Lee at the 2009 Venice International Film Festival
October 23, 1954 |
Chaochou, Pingtung, Taiwan
|Education||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign|
|Alma mater||Tisch School of the Arts of New York University|
|Occupation||Film director, producer, screenwriter|
|Notable work||Pushing Hands
The Wedding Banquet
Eat Drink Man Woman
Sense and Sensibility
The Ice Storm
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Life of Pi
|Spouse(s)||Jane Lin (林惠嘉) (m. 1983)|
|Children||Haan Lee (b. 1984)
Mason Lee (b. 1990)
Lee's earlier films, such as The Wedding Banquet, Pushing Hands, and Eat Drink Man Woman explored the relationships and conflicts between tradition and modernity, Eastern and Western. Lee also deals with repressed, hidden emotions in many of his films, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; The Ice Storm; Hulk; and Brokeback Mountain. Lee's work is known for its emotional charge, which critics believe is responsible for his success in offsetting cultural barriers and achieving international recognition.
Lee has won the Academy Award for Best Director twice: for Brokeback Mountain (2005) and for Life of Pi (2012). He also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). He is the first person of Asian descent to win an Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA for Best Director, and is the only director to win both the Golden Bear and Golden Lion multiple times.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 2.1 Debut from Taiwan
- 2.2 Arrival in Hollywood
- 2.3 1999 onward
- 2.4 Directing for television
- 2.5 Recurring collaborators
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Filmography
- 5 Accolades
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Childhood and education
Ang Lee was born in a Waishengren family and lived in a Military dependents' village of the Republic of China Armed Forces located at Chaochou, Pingtung, a southern agricultural county in Taiwan. He grew up in a household that put heavy emphasis on education and the Chinese classics. Both of Lee's parents moved to Taiwan from Mainland China following the Chinese Nationalists' defeat in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Lee's father imbued his children with studying Chinese culture and art, especially calligraphy.
Lee studied in the Provincial Tainan First Senior High School (now National Tainan First Senior High School) where his father was the principal. He was expected to pass the annual Joint College/University Entrance Examination, the only route to a university education in Taiwan. But after failing the exam twice, to the disappointment of his father, he entered a three-year college, the National Arts School (now reorganized and expanded as National Taiwan University of Arts), and graduated in 1975. His father had wanted him to become a professor, but he had become interested in drama and the arts at college. This early frustration set his career on the path of performance art. Seeing Ingmar Bergman's film The Virgin Spring (1960) was a formative experience for him.
After finishing his mandatory military service in the Republic of China Navy (ROCN), Lee went to the US in 1979 to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he completed his bachelor's degree in theater in 1980. Originally, Lee was interested in acting, but his challenges with speaking English made it difficult and he quickly turned to directing. At UIUC, Lee met his future wife Jane Lin (Chinese: 林惠嘉; pinyin: Lín Huìjiā), also a Taiwanese student, who pursued her Ph.D. degree. Thereupon, he enrolled at the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University, where he received his MFA in film production. He was a classmate of Spike Lee and worked on the crew of his thesis film, Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads.
During graduate school, Lee finished a 16mm short film, Shades of the Lake (1982), which won the Best Drama Award in Short Film in Taiwan. His own thesis work, a 43-minute drama, Fine Line (1984), won NYU's Wasserman Award for Outstanding Direction and was later selected for the Public Broadcasting Service.
Life after graduation
Lee's NYU thesis drew attention from the William Morris Agency, the famous talent and literary agency that later represented Lee. At first, though, WMA found Lee few opportunities, and Lee remained unemployed for six years. During this time, he was a full-time house-husband, while his wife Jane Lin, a molecular biologist, was the sole breadwinner for the family of four. This arrangement put enormous pressure on the couple, but with Lin's support and understanding, Lee did not abandon his career in film but continued to generate new ideas from movies and performances. He also wrote several screenplays during this time.
In 1990, Lee submitted two screenplays, Pushing Hands and The Wedding Banquet, to a competition sponsored by Taiwan's Government Information Office, and they came in first and second, respectively. The winning screenplays brought Lee to the attention of Li-Kong Hsu (Chinese: 徐立功; pinyin: Xú Lìgōng), a recently promoted senior manager in a major studio who had a strong interest in Lee's unique style and freshness. Hsu, a first-time producer, invited Lee to direct Pushing Hands, a full-length feature that debuted in 1991.
