Ang Lee

Ang Lee

Sense and Sensibility' (1995)

Background:

"Making a martial arts film in English to me is the same as John Wayne speaking
Chinese in a western." Ang Lee.

Taiwanese film director Ang Lee garnered international recognition while winning
the 2006 Academy Awards Best Director for the controversial romantic drama
Brokeback Mountain (2005; starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal). The New
York-based filmmaker has also created such highly-acclaimed films as Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000; nominated Academy Award Best Director and Best
Picture; won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film), Sense and
Sensibility (1995; nominated Academy Award Best Picture) and The Wedding Banquet
(1993; nominated Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film). He is now working on
his upcoming film project, Lust, Caution (a.k.a. Se jie), a WWII-era espionage
thriller adapted from Eileen Chang's short story.

One of today's greatest contemporary filmmakers, Ang Lee was named as one of
Time Magazine's TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World in 2006.


Taiwan Root

Childhood and Family:

"I don't know where I am, but I never know where I am. I was born in China, then
my parents moved to Taiwan, where we were outsiders, then to the States, then
back to China, then back here. I trust the elusive world created by movies more
than anything else. I live on the other side of the screen." Ang Lee.

In the town of Chaojhou in Pingtung, a southern agricultural county in Taiwan,
Ang Lee was born on October 23, 1954. Following the Nationalists' defeat in the
Chinese Civil War in 1949, Lee’s father, a scholar and school principal, escaped
to Taiwan, and his mother, Lee Yangsi, also moved to Taiwan after the
Revolution. Meanwhile, his paternal grandparents were put to death for being
landowners during the Communist revolution in mainland China.

Little Ang Lee was raised in a family that put strong emphasis on education and
the Chinese classics. His father filled his children with Chinese culture and
art studies, especially calligraphy.

Ang Lee attended the prestigious Tainan First Senior High School where his
father was principal. Instead of following his father’s will to become a
professor, Lee headed to Taipei to study acting. There, he enrolled a three-year
college, National Arts School (now reorganized and expanded as National Taiwan
University of Arts) and graduated in 1975. And after completing the mandatory
military service, he flew to the US in 1979 to study at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a B.F.A. Degree in Theatre/Theater
Direction in 1980. Subsequently, he went to the Tisch School of the Arts of New
York University, where he received a Masters Degree in Film Production.

"My father's family were liquidated during the Cultural Revolution in China
because they were landowners. He was the only one to escape. I was born and
brought up in Taiwan. But you absorb the trauma. My parents had no sense of
security. It was as if the world could turn against them at any moment." Ang
Lee.

In 1983, Ang Lee tied the knot with a molecular biologist named Janice Lin. The
couple happily married until now and has two sons: Haan (born 1984) and Mason
(born 1990).


Crouching Tiger

Career:

“It could be the hidden side of you; I think making movies is a great way to
release that. I think it is important to be honest with that, and have fun with
it.” Ang Lee.

While attending New York University, Ang Lee was Spike Lee’s classmate and
worked as assistant director on Spike Lee’s acclaimed master’s degree thesis
film, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads. In 1982, during graduate school,
Ang Lee finished a 16-mm short film, Shades of the Lake, which won the Best
Drama Award in Short Film in Taiwan. Two years later, he won Best Film and was
named Best Director in the NYU student film festival, thanks to his thesis work,
a 43-minute drama entitled Fine Line. Lee was subsequently chosen for the Public
Broadcasting Service.

Ang Lee’s thesis film attracted the attention of famous talent and literary
agency William Morris Agency (WMA), who later represented Lee. However, Lee
found a few opportunities there and became jobless for six years. During this
time, Lee wrote several screenplays and in 1990, he submitted two screenplays,
Pushing Hands and The Wedding Banquet, to a competition sponsored by Taiwan’s
Government Information Office. His works came in first and second respectively
and they caught the eye of producer Li-Kong Hsu, who offered Lee to direct
Pushing Hands.

Full-length feature Pushing Hands, debuted in 1991, received both critical and
commercially success in Taiwan. The dramatic comedy, which shows the contrast
between traditional Chinese ideas and the materialistic life style in the West,
nabbed eight nominations in the Golden Horse Film Festival, Taiwan’s premier
film festival.

Lee followed it up with the hit independent film The Wedding Banquet (1993),
which centers a gay Chinese-American man who marries a woman to satisfy his
nagging parents and get her a green card. The romantic drama comedy was highly
praised and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best
Foreign Language Film. And having collected eleven Taiwanese and international
awards, the film has helped to catapult Ang Lee’s name toward stardom.

In 1995, Lee reteamed with Hsu to create Eat Drink Man Woman, which follows a
renowned Taipei chef and widower who lives with his three attractive daughters.
The romantic drama comedy was once again a box office hit and was critically
acclaimed. It swept five awards in Taiwan and worldwide, including the Best
Director from Independent Spirit. Eat Drink Man Woman was later remade in the
2001 movie Tortilla Soup.

Hollywood eventually welcomed Lee. He helmed Columbia TriStar’s British
classical Sense and Sensibility in 1995. The film was adapted into big screen by
Emma Thompson (she also starred), who won a 1996 Academy Award for her work. It
also garnered six nominations in the Academy Awards, including one for Best
Picture, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama.

