Lee at the 2009 Venice International Film Festival
23 October 1954|
Chaozhou, Pingtung, Taiwan
|Residence||Larchmont, New York, U.S.|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (BA)|
Tisch School of the Arts of New York University (MFA)
Jane Lin (林惠嘉) (m. 1983)
"Ang Lee (Li An)" in Chinese characters
Ang Lee OBS (Chinese: 李安; pinyin: Lǐ Ān; born 23 October 1954) is a Taiwanese film director and screenwriter. 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'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. Soon after, Lee arrived in Hollywood with his first film Sense and Sensibility. Lee's films also deal heavily with repressed, hidden emotions in many of his films, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Ice Storm, Hulk, Sense and Sensibility, Life of Pi, and Brokeback Mountain. Lee won two Academy Awards for Best Director, for his work on Brokeback Mountain, and Life of Pi, becoming the first non-white person to win the award. He also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, receiving nominations for Best Picture and Best Director as well.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 2.1 Debut from R.O.C.
- 2.2 Arrival in Hollywood
- 2.3 1999 onward
- 2.4 Upcoming Projects
- 2.5 Directing for television
- 2.6 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, in a military dependents' village of the Republic of China Armed Forces, located at Chaochou, Pingtung, a southern agricultural county in Republic of China(Taiwan). Both of Lee's parents moved from Mainland China to Taiwan following the Chinese civil war in 1949. He grew up in a household that put heavy emphasis on education.
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 Republic of China. 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 student from Republic of China, 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 R.O.C. 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 Government Information Office of R.O.C., and they came in first and second, respectively. The winning screenplays brought Lee to the attention of Hsu Li-kong (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 R.O.C.
The 'Father Knows Best' trilogy
Pushing Hands (1991) was a success in R.O.C. both among critics and at the box office. It received eight nominations in the Golden Horse Film Festival, R.O.C.'s premier film festival. Inspired by the success, Hsu Li-kong 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 1994, Hsu invited Lee to return to Republic of China 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 R.O.C. and internationally, including the Best Director from Independent Spirit.
Arrival in Hollywood
Sense and Sensibility
In 1995, Lee directed Columbia TriStar's British classic Sense and Sensibility. This made Lee a second-time winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won Best Adapted Screenplay for screenwriter Emma Thompson, who also starred in the movie alongside Alan Rickman, 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 Chinese 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 (1999), an American Civil War drama. Although the critics still highly praised these latter two films, they were not particularly successful at the box office, 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, Hsu Li-kong, Lee's old partner and supporter, invited him to make a movie based on the traditional "wuxia" genre concerning the adventures of martial artists in ancient China. 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 while being a financial 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 distance 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 Mountain 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 5 March 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 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 R.O.C. government.
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 U.S., 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 won the Golden Lion twice). When Lust, Caution was played in Lee's native R.O.C. in its original full-length edition, it was very well received. Staying in R.O.C. to promote the film and to participate in a traditional 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 U.S. audience since "its pace, its film language;– it's all very Chinese." The film was ignored by the Oscars, receiving zero nominations. It was snubbed from consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category; after being officially submitted by R.O.C., the Academy ruled that an insufficient number of R.O.C. 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 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. He went on to win the Academy Award for Best Director.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Lee next directed Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk based on the novel of the same name. It was his first film since winning the Oscar for Best Director for Life of Pi. The film was released in November 2016, and received a mixed response from audiences and critics alike.
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 to make Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. In December 2015, it was announced that the project, tentatively titled Thrilla in Manila, would be his next film after Gemini Man. David Oyelowo and Ray Fisher are reportedly Lee’s top choices for the leading roles.
In April 2017, Ang Lee began discussions with Skydance Media to helm a sci-fi action film that follows a senior NSA official being hunted by a young clone of himself right as he is about to retire from the agency. The film is set to star Will Smith in the lead role with a release date set for 4 October 2019. In January 2018, it was announced that Clive Owen and Mary Elizabeth Winstead had been cast as the antagonist and female lead respectively.
Directing for television
In March 2013, it was announced that Lee would 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|
|2016||Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk||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 sometimes described as a naturalized US citizen, but he claims that he is a permanent resident of United States. Lee is a Buddhist.
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|
|2002||The Hire (segment The Chosen)||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|
|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 (20 February 2013). "'Life of Pi's Ang Lee Conquers Anti-Asian Bias". Voice of America. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
Like many Asian-Americans in Hollywood's film industry, Chinese-born American film director Ang Lee struggled for acceptance early in his career.
- Corliss, Richard (20 November 2012). "Ang Lee's Life of Pi: Storm and Fang, Water and Wonder". Time. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
The Chinese-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.
