Director John Woo was planning to remake a different Ken Takakura movie
before being approached for "Manhunt".
After more than a decade, Hong Kong filmmaker John Woo is back in the action genre with his latest movie, "Manhunt". A remake of the 1976 Japanese movie "Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare" starring Ken Takakura, this time around the story focuses on a professor (Zhang Hanyu) who gets framed for murder and teams up with a detective (Masaharu Fukuyama) to clear his name.
What sets the remake apart from the original version, which was based on a novel of the same name by Juko Nishimura, is the inclusion of female assassins, a first for a John Woo title.
John Woo visited Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, recently to promote the movie, along with his 'female Chow Yun-fat': South Korean actress Ha Ji-won, who stars as Rain the female killer in "Manhunt".
Cinema Online sat down with the director and talked to him about remaking the action thriller, working with his daughter Angeles Woo and the original Ken Takakura movie he previously planned to remake.
John Woo and "Manhunt" actress Ha Ji-won at the press conference in Malaysia.
Cinema Online: It's been 14 years since your last action thriller, what made you decide to come back to the genre?
John Woo: I am very fond of a Japanese actor named Ken Takakura. I wanted to have a chance to work with him but he passed away a few years ago. Then I got invited by Media Asia to remake this movie "Manhunt" and accepted it without considering much, since the original 1976 movie starred Ken Takakura.
Did you find it challenging to do this movie since there was already an original version in 1976?
Of course, there was the stress of being compared to the original movie. So I put in more of my own characters and style into the movie, creating something different from the original version.
Also, in your version, you decide to introduce female killers instead of the usual male.
Yes, it was a challenge because usually people only know about shooting male heroes but I believe I could also make a very good female hero so I took a try. I have to say we all appreciate Ha Ji-won, we love her performance and I found that she's a very emotional and great actress. Her actions look believable and great, there's even a kind of beauty to it.
What made you cast her as the first ever female assassin in your movie?
Honestly, I didn't know Ha Ji-won before the movie [laughs]. She was introduced to me and I thought, "Wow, this pretty lady, can she fight?" After I shot the movie, I thought, "Wow, Ha Ji-won has everything it takes to play a role as the killer!" It felt so beautiful.
Your daughter Angeles also plays an assassin in the movie, how was it like working with your own daughter?
I'm not stricter but more lenient. I treat her as a friend, same like any other actresses. This movie is a good practice for her, if she becomes a director herself, she will know how to communicate and work with other actors and actresses. She put in a lot of effort in all the action, same like Ha Ji-won.
John Woo said he had been working on a remake of 1981's "Station".
You're back in the action genre again but are there any other genres that you would like to give a shot at?
I always wanted to do a love story but I don't think a lot of people will believe I can make a great love story [laughs].
This movie was your way of commemorating Ken Takakura. Which other movies of his would you consider remaking if "Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare" wasn't on the list?
I love Ken Takakura's old time movie called "Station", that was the movie I really wanted to remake. That was a non-action movie so basically it's a love story, it's very beautiful and charming with a great performance. The film was shot in Hokkaido.
I've been working on that project for so many years, trying to work on the script but I couldn't, the film was such a classic. Then when Ken Takakura passed away I was so upset, I was trying to remake any of his films as a tribute.
Then I got a call from Media Asia, they had the script of "Manhunt". I was so thrilled, I took the project without asking anything. I think it was a great opportunity for me to make a film as a tribute to Ken Takakura and also to the movies in the '60s. I always love the movies in the old time, they give me a lot of inspiration and great memory.
Since you didn't get the chance to work with Ken Takakura, are there any other actors and actresses you'd like to work with while you have the chance to?
There's so many. But I like Nicholas Tse. His performance is pretty natural. I'd like to work with Takashi again, Tony Lau, good old friends. Ha Ji-won and my daughter Angeles, too.
Are you working on anything else next?
My next project is going to be an American film, it's a female assassin story. Another John Woo-style movie but with a female hero. It is similar to a Hong Kong film called "The Killer". We're planning to shoot it in spring time next year in Europe.
Cinema Online, 25 November 2017