
 
 Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2 2014 Director, Producer
 Complicated Story, A 2013 Producer
 Blind Detective 2012 Director, Producer
 Drug War 2012 Director
 Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2011 Director, Producer
 Life Without Principle 2011 Director, Producer
 Motorway 2011 Producer
 Romancing in Thin Air 2011 Director
 In Manchurian Dynasty 2010 Producer
 Johnnie Got His Gun ! 2010 Actor
 Punished 2010 Producer
 Accident 2009 Producer
 Tactical Unit: Comrades In Arms 2009 Producer
 Tactical Unit: Partners 2009 Producer
 Vengeance 2009 Director, Producer
 Linger 2008 Director, Producer
 Sparrow, The 2008 Director
 Tactical Unit: Human Nature 2008 Producer
 Tactical Unit: No Way Out 2008 Producer
 Tactical Unit: The Code 2008 Producer
 Hooked On You 2007 Producer
 Mad Detective 2007 Director, Producer
 Triangle 2007 Director, Producer, Presenter
 2 Become 1 2006 Producer
 Election 2 2006 Director, Producer
 Exiled 2006 Director, Producer
 Eye In The Sky 2006 Producer
 Election, The 2005 Director, Producer
 Open Road 2005 Director, Producer, Writer
 Breaking News 2004 Director, Producer
 Throw Down 2004 Director, Producer
 Yesterday Once More 2004 Director, Producer
 Looking For Mr Perfect 2003 Producer
 Love For All Seasons 2003 Director, Producer
 Love Under The Sun 2003 Producer, Writer
 Memory Of The Youth 2003 Producer
 Project 1:99 2003 Director
 Project 1:99 Rhapsody 2003 Director, Writer
 PTU 2003 Director, Producer
 Running On Karma 2003 Director, Producer
 Turn Left Turn Right 2003 Director, Producer
 Fat Choi Spirit 2002 Director, Producer
 My Left Eye Sees Ghosts 2002 Director, Producer
 Fulltime Killer 2001 Director, Producer
 Gimme Gimme 2001 Producer
 Love On A Diet 2001 Director, Producer
 Running Out Of Time 2 2001 Director, Producer
 Second Time Around 2001 Producer
 Wu Yen 2001 Director, Producer
 Comeuppance 2000 Producer
 Help !!! 2000 Director, Producer
 Needing You 2000 Director, Producer
 Spacked Out 2000 Producer
 Mission, The 1999 Director, Producer
 Running Out Of Time 1999 Director, Producer
 Sealed With A Kiss 1999 Producer
 Where A Good Man Goes 1999 Director, Producer
 Expect The Unexpected 1998 Producer
 Hero Never Dies, A 1998 Director, Producer
 Longest Nite, The 1998 Producer
 Intruder 1997 Producer
 Lifeline 1997 Director
 Odd One Dies, The 1997 Producer
 Task Force 1997 Producer
 Too Many Ways To Be No. 1 1997 Producer
 Beyond Hypothermia 1996 Producer, Presenter
 Moment Of Romance III, A 1996 Director, Producer
 Loving You 1995 Director
 Only Fools Fall In Love 1995 Producer
 Bare-Footed Kid, The 1993 Director
 Executioners 1993 Director, Producer
 Heroic Trio, The 1993 Director
 Mad Monk, The 1993 Director
 Moment Of Romance II, A 1993 Producer
 Justice, My Foot ! 1992 Director
 Lucky Encounter 1992 Director, Planning
 Banquet, The 1991 Brief appearance
 Casino Raiders 2 1991 Director
 Royal Scoundrel 1991 Director, Actor, Planning
 Sisters Of The World Unite 1991 Actor
 Fun, The Luck & The Tycoon, The 1990 Director, Planning
 Iron Butterfly II - See No Daylight, The 1990 Director, Producer, Actor
 Moment Of Romance, A 1990 Producer
 Story Of My Son, The 1990 Director, Writer
 All About Ah Long 1989 Director
 Iron Butterfly, The 1989 Director, Producer
 Big Heat, The 1988 Director
 Eighth Happiness, The 1988 Director
 Magnificent Warriors 1987 Assistant Director
 Seven Years Itch 1987 Director
 Happy Ghost 3 1986 Director
 Royal Warriors 1986 Second Unit Director
 Flying Fox Of Snowy Mountain, The 1985 Director, Writer
 It's A Drink, It's A Bomb 1985 Assistant Director
 Enigmatic Case, The 1980 Director
 

 Article    Review    Poster/Gallery    DVD Captures    Trailer    DVD Captures/Trailer  
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Gallery
 
 Johnnie To Kei Fung pictures :  (Hide)
 
 Other Johnnie To Kei Fung pictures :  (Hide)
Johnnie Got His Gun ! (1)
The Sparrow (1)
Mad Detective (1)
Triangle (1)
The Election (4)
Other pictures (33)
 
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Article Links   (Hide)
 
 The Rise of Johnnie To (preview)
HK talents > Film directors > Other directors
Author(s) : Marie Jost
Date : 28/2/2011
Type(s) : Analysis, Food for thought, Information
Page(s) : 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  15  16  18  19  20  - index
   
 
 
 Secondary Article Links   (Show)

 
Article Links (French only)   (Show)  
 Secondary Article Links (French only)   (Show)

 
Interview Links   (Hide)  
 
 Interview : Johnnie To On Election 1 & 2 (preview)
HK talents > Film directors > Other directors
Author(s) : Bastian Meiresonne
Date : 15/5/2006
Type(s) : Interview
Page(s) : 1  - index
   
 
 
 Secondary Interview Links   (Show)

 
Interview Links (French only)   (Show)  
 Secondary Interview Links (French only)   (Show)

 
DVD Review Links (French only)   (Show)  
 Secondary DVD Review Links (French only)   (Show)
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