Five ways John Woo makes a big bang

Pull a trigger, light a fuse — how complicated can a showdown be, anyway? Ask Hong Kong director John Woo, who made his name with hyper-violent action thrillers. Here are some of his rules for detonating a mega-blowout:

1. Beware of too many special effects or computer images. ”I hate to spend both the time and money on all those [computer-generated] shots. Focus on the emotional stuff.”

2. Give actors signature weapons. For his new film, Face/ Off, Woo offered Nicolas Cage a choice of guns; Cage, who plays a flashy terrorist, chose a dragon-embellished, gold-plated .45.

3. Make sure you have more control than your actors. Take the speedboat sequence Woo planned for 1993’s Hard Target. Just before the shot, star Jean-Claude Van Damme decided he’d rather do the scene on horseback — ”in the Louisiana bayou!” recalls Woo’s producing partner, Terence Chang. ”And then he wouldn’t get on a horse.” The chase shots had to be faked. Woo finally did get his speedboats in Face/Off.

4. Use storyboards to keep the producers happy… Though he never sketched out his Hong Kong bullet-fests, Woo bows to Hollywood convention: ”The crew needs to know to prepare…and the studio needs it for the budget breakdown.”

5. …And then dump the plan if a better one comes along. In Face/ Off, ”an idea came from somebody in the crew, and I loved it,” Woo says. ”Let the hero blow up the [plane’s] engine. That made some producers very paranoid. They said, ‘John, this is going to cost a lot, and we only have two days.”’ Woo’s team nailed it in 24 hours.