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Hong Kong Film Directors' Guild - Directors - John WOO
吳宇森 | WOO John

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Born in Guangzhou, China, in 1948, John Woo was moved to Hong Kong by his family and graduated from Matteo Ricci College. His earlier passion for film and drama prompted him to join Chinese Student Weekly's theatre club, acting in several plays. He also began making experimental films at 19, including Ouran (1968) and Dead Knot (1968), the latter a collaboration with Sek Kei, who went on to become one of Hong Kong’s top critics. In 1969, Woo joined Cathay Studios as continuity person and in 1971, switched to Shaw Brothers, working also on continuity. He then became an assistant director for famed martial arts director Chang Cheh, working on films like The Boxer from Shantung (1972) and Blood Brothers (1973).

Woo made his directorial debut in 1973 with the martial arts film The Young Dragons, but the picture was not released until 1975. That year, he joined Golden Harvest, where he directed more than ten films, including Princess Chang Ping (1976), The Pilferer’s Progress (1977) and Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979). In 1980, he directed the new Cinema City’s inaugural project Laughing Times (1980). Soon after, he was sent to Taiwan by Cinema City to look after company affairs.

Woo returned to Hong Kong in 1986 and directed A Better Tomorrow, co-produced by Tsui Hark. The crime drama was a phenomenal hit and set a new trend in Hong Kong cinema. It also won Best Director and Best Actor (for Ti Lung) at the 23rd Golden Horse Film Awards in Taiwan while also receiving nominations for Best Film and Best Actor (for Chow Yun-fat). At the 6th Hong Kong Film Awards, the film was named Best Film and Chow Best Actor while also nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay. A Better Tomorrow also came second in the Top 100 Chinese Language Films, a presentation organised by the Hong Kong Film Awards Association. After the film’s remarkable success, Woo teamed up with Tsui again and made the sequel A Better Tomorrow II (1987) as well as The Killer (1989), another urban crime thriller for which Woo won Best Director at the 9th Hong Kong Film Awards.

In 1990, Woo formed his own company, directing a number of hits, including Bullet in the Head (1990), Once a Thief (1991) and Hard Boiled (1992). Meanwhile, Woo’s cinema began to attract attention in the West, gaining legions of loyal fans and culminating in offers to work in Hollywood. He moved to the United States in 1992, finishing his Hollywood directorial debut, the moderately budgeted Hard Target (1993), the next year. It was followed by a number of box office hits, including Broken Arrow (1996), Face/Off (1997) and Mission: Impossible II (2000). In 1998, Woo was awarded Best Director for Face/Off at the 25th Saturn Award in the United States. In 2004, Hong Kong Baptist University awarded Woo an honorary degree in recognition of his remarkable achievements in filmmaking and contribution to the society.

Woo returned to Chinese cinema with Red Cliff (2008) and Red Cliff: Part 2 (2009), based on the historical battle during the Three Kingdoms period (AD220-280). Red Cliff earned Woo the Best Director honor at China Huabiao Film Awards, and 11 nominations at the 28th Hong Kong Film Awards, including best film and best director.

In 2010, Woo was awarded a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 67th Venice Film Festival. He was the first Chinese filmmaker to receive the top honour.

After a few years’ break, Woo began to work on The Crossing (2014), an epic romance with a budget of RMB 300 million. Dubbed as China’s answer to Titanic, The Crossing spans 50 years of modern China history, telling the stories of three couples coming from different backgrounds and nationalities.

Year Chinese name English name Directors
2009 《赤壁:決戰天下》
Red Cliff : Par
2008 《赤壁》
Red Cliff
2003 《致命報酬》
2002 《烈血追風》
2000 《職業特工隊2》
Mission : Impossible II
1997 《奪面雙雄》
1996 《斷箭行動》
Broken Arrow
1993 《終極標靶》
Hard Target
1992 《辣手神探》
Hard Boiled
1991 《縱橫四海》
Once a Thief
1990 《喋血街頭》
Bullet in the Head
1989 《義膽群英》
Just Heroes WU Ma
1989 《喋血雙雄》
The Killer
1987 《英雄本色II》
A Better Tomorrow II
1986 《英雄無淚》
Heroes Shed No Tears
1986 《英雄本色》
A Better Tomorrow
1984 《笑匠》
The Time You Need a Friend
1984 《兩隻老虎》
Run, Tiger, Run
1982 《摩登天師》
To Hell with the Devil
1982 《八彩林亞珍》
Plain Jane to the Rescue
1980 《錢作怪》
From Riches to Rags
1980 《滑稽時代》
Laughing Times
1979 《豪俠》
Last Hurrah for Chivalry
1978 《Hello! 夜歸人》
Hello, Late Homecomers
1978 《大煞星與小妹頭》
Follow the Star
1977 《發錢寒》
The Pilferer's Progress
1976 《少林門》
The Hand of Death
1976 《帝女花》
Princess Chang Ping
1975 《女子跆拳群英會》
The Dragon Tamers
1975 《鐵漢柔情》
The Young Dragons