Berlin: John Woo Returns to Filmmaking in a Big Way With 'The Crossing'

The $40  million feature, dubbed "the Chinese 'Titanic'" by local media, is doing advance sales in Berlin.

With lensing done on The Crossing, John Woo’s return to movies after a four-year break, the legendary Hong Kong director is keen to show he is just as comfortable with a big love story as he is with violent shootouts.

Beijing Galloping Horse, the Chinese studio behind the $40 million feature, dubbed “the Chinese Titanic” by local media, is doing advance sales in Berlin.

The two-part feature, which is based on a true story, is a love story about three couples fleeing China for Taiwan on a steamer during the 1949 revolution. The ship sank after colliding with a freighter, claiming about 1,000 lives. “I’ve wanted to make this movie for a long time, because people always see me as an action director, but they don’t realize that I can make romantic love stories, too,” the Face/Off director tells THR. “I wanted to make a film that showed a turbulent period in modern history, to show how love can survive and overcome all difficulties.”

The film marks his return after a long time off, during which he had surgery to remove a tumor.

Woo says Wang Hui-Ling, who wrote Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, told him about the story during the shooting of Red Cliff in 2008. China Film Group and Zhejiang Huace Film & TV are backing the movie, with Woo and Terence Chang’s Lion Rock Productions banner attached. The movie, previously called 1949 and Love and Let Love, has been planned since 2009 but has run into script approval delays -- not surprising given that films about the revolutionary era tend to be extremely politically sensitive.

“This movie has several themes: It is firstly about fate, which means that in life, many things happen for reasons beyond your control,” Woo says. “You can make the best of plans, but ultimately what happens is not up to you. It is also about humanity, about how suffering brings out the best and worst in people. More importantly, this movie is also about hope. No matter what happens to you, no matter how difficult things become, things will always get better in the end.”

Woo is busy again after his illness, working on several projects, including Flying Tigers, a co-production between China Film Group and Netherlands-based Cyrte Investments about U.S. fighter pilots in WWII China, and a remake of Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 French classic Le Samourai.

He also is working on Day of the Beast, a remake of Seijun Suzuki’s 1963 yakuza movie. The movie features a pan-Asian cast, including China’s Zhang Ziyi, Huang Xiaoming, Tong Dawei, Qin Hailu and Wang Qianyuan, South Korea’s Song Hye-kyo, Taiwan’s Chang Chen and Japan’s Masami Nagasawa and Takeshi Kaneshiro.