- "Life of Pi - film that transcends global emotions". indiatimes.com. 27 September 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
- "Speaking a Universal Language: Director Ang Lee". gotoread.com. Archived from the original on 5 May 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
- "Ang Lee and His Thoughts". asian-nation.org. 28 December 2005. Retrieved 28 December 2005.
- Phippen, Richard (18 November 2008). "Ang Lee's Hulk - FOR (& Against)". sky.com. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2008.
- "The Western look Ang Lee: everywhere, nor sets traces". best-news.us. 12 March 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- "Kevin Kline, Ang Lee, and Sigourney Weaver on "The Ice Storm"". filmscouts.com. 4 June 2010. Archived from the original on 25 February 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- Template:Ang Lee speaks of his attachment to Taiwan
- Ho Yi. Family and friends praise Ang Lee's quiet dedication. Taipei Times. 7 March 2006.
- Lipworth, Elaine (26 April 2013). "Ang Lee: My family values". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
- Interview from Studio 360 Archived 11 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
- HBO Directors Dialogues: Ang Lee. 5 October 2012 – via YouTube.
- "Ang Lee: A Never-Ending Dream". gotoread.com. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- "Berlinale: 1993 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
- "The 66th Academy Awards (1994) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
- 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.
- "Emma Thompson: A Life in Pictures". BAFTA Guru. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
- "Lee sees his `Brokeback Mountain' as a unifying force". Chicago Tribune. 9 September 2015.
- "Presidential Office mulling honor for Ang Lee". Focus Taiwan News Channel. 23 February 2013.
- AFP (11 September 2007). "Ang Lee bows to China and self-censors award-winning film". Yahoo! News.
- Min Lee, Associated Press (23 September 2007). "Ang Lee: Don't expect much from 'Lust, Caution'". USA Today.
- "Ang Lee to head Venice festival". BBC News. 27 February 2009. Archived from the original on 27 February 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2009.
- "Life of Pi". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
- "Life of pi succession".
- Saperstein, Pat (23 April 2013). "Nicole Kidman, Christopher Waltz, Ang Lee Among Cannes Jury Members". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- "Ang Lee's Next Film Is A 3D Drama About Boxing History". 8 August 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
- "The Unfortunate Reason Ang Lee's Groundbreaking Ali/Frazier Biopic Might Not Happen". 15 September 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
- "Ang Lee's 3D 'Thrilla in Manila' Boxing Movie Is Back On". ScreenCrush. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
- Cabin, Chris (22 April 2017). "Ang Lee Eyed to Direct Twisty Actioner 'Gemini Man' for Skydance". Collider.
- Lee, Ashley (6 July 2017). "Ang Lee's 'Gemini Man' Gets October 2019 Release". The Hollywood Reporter.
- Kondolojy, Amanda (14 March 2013). "Ang Lee to Direct FX Drama Pilot 'Tyrant'". FX press release. TV by the Numbers. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
- "Ang Lee walks away from debut TV project". msn.com. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- "Lee, Schamus Discuss Film Collaborations". Archived from the original on 27 March 2009.
- Frey, Jennifer (25 November 2007). "A Chicken Coop, but No Tigers". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
- Frater, Patrick (4 October 2007). "Taiwan breaking the arthouse mold". Variety.
- Abramowitz, Rachel (27 August 2009). "Ang Lee, hippie?". Los Angeles Times.
- "Ang Lee 'very satisfied' new film shown in entirety". The China Post. Archived from the original on 21 February 2012.
- "戰爭人性與電影科技 李安：視覺對我是信仰 [Humanity during War and Film Technologies: Interview of Ang Lee]". 中天的夢想驛站 (in Standard Chinese). 12 November 2016. Event occurs at 23:20. CtiTV.
我很想跟他們講其實我也沒有入美國籍，我拿的還是綠卡。(I want to tell them that I am not naturalized. I still hold the green card.)
- Dilley, Whitney Crothers (23 December 2014). The Cinema of Ang Lee: The Other Side of the Screen 2nd Edition. Wallflower Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0231167734.
- "Ang Lee: Of water and Pi". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "Melancholic nostalgia pervades life in front of Ang Lee's lens". Taipei Times. 16 December 2007.
- Dilley, Whitney Crothers. The Cinema of Ang Lee: The Other Side of the Screen. London: Wallflower Press, 2007.
- "Taking Stock of 'Taking Woodstock'" Rushprnews 5 October 2008
- "Ang Lee's movie has a backstory of pure serendipity" by Dan Bloom, Taipei Times. 11 October 2008
- Cheshire, Ellen. Ang Lee. London: Pocket Essentials, 2001.
- 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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