Debut from Taiwan
The 'Father Knows Best' trilogy
Pushing Hands (1992) was a success in Taiwan both among critics and at the box office. It received eight nominations in the Golden Horse Film Festival, Taiwan's premier film festival. Inspired by the success, Li-Kong Hsu collaborated with Lee in their second film, The Wedding Banquet (1993), which won the Golden Bear at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated as the Best Foreign Language Film in both the Golden Globe and the Academy Awards. In all, this film collected eleven Taiwanese and international awards and made Lee a rising star. These first two movies were based on stories of Chinese Americans, and both were filmed in the US.
In 1995, Hsu invited Lee to return to Taiwan to make Eat Drink Man Woman, a film that depicts traditional values, modern relationships, and family conflicts in Taipei. The film was a box office hit and was critically acclaimed. For a second consecutive year, Lee's film received the Best Foreign Language Film nomination in both the Golden Globe and Academy Awards, as well as in the British Academy Award. Eat Drink Man Woman won five awards in Taiwan and internationally, including the Best Director from Independent Spirit.
Arrival in Hollywood
Sense and Sensibility
Lee's three acclaimed first dramas opened the door to Hollywood for him. In 1995, Lee directed Columbia TriStar's British classic Sense and Sensibility. The switch from Taiwanese to British films did not prevent Lee's work from garnering awards: Sense and Sensibility made Lee a second-time winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. It was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, and won Best Adapted Screenplay for screenwriter Emma Thompson, who also starred in the movie alongside Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet. Sense and Sensibility also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama. Thompson has described the experience of working with Lee in his first English language film, noting how taken aback Lee was when the actors asked questions or provided suggestions, something Thompson notes as uncommon in Taiwanese culture. Once this disjuncture was bridged, Thompson remembered having "the most wonderful time because his notes were so brutal and funny."
After this, Lee directed two more Hollywood movies: The Ice Storm (1997), a drama set in 1970s suburban America, and Ride with the Devil, an American Civil War drama (1999). Although the critics still highly praised these latter two films, their box office was not impressive, and for a time this interrupted Lee's unbroken popularity – from both general audiences and arthouse aficionados – since his first full-length movie. However, in the late 1990s and 2000s, The Ice Storm had high VHS and DVD sales and rentals and repeated screenings on cable television, which has increased the film's popularity among audiences.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
In 1999, Li-Kong Hsu, Lee's old partner and supporter, invited him to make a movie based on the traditional Chinese “wuxia” (martial arts and chivalry) genre. Excited about the opportunity to fulfill his childhood dream, Lee assembled a team from the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Mainland China for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). The film was a surprising success worldwide. With Chinese dialogue and English subtitles, the film became the highest grossing foreign film in many countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, and was nominated in 10 categories at the Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Director. It ended up winning Best Foreign Language Film and three technical awards. The success of Crouching Tiger demonstrated that Lee's artistry had a general appeal; it also inspired such established directors as Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige to explore wuxia films for Western audiences.
In 2003, Lee returned to Hollywood to direct Hulk, his second big-budget movie after the disappointment of Ride with the Devil's restricted release. The film received mixed reviews and became a moderate success, grossing over $245 million at the box office. After the setback, Lee considered retiring early, but his father encouraged him to continue making movies.
Lee decided to take on a small-budget, low-profile independent film based on Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-finalist short story, Brokeback Mountain. In a 2005 article  by Robert K. Elder, Lee was quoted as saying, "What do I know about gay ranch hands in Wyoming?" In spite of the director's removal from the subject at hand, Brokeback Mountain showcased Lee's skills in probing the depths of the human heart. The 2005 movie about the forbidden love between two Wyoming sheepherders immediately caught public attention and became a cultural phenomenon, initiating intense debates and becoming a box office hit.
