John Woo did not expect Venice honor

'Jianyu' helmer thought fest's director was joking

VENICE -- Director John Woo became the first Chinese recipient of the Venice Film Festival's honorary Golden Lion for career achievement Friday.
Woo, who co-directed "Jianyu" (Reign of Assassins), which premiered Friday on the Venice Lido out of competition, returned to China two years ago after directing Hollywood films for 16 years, including Broken Arrow," "Face/Off" and "Mission Impossible 2." "Jianyu" is his third film since his return.
Venice artistic director Marco Mueller praised Woo in a press briefing before the award was officially presented.
"I don't feel we are bestowing an honor here," Mueller said. "The prize was simply there waiting for him."

For his part, Woo said he did not expect such an honor.

"When Marco called me, my first reaction was shock," Woo said. "Then I thought he might be joking. Then I felt emotional, and finally I was just grateful."
The festival declared Friday was John Woo Day on the Lido.

The official ceremony took place in a packed Palazzo del Cinema, just ahead of the world premiere of "Jianyu," which was co-directed by Chao-Bin Su.

The film, which is set in ancient China, tells the story of a female assassin trying to return the remains of a mystical monk to their rightful place. It stars Michelle Yeoh in the main role.
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