Responsible for some of cinema's most violent films, JOHN W00 gives John Travolta and Nicolas Cage a slice of the action in Face/Off.
Words: Hannah Fries
HE HAS DIRECTED some of cinema’s most violent action films. taken inspiration from Sam Peckinpah and. in turn. inspired Quentin Tarantino. Yet in the flesh. there‘s absolutely nothing about John Woo to suggest he enjoys blowing people sky high.
The director of Hong Kong gangster classics The Killer and Hard Boiled is a small. intelligent and polite tnan. He sits impassively. dressed in a formal suit not unlike a banker‘s. and talks warmly and respectfully about those he has worked with. Before leaving the room. he actually bows. But this politeness suggests something else — self-control. There can be no doubt that within him are forces of passion. ambition and vision on a scale most human beings can't match. and his awesome action spectaculars prove it.
The latest Woo movie is Face/(21f. starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. It is a daring and thrilling film. both for the jaw-dropping action sequences and for the plot in which Travolta and Cage swap characters (as their characters use radical surgery to swap faces) mid-way through the film. It sounds
implausible indeed. but suspension of
disbelief is possible because Travolta and
18 THE LIST 7-20 Nov 199/
Cage are both fine actors. able to mimic one another’s gestures. movements and vocal patterns.
‘Before ljoined the project. there had been some talk of using Arnold Swarxenegger to play the role of the FBI agent.‘ Woo says. adding politely. ‘but there would have been difficulty finding someone else to match him. he looks so much different. you know.’
For Woo. ‘the first person in my mind was John Travolta. We have a very good relationship from Broken Arrow. and I like
‘I like to show the guts of the stunt guy. to give them a hard time. When things blow up, when there's people flying, it feels more like a painting to me.’ John Woo
working with John because he is a real gentleman. He always likes helping other people and he always cares about other people. He is also a man with no ego.’
Woo‘s fondness for Travolta is un- mistakable. and he clearly values the star‘s personal modesty very highly. Woo is openly frustrated by the power games he has encountered in Hollywood since he moved
there from Hong Kong in 1992 to make Hard Target with Jean-Claude Van Damme.
“I'll never get used to the system over there.‘ says the director. ‘There's so much politics and games and egos — big egos. So