The first Asian filmmaker to helm a major Hollywood feature, John Woo initially emerged as the leading light of the Hong Kong action renaissance of the late '80s. Celebrated for his unique, much-imitated style -- a Molotov cocktail of graceful slow-motion sequences, staccato edits, freeze-frames, and dissolves -- Woo brought a new depth of emotion and visual beauty to the action genre, perfecting an operatic, highly stylized brand of mayhem laced with melodrama, savage wit, and homoerotic undercurrents.
Woo was born Wu Yu Sen on May 1, 1946, in the Guangzhou Canton Province of China, his parents relocating the family to Hong Kong three years later to escape life under communism. The Woos were quite poor, and were homeless for several years. His father, a philosopher, was later hospitalized with tuberculosis for over a decade. It was his mother who introduced Woo to the cinema, where he fell under the sway of American musicals and the films of the French New Wave, with Jean-Pierre Melville emerging as his greatest influence. After the death of his father, Woo was forced to leave school at the age of 16. He took a job at a newspaper called the Chinese Student Weekly, learning film theory by stealing books on motion pictures from area libraries and shops.