Another two Hollywood movies followed, The Ice Storm (1997) and Ride with the
Devil (1999). The Ice Storm (starring Kevin Kline, Joan Allen and Sigourney
Weaver), based on Rick Moody's novel, won Sigourney Weaver a Golden Globe for
Best Supporting Actress. Meanwhile, Ride with the Devil (starring Tobey Maguire
and Skeet Ulrich), inspired by Daniel Woodrell's novel, was less favored by
critics.

In 1999, Lee and long partner and supporter Hsu began making a movie about the
traditional Chinese’s martial art and chivalry, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(a.k.a. Wo hu cang long). The China-Hong Kong-Taiwan-USA co-production, based on
the fourth novel in a pentalogy by Wang Dulu, features an international Chinese
ethnic cast of Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen. Made on
an only $15 million budget, with dialogue in Mandarin, the movie became a
surprising global success. Released in 2000, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
grossed $128 million in the United States alone. It was also highly praised at
the Academy Awards, winning four awards at the prestigious ceremony, including
one for Best Foreign Language Film. It also won four BAFTA and two Golden Globe
awards.

Ang Lee returned to Hollywood in 2003 to work on his next project, Hulk. The
movie, which based on the comic book series The Incredible Hulk published by
Marvel Comics, stars Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, and
Nick Nolte. Hulk was Lee's first big-budget movie, but it was not well-received
by audiences and received generally lukewarm reviews.

2005 saw Ang Lee revived with the controversial romantic drama movie Brokeback
Mountain, adapted from the short story by Annie Proulx. The film that depicts
homosexuality between two cowboys (played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal),
had the most nominations (eight) for the 78th Academy Awards. The film finally
won three: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score. By
winning Best Director at the Academy Awards, Lee becomes the first Asian and the
first non-Caucasian ever to win the award. As for the film itself, although it
was widely considered to be the front-runner for the Academy Award winner for
Best Picture, Brokeback Mountain ultimately lost to Paul Haggis-directed film,
Crash. Meanwhile, in the BAFTA, Brokeback Mountain won four awards: Best Film,
Best Supporting Actor (Jake Gyllenhaal), Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Adapted
Screenplay (Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana), and another four awards at the
Golden Globe: Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director - Motion Picture (Ang
Lee), Best Screenplay (Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana), Best Song (Gustavo
Santaolalla and Bernie Taupin, "A Love That Will Never Grow Old").

“There's a private feeling to the movie, an intimate feeling. I think eventually
everybody has a 'Brokeback Mountain' in them. Someone you want to come back to.
And of course, some people don't come back.” Ang Lee.

Following his victory, Lee is now preparing another project entitled Lust,
Caution (a.ka. Se jie). It is a WWII-era espionage thriller set in Shanghai and
adapted from the short story by the famed Chinese author Eileen Chang. It was
announced that Tony Leung and film newcomer Tang Wei will star in the upcoming
film. The shooting is set to begin in fall 2006 and scheduled to be released in
2007.

"I'm experienced enough to know that the hardest thing to tell is an epic short
story; slices of life that add up to an epic feeling." Ang Lee.


Awards:

Academy Awards: Best Achievement in Directing, Brokeback Mountain, 2006
BAFTA: David Lean Award for Achievement in Directing, Brokeback
Mountain, 2006
Directors' Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in
Motion Pictures, Brokeback Mountain, 2006
Golden Globes: Best Director/Motion Picture, Brokeback Mountain, 2006
Independent Spirit: Best Director, Brokeback Mountain, 2006
Venice Film Festival: Golden Lion, Brokeback Mountain, 2005
National Board of Review: Best Director, Brokeback Mountain, 2005
BAFTA: David Lean Award for Achievement in Directing, Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon, 2001
Directors' Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in
Motion Pictures, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2001
Golden Globes: Best Director/Motion Picture, Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon, 2001
Independent Spirit: Best Director, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2001
BAFTA: Best Film not in the English Language, Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon, 2001
Independent Spirit: Best Feature, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2001,
shared with William Kong and Li-Kong Hsu
Toronto International Film Festival: People's Choice Award, Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000
Bodil: Best American Film, The Ice Storm, 1999
New York International Independent Film & Video Festival: Director's
Choice Award, The Wedding Banquet, 1999
Hawaii International Film Festival: Vision in Film Award, 1997
BAFTA: Best Film, Sense and Sensibility, 1996, shared with Lindsay Doran
National Board of Review: Best Director, Sense and Sensibility, 1995
Asia-Pacific Film Festival: Best Film, Eat Drink Man Woman, 1994
Berlin International Film Festival: Golden Berlin Bear, The Wedding
Banquet, 1993
Golden Horse Film Festival: Best Director, The Wedding Banquet, 1993
Seattle International Film Festival: Best Director, The Wedding Banquet,
1993
Asia-Pacific Film Festival: Best Film, The Wedding Banquet, 1992
 
I think I can work with any type of actor.More Ang Lee quotes [03/12/2018 02:03:32]
I am not particularly religious. But I think we do face the question of where God is, why we are created and where does life go, why we exist. That sort of thing. And it is very hard to talk about it these days, because it cannot be proven. It is hard to discuss it rationally.More Ang Lee quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]
I think each movie-making process is a very exhausting and satisfying and fulfilling experience for me.More Ang Lee quotes [03/12/2018 02:03:32]
I'm not a romantic. In life I didn't have much experience with romance.More Ang Lee quotes [03/12/2018 02:03:32]
I feel that everyone has a Hulk inside, and each of our Hulks is both scary and, potentially, pleasurable. That's the scariest thing about them.More Ang Lee quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]

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