BY CHRISTINA NG
IF HONG Kong director John Woo feels his triumph at last month's Venice Film Festival - where he was awarded the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement - was marred by his association with jury president Quentin Tarantino, he isn't showing it.
In fact, he is proud to be "good friends" with the American director, he told reporters at a press conference last Friday.
In town to promote his latest film, Reign Of Assassins, the 64-year-old director avoided reference
to news that Tarantino has come under fire for heading the jury that awarded his former girlfriend, Sophia Coppola, the Venice Film Festival's top prize.
Tarantino's jury also awarded a lifetime-achievement prize to his former mentor, Monte Hellman.
Woo, who attended last Friday's press conference at the Fullterton Hotel with Taiwanese director Su Chao-pin and Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, said he was "touched" to receive the award from Tarantino, who "was very passionate and excited" when they first met.
"He loves Hong Kong films and was influenced by mine. I'm very lucky to have such a good friend. It was he who got John Travolta to star in my second Hollywood film, Broken Arrow," Woo said of Tarantino.
Woo had been courting Travolta for the 1996 film without success, he said, until the Pulp Fiction director - whose films often contain references to Asian cinema - stepped in.
Travolta subsequently acted in Face/Off (1997), another of Woo's Hollywood ventures.
Of his Venice win, the Hong Kong film-maker is simply happy to be recognised by an international panel.
He said: "When I went to Hollywood to make films, I wanted to learn from them. I also wanted to prove that my films have international appeal. Now, I feel that I've proved that I can touch different cultures with my films."
Woo has been making films for over 30 years. He made his mark with blockbusters like A Better Tomorrow (1986) and The Killer (1989) before moving to Hollywood.
There, he debuted with Hard Target (1993) starring Jean- Claude Van Damme, and also directed Mission Impossible II (2000), which starred Tom Cruise.
His focus has shifted back to China in the last two years, with the release of box-office hits Red Cliff I and II.
His most recent project is Reign Of Assassins, in which he served as producer and co-director.
The movie opens here on Thursday and stars Michelle Yeoh and Korean actor Jun Woo Sung.
Su, the movie's director and screenwriter, said Woo gave him free rein to create whatever he wanted.
Woo smiled and joked that "you won't see doves flying in the film", poking fun at his frequent use of such imagery in his films, particularly in his Hollywood ventures.
"I didn't want to impose my style on Su," he added. "I only gave advice and shared my experience."
The director is now working on his next film, Flying Tigers, a China-America co-production.
The film, which will boast a strong cast from both America and China, is about The Flying Tigers, the popular nickname of the 1st American Volunteer Group, a clandestine fighter squadron that flew missions against the Japanese in China during World War II.
"I think it will do even better than Red Cliff I and II," Woo said with a laugh.
"It has a good story and a fantastic battle scene."
Reign Of Assassins opens in cinemas on Thursday.
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