John Woo

As a child growing up in a Hong Kong housing project, John Woo (born May 1, 1946, in Guangzhou, China) witnessed a man killed on his doorstep. He also saw plenty of movies, falling in love with American musicals and the French new wave. Both influences can be seen in Woo's own films -- operatically violent, highly stylized gangster thrillers that have redefined the action genre.

After working as an assistant director at the prolific Shaw Studios in the 1970s, Woo established himself with action comedies. It wasn't until the late '80s, however, that Woo would make the projects such as A Better Tomorrow and The Killer that would inspire Hollywood filmmakers, including Quentin Tarantino, with their singular look and balletic fight sequences.

Woo's American films include Hard Target, Face/Off (with Nicolas Cage and John Travolta) and the blockbuster Mission: Impossible II (2000).