John Woo was surprised to receive an award honoring trailblazers who have made outstanding contributions to the art of filmmaking.
"I have made a lot of films, but it hardly qualifies as making a special contribution. I'm just a hard-working filmmaker," the Hong Kong director said in Tokyo before the award presentation. "I'm very thankful to receive this award and also very surprised."
Past recipients of the Tokyo International Film Festival's Samurai Award include fellow directors Takashi Kitano and Tim Burton.
Woo said when he began his career in the 1960s, he watched films from other countries, especially Japan, and is still inspired today by Japanese cinema.
"Japan has had so many great filmmakers, actors and writers," he said at Monday's ceremony.
The 1986 action drama "A Better Tomorrow" cemented Woo's place in Hong Kong cinema, breaking box-office records at the time. "The Killers" and "Hard Boiled" followed.
The director's signature style of bullet-flying action scenes or slow-motion gunfight sequences defined Hong Kong cinema in the '90s and led to Hollywood projects like "Face/Off" and "Mission: Impossible II."
The box office results of his first love story, last year's "The Crossing," were disappointing, but Woo was undeterred.
"Life has its ups and downs. If the people who collaborated with me are defeated, then I feel bad, and a bit sad."
His next film, a remake of the Japanese action classic "Manhunt," is in pre-production with the cast still to be set.
"I idolize Ken Takakura very much. I wanted to make a film in his memory that pays tribute to him. I also wanted to find an actor that has his aura and has a similar performing style. It is very hard to find someone like this," he explained.