John Woo Says Lupita Nyong’o No Longer Attached To ‘The Killer’ Remake, Talks ‘Face/Off’ Reboot, Chimes In On Superhero Movie Debate

Johnny Ng/HIFF

There is good news and bad news about John Woo’s forthcoming remake of his 1989 crime drama The Killer. The good news is that it’s still being made. The bad news is that Lupita Nyong’o is no longer attached to the project. The iconic director shared the news about Nyong’o leaving the project with Deadline at the Hawaii International Film Festival, where he was receiving the festival’s Halekulani Lifetime Achievement Award.

“There was a scheduling problem because she’s so popular right now!” said Woo about Nyong’o’s exit. “We rewrote the script and it took so much time…she had to leave for another project.”

Deadline initially broke the news that Nyong’o was going to star in the film at Universal, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. It is unfortunate that the Us star had to drop out as many were looking forward to seeing her in the gender-flipped take on the classic starring Chow Yun-fat. Woo said that they are moving on and the lead is still going to be a woman.

“The biggest reason why I wanted to do this movie again because [I wanted] ‘the killer’ to be a woman — that’s exciting to me,” said Woo. “It will make the movie have a different look.”

Woo explains that he has seen many female action stars and felt that there was soul missing from their performances. He wanted to create a complex female action star that just doesn’t just fight well but wanted to bring a prominent element of emotion and humanity to the role. He said that Nyong’o was at the top of his list because of her acting capability, but now that she is out, they have just started looking for a new leading woman for The Killer. Woo said that they don’t necessarily need to cast an action star in the film because his specialty is to make any actor “look like an action star.” He smiled, “I have that gift.”

The Killer is not the only Woo film on deck to get an update. Paramount recently revealed their plans to reboot his 1997 action-thriller Face/Off starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. Woo said he wasn’t informed that the studio was rebooting the film and won’t be involved in it. He added that he suggested a sequel a long time ago so he is glad this new iteration is being made.

Being an action film director with an affinity for larger-than-life, explosive double-gun action scenes complete with flying doves, many would think that Woo would be a great director for a Marvel or DC film. In fact, Woo said that the late, great Stan Lee actually approached him before the pre-MCU to helm a superhero pic, but he turned it down — and his answer would be the same today.

“I don’t have that gift,” he admitted. “I’m not a sci-fi guy — I don’t think I could make a good one. There’s so much imagination… I don’t think I can reach that level.”

Woo appreciates how the films entertain and make money, but has some reservations about and says that he agrees with Martin Scorsese’s much-talked-about take on comic book movies.

“I’m concerned about when these movies get more and more popular, I’m afraid it will make young audiences get lost when it comes to knowledge about film,” he said, adding that these movies have become the standard for younger audiences and that they won’t have the desire to study or watch what Mr. Scorsese refers to as “real cinema” such as Lawrence of Arabia, Mean Streets, A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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