The impossibly nice director behind Hong Kong action classics Bullet In The Head and The Killer, John Woo has been less sure-footed in Hollywood - although Face/Off was a big hit and Windtalkers underrated. His latest is Philip K Dick adaptation Paycheck, starring Ben Affleck as a man whose memory has been wiped and life is in danger. Woo tells you about his "charming" star, tearful movies, and why he couldn't help including a dove.
Were you a fan of Philip K Dick before you made Paycheck?
To be honest I hadn't read any of his books before Paycheck. But I had seen several movies made from his book, like Blade Runner and Minority Report and Total Recall. I was so amazed by those movies. I remember when I watched Blade Runner I cried, I was crying for the robot! I find Philip K Dick's work very human, besides having a lot of good ideas and some philosophy. Paycheck is a really clever script from a really clever book. It had a lot of great suspense, great surprise and a very good love story. It really interested me. It had a very good theme: a man's control over his own destiny. It really excited me.
There's just the one dove in this movie - was that a nod to your fans?
I didn't want to use it again at the beginning, but when we shot the scene about Michael Jennings [Ben Affleck] seeing his own death, I had the idea of cutting to the dove flying through the door - to make the moment more spiritual. I just couldn't help it. It is hard to change my own character.
Is it true that Matt Damon considered Paycheck?
Yeah, we talked to him about this project. He read the script. Unfortunately, he already had committed to another movie (The Bourne Identity) and he didn't want to repeat the same role, but he highly recommended Ben Affleck! And he said Ben will do it better than him. I love Ben, I love all his work, especially Good Will Hunting and Changing Lanes. I find he has a great charisma and he also remind me of the young Cary Grant.
What's he like to work with?
He's a real person. He's really right for the role. He's so humble, he's happy to work with anybody. The great thing about working with Ben is he's such a great filmmaker. He knows about movies. He helped me figure out some good dialogue, some good moments, he helped me a lot. Especially for the ending sequence. He came up with some very good ideas.
What was Uma Thurman like to work with?
She's a real actress. Extremely hard working. And a professional. Every time she came to the set she never like talking to anyone, just want to stay in a corner building up her emotion. And sometimes when I try to explain the camera angle for her, she never care. She never care if the camera saw her face or not. Some actors are very conscious about cameras. They all want the camera to see their face, make them look beautiful. She's not that type.
I think Uma and Ben have great chemistry and they're both very charming. The only problem working with them is I had to look up all the time! They're so tall. It made my neck hurt!