The film was critically acclaimed at major international film festivals and won Lee numerous Best Director and Best Picture awards worldwide. Brokeback Mountain was the most acclaimed film of 2005, winning 71 awards and an additional 52 nominations. It won the Golden Lion (best film) award at the Venice International Film Festival and was named 2005's best film by the Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and London film critics. It also won best picture at the 2005 Broadcast Film Critics Association, Directors Guild of America, Writers Guild of America (Adapted Screenplay), Producers Guild of America and the Independent Spirit Awards as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama, with Lee winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Director. Brokeback also won Best Film and Best Director at the 2006 British Academy Awards (BAFTA). Brokeback Mountain was nominated for a leading eight Oscars and was the front runner for Best Picture heading into the March 5 ceremony, but lost out to Crash, a story about race relations in Los Angeles, in a controversial upset. He became the first non-white person to ever win the Best Director at the Academy Awards (when he won again for Life of Pi, he became the second non-white person to win). In 2006, following his Best Director Oscar, Ang Lee was bestowed the Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon, the second highest civilian honour, by the Taiwanese government.
After Brokeback Mountain, Lee returned to a Chinese topic. His next film was Lust, Caution, which was adapted from a short novel by the Chinese author Eileen Chang. The story was written in 1950, and was loosely based on an actual event that took place in 1939–1940 in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, China, during World War II. Similar to Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee adapted and expanded a short, simple story into a feature film in a way that allows individual figures to develop sophisticated layers of reserved emotions, without being sidetracked by complicated plots or overstuffed material.
Lust, Caution was distributed by Focus Features and premiered at international film festivals in the summer and early fall of 2007. In the US, the movie received a NC-17 rating (no one 17 and under admitted) from the MPAA mainly due to several strongly explicit sex scenes. This was a challenge to the film's distribution because many theater chains in the United States refuse to show NC-17 films. The director and film studio decided not to appeal the decision. Lee removed 9 minutes from the film to make the content suitable for minor audiences in order to be permitted to show Lust, Caution in mainland China.
Lust, Caution captured the Golden Lion from the 2007 Biennale Venice Film Festival, making Lee the winner of the highest prize for the second time in three years (Lee is one of only four filmmakers to have ever won the Golden Lion twice). When Lust, Caution was played in Lee's native Taiwan in its original full-length edition, it was very well received. Staying in Taiwan to promote the film and to participate in a traditional Chinese holiday, Lee got emotional when he found that his work was widely applauded by fellow Taiwanese. Lee admitted that he had low expectations for this film from the US audience since "its pace, its film language – it's all very Chinese." Indeed, the film was ignored by the Oscars, receiving zero nominations, despite the generally positive critical reception and the fact most of Ang Lee's past films had received multiple Academy Award nominations. It was snubbed even from consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category; after being officially submitted by Taiwan, the Academy ruled that an insufficient number of Taiwanese nationals had participated in the production, thus disqualifying it from further consideration.
Life of Pi
The story was a retrospective first-person narrative from Pi, a then 16-year-old boy from India, who is the only human to survive the sinking of a freighter on the way from India to Canada. He finds himself on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a hyena, a wounded zebra and a Bengal tiger. During this unlikely journey, young Pi questions his belief in God and the meaning of life. The novel was once considered impossible to make into a movie, but Lee persuaded 20th Century Fox to invest $120 million and heavily relied on 3D special effects in post-production. Unlike most other sci-fi precedents, Lee explores the artistic horizon of applying 3D effects and pushes the boundary of how this technology can serve the movie's artistic vision. The movie made its commercial premiere during the Thanksgiving weekend of 2012 in the US and worldwide and became a highly critical and box office success. In January 2013, Life of Pi earned 11 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Visual Effects; only one fewer than Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. He went on to win the Academy Award for Best Director.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Thrilla in Manila
In 2013, Ang Lee began development on the project with a screenplay written by Peter Morgan, but later put it on hold in 2014 in order for Lee to make Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. In December 2015, it was announced that the project, tentatively titled Thrilla in Manila, was indeed his next project once he finished his work on Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. David Oyelowo and Ray Fisher are reportedly Lee’s top choices for the leading roles.
