Houston Community News >> Woo Says Chow Yun-Fat Still a Friend

5/10/2007 HONG KONG - Chow Yun-fat's last-minute pullout from John Woo's new Chinese historical epic, "Red Cliff," threatened to split up one of Hong Kong cinema's most famous partnerships.

Woo made Chow an icon after casting him as a trench coat-wearing, gun-toting gangster in the 1986 Hong Kong classic, "A Better Tomorrow."

But Woo says that although Chow's withdrawal from "Red Cliff" was a heavy blow, he still considers him a friend.

"At the time I felt a rather great sense of defeat. I felt at a loss," the director said Thursday at a press conference to promote "Red Cliff" in Beijing. The press conference was broadcast live on the Chinese Web site Sina.com.

"Even though we couldn't work together under the circumstances, he's still one of the actors I admire the most, and my good friend."

Just as shooting got under way last month, Chow said he wanted to quit because he got the script late and didn't have enough time to prepare.

Woo's producer, Terence Chang, has disputed this, saying Chow got a copy of the script last year and that the movie's Hollywood insurers had rejected dozens of clauses in Chow's contract.

On Thursday, Woo paid an emotional tribute to Chow's replacement, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, as the actor sat nearby.

"Suddenly, I got a phone call. It was a very familiar voice expressing his concern, his worries. He offered great consolation. That was Tony Leung," he said.

"We were very touched. I'm very grateful. He offered support as a friend. He offered genuine concern," Woo said.

Leung had earlier pulled out of "Red Cliff" because it came too soon after his last movie, Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution." He rejoined the cast to take Chow's role.

Woo said the shoot is going smoothly despite the casting problems.

"We've shot for 14, 15 days. I feel very good about it," he said.

Woo also said the movie's reported $80 million budget is overstated but declined to give the exact figure.

(Contributed by AP)