Lee, Ang 1954–
LEE, Ang 1954–
Born October 23, 1954, in Pingtung, Taiwan; son of a high school principal; married Jane Lin (a microbiology researcher), 1983; children: Han, Mason. Education: University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, B.F.A., theatre, 1980; New York University, M.F.A., film, 1984; attended the Taiwan Academy of Art. Avocational Interests: Cooking, tennis, tai chi.
Addresses: Agent— Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Publicist— PMK/HBH Public Relations, 8500 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
Career: Director, producer, and screenwriter. Established the Ang Lee fellowship, New York University. Military service: Served in the Taiwanese military for two years.
Awards, Honors: New York University Film Festival Award, best film, 1985, for Fine Line; Taiwanese first and second place awards, 1990, for screenplays; Special Jury Prize for Direction and Best Film Honors, Asian Pacific Film Festival, and Golden Horse Award nominations, all 1992, for Tui shou (Pushing Hands ); Asian American Media Award, 16th Asian American International Film Festival, Golden Bear Award, Berlin International Film Festival, Golden Space Needle Award, best director, Seattle International Film Festival, Critics Award, Deauville Film Festival, all 1993, Golden Horse awards, best director and best film (with Ted Hope and James Schamus), Academy Award nomination, best foreign language film, Golden Globe Award nomination, best foreign language film, and Independent Spirit Award nominations, best director, best feature (with Hope and Schamus), and best screenplay (with Neil Peng and Schamus), all 1994, and Director's Choice Award, New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, 1999, all for Hsi yen (The Wedding Banquet ); National Board of Review Award, best foreign language film, British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award, best film not in the English language, Asian Pacific Film Festival awards, best film honors and best director honors, Academy Award nomination, best foreign language film, Golden Globe Award nomination, best foreign language film, and Independent Spirit Award nominations, best director and best screenplay (with Hui–Ling Wang and Schamus), all 1995, for Yinshi nan nu (Eat Drink Man Woman ). New York Film Critics Circle Award, best director, National Board of Review Award, best director, British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award, best film (with Lindsay Doran), and Boston Society of Film Critics Award, best director, all 1995, Golden Bear Award and Reader Jury of the Berliner Morgenpost runner–up, both Berlin International Film Festival, British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award (with Doran), best film,, David Lean Award for Direction nomination, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Directors Guild Award nomination, best director, Golden Globe Award nomination, best director, and Guild Film Award—Silver, best foreign film, Guild of German Art House Cinemas, all 1996, and German Film Award, best foreign film, 1997, all for Sense and Sensibility; Vision in Film Award, Hawaii International Film Festival, 1997; Golden Palm Award nomination, Cannes International Film Festival, 1997, Australian Film Institute Award nomination (with Hope and Schamus), best foreign film, 1998, Bodil Award, best American film, and ALFS Award nominations, director of the year and film of the year, London Critics Circle, 1999, all for The Ice Storm; People's Choice Award, Toronto International Film Festival, Golden Horse Award, best picture, Golden Horse Award nominations, best director and best picture (with Li–Kong Hsu and William Kong), Golden Spur Award nomination, Flanders International Film Festival, Screen International Award nomination, European Film Awards, Audience Award, Bergen International Film Festival, 2000, Academy Award nomination, best director and best picture (with Kong and Li–Kong Hsu), British Academy of Film and Television Arts Film Award, best film not in the English language, David Lean Award for Direction, British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, British Academy of Film and Television Arts Film Award nomination (with Kong and Li–Kong Hsu), best film, Golden Globe Award, best director—motion picture, Independent Spirit Award, best director and best feature (with Kong and Li–Kong Hsu), Directors Guild of America Award (with others), outstanding directorial achievement in motion pictures, Hong Kong Film Award, best director, Robert Award, Best Non–American Film, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, best director, ALFS Award nomination, director of the year, Golden Satellite Award nominations, best director, Empire Award nomination, best director, Australian Film Institute Award (with Schamus), best foreign film, Amanda Award nomination, best foreign films, Saturn Award nomination, best director, Chicago Film Critics Association Award, best foreign language film, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, best director, and Bodil Award, best non–American film, 2001, all for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; ShoWest Award, international film-maker of the year, 2001; Video Premiere Award nomination, best internet video premiere, 2001, for The Hire: Chosen; Lifetime Achievement Award, Gotham Awards, 2002.
