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John Woo

John Woo began his illustrious career as a filmmaker in Hong Kong, where he spent more than two decades at the center of a thriving film industry directing nearly 30 feature films. He was known primarily as a comedy specialist until the mid-1980s when he created a series of inspired romantic gangster dramas that broke box-office records.

Born in Guangzhou, China in 1946, Woo moved to Hong Kong with his family when he was four years old. He was educated at Matteo Ricci College and, at age 19, began making experimental films. In lieu of film school, Woo sought entry-level positions in the flourishing Hong Kong film industry.

In 1971, he began working as an assistant director at Shaw Brothers. Just two years later he made his directorial debut with The Young Dragons. He was then signed to an exclusive contract at Golden Harvest. Two more successful martial arts films followed, The Dragon Tamers and The Hand of Death, the latter featuring action superstar Jackie Chan in his first major screen role.

Woo found equal success with a Cantonese opera film, Princess Chang Ping, after becoming a major force in Asian filmmaking with a string of eight hit comedies, including Money Crazy and From Riches to Rags.

Woo left Golden Harvest in 1983 and joined a new company, Cinema City, where he directed the romantic gangster film A Better Tomorrow starring Chow Yun-Fat and Leslie Cheung. Woo's lush crime thrillers with Chow -- which also include the brilliantly choreographed, character-driven action film The Killer and Woo's last Hong Kong-produced

film, Hard Boiled -- won enthusiastic fans among audiences and filmmakers around the world. Woo also directed Bullet in the Head, set in wartime Vietnam, the comedy action caper Once a Thief' and A Better Tomorrow II.

Woo made his U.S. feature film debut with Hard Target" starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. In 1994, he formed WCG Entertainment with his producing partner, Terence Chang. Under this banner, Woo directed Broken Arrow starring John Travolta and Christian Slater and "Face/Off' starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. The latter was an enormous box-office hit for the Hong Kong director and was praised by critics worldwide. He then went on to direct Mission: Impossible 2 starring Tom Cruise. A phenomenal success both domestically and internationally, the film opened to the highest grossing weekend figures in Paramount Pictures' history.

Woo kept busy between his feature films directing pilots for television, including Once a Thief, an adaptation of his feature film, and Blackjack. In 1998, Woo directed his first commercial, a Nike spot featuring seven Brazilian soccer stars.

In 2000, Woo formed Lion Rock Productions with partner Terence Chang, and directed and produced his epic WWII drama Windtalkers and produced Bulletproof Monk. Since then, Woo has directed the BMW short film Hostage starring Clive Owen.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

John Woo Facts

Birth NameYusen Wu
OccupationDirector, Producer
BirthdayMay 1, 1946 (77)
BirthplaceGuangzhou, Canton, People's Rep. of China
Height5' 4½" (1m64)  How tall is John Woo compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Not available.