Directing for television
In March 2013, it was announced that Lee will direct a television pilot for the drama series Tyrant, created by Gideon Raff and developed by Howard Gordon and Craig Wright. Production was scheduled for the summer of 2013 for the FX series. However, Lee decided to quit the project to take a break from his hectic schedule.
Ang Lee has had a career-long collaboration with producer and screenwriter James Schamus and editor Tim Squyres. He has also worked several times with music composer Mychael Danna and a few times with Danny Elfman.[b]
|Year||Title||James Schamus||Tim Squyres||Mychael Danna||Danny Elfman|
|1993||The Wedding Banquet||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1994||Eat Drink Man Woman||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1995||Sense and Sensibility||Yes||Yes|
|1997||The Ice Storm||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1999||Ride with the Devil||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2000||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2012||Life of Pi||Yes||Yes|
Lee lives in Larchmont, in Westchester County, New York, with his wife Jane Lin, a microbiologist, whom he married in 1983. They have two sons, Haan (born 1984), and Mason (born 1990). Lee is a naturalized US citizen and a Buddhist. His younger son Mason Lee starred in the Hollywood blockbuster movie The Hangover Part II as Teddy.
Lee has been involved in the process of filmmaking in various capacities, though the highlight of his career and legacy is his directorial work. The following are Lee's various credits.
|1993||The Wedding Banquet||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1994||Eat Drink Man Woman||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1995||Sense and Sensibility||Yes|
|1997||The Ice Storm||Yes|
|1999||Ride with the Devil||Yes|
|2000||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Yes||Yes|
|2012||Life of Pi||Yes||Yes||Cameo|
|2016||Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk||Yes||Yes|
Below are Ang Lee's films' major nominations and awards.
|Year||Film||Academy Award nominations||Academy Award wins||BAFTA nominations||BAFTA wins||Golden Globe nominations||Golden Globe wins|
|1993||The Wedding Banquet||1||1|
|1994||Eat Drink Man Woman||1||1||1|
|1995||Sense and Sensibility||7||1||12||3||6||2|
|1997||The Ice Storm||2||1||1|
|1999||Ride with the Devil|
|2000||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||10||4||14||4||3||2|
|2012||Life of Pi||11||4||9||2||3||1|
Awards and nominations received by Ang Lee
- a.^ In the 2007 book The Cinema of Ang Lee: The Other Side of the Screen, Whitney Crothers Dilley has analyzed in detail the striking diversity of Lee's films, as well as Lee's recurring themes of alienation, marginalization, and repression. Many of Lee's films, particularly his early Chinese trilogy, have also focused on the interactions between modernity and tradition.
- b.^ Mychael Danna was originally hired to score Hulk, but he was removed from the project, apparently at the request of the studio, and another composer completed the final score. Ang Lee spoke publicly about this in 2012 at a director's roundtable, calling it the moment he regretted most in his career. Danna subsequently received his first Oscar nomination and went on to win that award for scoring Life of Pi, his first reunion with Lee since that time.
- Williams, Sarah (February 20, 2013). "'Life of Pi's Ang Lee Conquers Anti-Asian Bias". Voice of America. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
Like many Asian-Americans in Hollywood's film industry, Taiwanese-born American film director Ang Lee struggled for acceptance early in his career.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Corliss, Richard (November 20, 2012). "Ang Lee's Life of Pi: Storm and Fang, Water and Wonder". Time. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
The Taiwan-born American director mastered the nuances of 19th-century English manners in Sense and Sensibility, set martial-artist adversaries to dancing on tree tops in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and sold the mainstream audience on the love story of two cowboys in Brokeback Mountain.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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- Interview from Studio 360
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- Wei Ming Dariotis, Eileen Fung, "Breaking the Soy Sauce Jar: Diaspora and Displacement in the Films of Ang Lee," in Hsiao-peng Lu, ed., Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997), p. 242.
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- "Lee, Schamus Discuss Film Collaborations".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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- Senses of Cinema: Great Directors Critical Database
- Ang Lee 64th Venice Film Festival press conference
- DGA Quarterly interview
- Ang Lee: A Life in Pictures at BAFTA
- A Never-Ending Dream - A short essay by Ang Lee on his road to success
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