Woo strikes gold on 'Ninja'

Will helm film; game is in works

John Woo is attached to direct and produce "Ninja Gold," a new intellectual property from video game creator Warren Spector.

Spector is best know for creating such games as "Deus Ex," "Thief: Deadly Shadows" and "System Shock." Fox Atomic will release the eventual film, with Woo's Lion Rock Prods. and frequent Woo collaborator Terrence Chang producing. Spector will executive produce.

" 'Ninja Gold' is a great property that is rich in mythology and perfect for John's unique visual style," Fox Atomic president of production Debbie Liebling said. "It speaks directly to Atomic's core audience of young adults, and I think they are going to love it."

"Ninja" centers on a ninja warrior, part of a centuries-old legacy and bloodline, forced to confront the reality of covert warfare in the modern world.

"The game concept is actually based on facts that the Yakuza and the Russian mob are involved in tons of gold being stolen in South Africa," Chang said.

Added Spector: "The idea actually started with John Woo. He wanted to do something involving traditional ninjas in a modern-day setting, and the idea just resonated with me. I was intrigued with the idea of what happens when the traditional and the contemporary come into conflict. And, to say the least, I was very interested in working with John on a project. I'm just a huge fan."

Spector said Woo was intimately involved in the creation of the "Ninja" cast of characters, especially the hero. He said Woo's input on the basic situations and thematic underpinnings of the story puts him in a great position to develop the film property without a lot of assistance from the game creators.

Chang said the film will be more reality-based but still will have fantastic elements from the game. He said the hope is to put the film into production next year, but that requires a script to be completed by then. No timetable or publisher has been announced for the game.

The collaboration between one of the biggest names in video games and one of the top action filmmakers took a different approach to creation. Spector said that typically, someone from Hollywood shops a film idea around to game publishers and developers in the hopes of getting a licensed game going. Somewhat less typically, a game developer will come up with a game that hits big enough to interest the movie folks.

"What happened with 'Ninja Gold' was very different and, to my mind, much cooler. I know that my thought from the start was to develop something that would work just as well in games as in movies, and I know John was thinking along the same lines," Spector said. "This was an attempt to create a concept that would work in, and be developed for, a variety of media simultaneously. That's something new for games -- and for movies."

Woo has been at the forefront of the collaboration, creating his own game studio, Tiger Hill Games, in May 2003. Through a publishing deal with Midway Games, its first title, "John Woo's Stranglehold," ships in August for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game is a virtual sequel to Woo's "Hard Boiled" and features Chow Yun-Fat reprising his role digitally for the game. Woo directed the game's motion capture and was involved in the game's creation.

The PS3 "Stranglehold" Blu-ray Disc will have the game and the original "Hard Boiled" movie on the same disc. Once the game has launched, there's the potential for a film based on the new story.

"We would definitely bring 'Stranglehold' to the big screen," Chang said. "We want to be very selective about producing games. We would like game titles to have all kinds of possibility. Having a movie made from them is certainly a major consideration for deciding on a title."

Spector, Woo and Chang are represented by CAA. Tom Hansen and Stuart Brookman are the attorneys for Woo and Chang.