Lupita Nyong'o will play the titular assassin in John Woo's remake of his own Hong Kong action classic The Killer. In the late '80s and early '90s, no action filmmaker was more influential than Hong Kong auteur John Woo. Beginning with 1986's A Better Tomorrow, Woo unleashed a string of acclaimed films featuring his signature hyper-stylized, balletic approach to violence (not to mention his fascination with doves and shots of people pointing guns at each other's faces). It seemed everyone in Hollywood then began imitating Woo's action scenes, though few could match his artful effect.
Woo arguably reached the pinnacle of his art with 1989's The Killer, starring Hong Kong legend Chow Yun-Fat in a classic story of a hitman looking to pull off one final job and leave the life forever. Hollywood soon came calling, and Woo found himself directing not-exactly-classic vehicles starring the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme (Hard Target) and Christian Slater (Broken Arrow). But Woo did finally manage to create a couple of memorable Hollywood movies with the Nicolas Cage-John Travolta face-swap thriller Face/Off, followed by Mission: Impossible II.
Once a legitimately big name in action films, Woo has faded from the scene in recent years. However, the director may be plotting a comeback with his new project set up at Universal. As reported by Deadline, Woo will direct a remake of his classic The Killer, with Lupita Nyong'o set to step into the lead role originally played by Chow Yun-Fat. Eran Creevy (Collide) penned the script based on an original draft by Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken (10 Cloverfield Lane). Brian Helgeland (Man On Fire) reportedly will come aboard to give the script another pass. Woo at one time was reported to be developing a 3D remake of The Killer through Essential Entertainment (getting Universal involved is obviously a big step up).
For Nyong'o, The Killer marks another milestone on her climb from acclaimed supporting actress to bonafide action star. The actress first rose to prominence in the drama 12 Years a Slave, for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Nyong'o then made the leap to franchise films in a performance capture role as Han Solo's mysterious old friend Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Nyong'o would reprise the role of Kanata, however briefly, in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And of course, this year the actress stars as Nakia in the blockbuster Black Panther.
There's no question Woo was once one of the most important action filmmakers in the world, if not the most important. There's also no question it's been a long time since he made a movie that registered in any major way in the United States. The fact that Universal is fast-tracking The Killer likely is a reflection of calls for more diverse action vehicles and what Nyong'o brings to the table in terms of star power. It's interesting, though, that they will have Woo direct the remake himself rather than snag a female director. Then again, who better to remake The Killer than the man who created the original classic? Assuming Woo still has the old magic.