As the director of such crash-bam action fests as ”Face/Off,” ”Broken Arrow,” and ”Mission: Impossible II,” John Woo doesn’t necessarily seem like the go-to guy for the serious World War II drama ”Windtalkers,” starring Nicolas Cage. Then again, when it comes to ultimate action, it’s hard to top wartime. EW.com talked to Woo, 55, about why action fans won’t be seeing the same elaborate onscreen violence from him for a while, and what the Pink Panther has to do with it.
The movie implies that some of the Navajo ”code talkers” were tortured and killed by the Japanese, who hoped to learn the code from them. Is that true?
We have heard that one or two code talkers were captured by the Japanese and tortured, but some people said it wasn’t true, and some said it was, and others wouldn’t give us answers. But it made for strong drama.
You recently became a U.S. citizen. Did that have an impact on your decision to direct ”Windtalkers”?
I’ve been a citizen for five years, so I feel like I have a duty to tell this story. I feel there are a lot of great people in this country who have given so much, and I want people to know about them. I’ve been learning more and more about America and its history, and it’s made me so proud to be an American. That’s especially true after Sept. 11. What I learned is that the people here are really united, and they’ve all come together, so brave and patriotic.
Most Americans have a very Euro-centric view of World War II. Do you have a different perspective from growing up in China?
I’ll never forget what happened to us during World War II, since the Japanese attacked China. Even though I was just a boy after the war, my parents told me the stories. Because of that, I learned to hate war.
Was it hard to do a war movie?
When I heard about the Navajo code talkers, I thought they were wonderful people who gave their hearts for their country. The movie is also about friendship, which is always a theme in my films. I wanted to make a movie that would make people realize war is no good for anyone. Only friendship is forever. I didn’t pay much attention to the enemy side, because I wanted to put my focus on the friendships and redemption in the movie.