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John Woo on ‘Brothers,’ Bringing Hollywood to China (And Back Again)

May 4th, 2012 by Sheila Dichoso

John Woo Presents: 7 Brothers


You don’t need us to tell you this, but we’ll say it anyway: John Woo is a badass. Already hailed as a prolific filmmaker (See: The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, and Face/Off) and for orchestrating some of the most intricately stylish bullets-and-blood sequences ever made in film history,  Woo has also ventured into video games (Stranglehold) and graphic novels with 2006’s “Seven Brothers.” The latter has turned into an animated series called “John Woo Presents: 7 Brothers” that’s now available on Hulu in its entirety.

The master of action cinema recently emailed Hulu about his plans to take over the Internet and other future endeavors. For his benefit, we didn’t ask about his widely known predilection for doves. We’re sure he gets that a lot.

How did the story of “7 Brothers” come about?
I remember watching a movie based on a Chinese fable, which I used to read when I was young called “The Ten Brothers.” Each one had special abilities like super eyesight, super hearing, I thought that could be a good basis for this comic book series.

Why were you interested in doing a web series?
I also enjoy exploring new ways to tell a story [and to] find ways to challenge myself.  My first experience with creating content for the Internet was with the BMW short I did several years ago.  Currently I’m producing a live action web series.  So it seemed only natural to find a way to bring the “7 Brothers” comic to the web.

You’re known for riveting, beautifully stylized action sequences. How do you interpret these intense scenes in print versus in film?
I think it’s more freeing in print to visualize fantastic action.  It’s possible in film more than ever before – but it’s much more expensive!

Would you want to work on another graphic novel sometime in the future?
It would be an honor to work on another graphic novel.  I have a few ideas based on properties I am currently working on.  As for “7 Brothers,” we’d love to do a spin-off or possibly produce a feature film based on it.  We’ll just have to see.

Do you have plans to come back to American cinema? There are rumors about potential adaptations of Mighty Mouse and Metroid and a remake of Papillon.
Well, I never left American cinema, really.  I have several projects that have taken several years to develop.  You just never know which projects move faster than others.  Lately, my Chinese projects seemed to outpace my Hollywood ones.  But next year I will be shooting two Hollywood films and two Chinese films right after that.  Ideally, I’d like to go back and forth but sometimes the nature of development can slow the process on one side or the other.  As for the rumors you mention, those were projects we were considering about probably about ten years ago!  Actually, the new ones will all be announced soon…!

Now that you’ve had a successful career in both markets, do you feel more influenced by Hong Kong or Hollywood cinema?
I’m quite influenced by French cinema, Italian cinema – I take inspiration from many places.

There was a recent article about the rise of U.S. and China co-produced films. Based on your experience with Red Cliff, why do you think these collaborations can be successful?
China is a growing market with a changing film industry. It’s an exciting time and place to be a part of.  Also, our world is shrinking… people travel more, live abroad, [and] experience other cultures through media and entertainment more than ever before.  I feel so lucky to be part of this new, unprecedented growth in China as well continue to be a part of all that is special about Hollywood.

The full series of  “John Woo Presents: 7 Brothers” is now available on Hulu. Check it out here.