Sound operator, East to West, 1982.
Director, Dim Lake, 1983.
Assistant camera operator and first assistant director, Joe's Bed–Sty Barbershop: We Cut Heads, First Run Features, 1983.
Fine Line, 1984.
Director and producer, Tui shou (also known as Pushing Hands ), Central Motion Pictures Corporation, 1991.
Director and producer, Hsi yen (also known as The Wedding Banquet and Xiyan ), Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1993.
Director, Yinshi nan nu (also known as Eat Drink Man Woman ), Samuel Goldwyn Company, 1994.
Director, Sense and Sensibility, Columbia, 1995.
Director and producer, Siao Yu (also known as Shaonui Xiaoyu ), Central Motion Pictures Corporation, 1995.
Director and producer, The Ice Storm, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 1997.
Director, Ride with the Devil, Universal, 1999.
Director, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (also known as Wo hu can long, Ngo foo chong lung, and Wo hu cang long ), Sony Pictures Classics, 2000.
Director, Berlin Diaries, 1940–45, Good Machine, 2000.
Director, The Hire: Chosen (short), BMW Films, 2001.
Director, Hulk, Universal, 2003.
Executive producer, One Last Ride, 2003.
Yang +/–Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema (documentary), British Film Institute, 1996.
Himself, Feast for the Eyes: Ang Lee in Taipei (documentary), Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer/United Artists Home Entertainment, 2001.
Himself, Sex at 24 Frames Per Second (documentary; also known as Playboy Presents Sex at 24 Frames Per Second: The Ultimate Journey Through Sex in Cinema ), Image Entertainment, Inc., 2003.
Television Appearances; Specials:
The 2001 IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards, IFC, 2001.
Jackie Chan, Bravo, 2001.
The 58th Annual Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 2001.
(Archive footage) Himself, The 73rd Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2001.
The 2002 IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards, IFC, 2002.
The Hulk: MTV Movie Special, MTV, 2003.
Hulk: The Lowdown, SciFi, 2003.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Himself, "Ang Lee," The South Bank Show, 2003.
Also appeared in Conversations in World Cinema, Sundance Channel.
Tui shou (also known as Pushing Hands ), Central Motion Pictures Corporation, 1991.
Hsi yen (also known as The Wedding Banquet and Xiyan ), Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1993, published with Yinshi nan nu in Two Films by Ang Lee, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1994.
(With Hui–Ling Wang and James Schamus) Yinshi nan nu (also known as Eat Drink Man Woman ), Samuel Goldwyn Company, 1994, published with Hsi yen in Two Films by Ang Lee, Overlook Press, 1994.
Siao Yu (also known as Shaonui Xiaoyu ), Central Motion Pictures Corporation, 1995.
The film Tortilla Soup, released by Samuel Goldwyn Films in 2001, was based on the Lee's original screenplay for Yinshi nan nu (also known as Eat Drink Man Woman ).
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 44, Gale Group, 2002.
Entertainment Weekly, December 22, 2000, p. 36; February 23, 2001, p. 104.
Interview, September, 1997, pp. 64–66; December, 2000, p. 48.
New York Times, August 1, 1993, sec. 2, p. 25.
Time, July 9, 2001, p. 55.
Variety, February 12, 2001, p. 26; July 30, 2001, p. 35.
Nationality: Taiwanese. Born: Taiwan; moved to United States, 1978. Education: Attended theater program, University of Illinois. Career: Directed first two features in the United States, 1991–93; returned to Taiwan to direct Eat Drink Man Woman, 1994. Awards: Golden Bear Award at Berlin Film Festival, 1993, for The Wedding Banquet; Golden Bear Award at Berlin Film Festival, Best Director from New York Film Critics, and Best Director and Best Picture from National Board of Review, all 1995, all for Sense and Sensibility.
Films as Director:
Hsi Yen (The Wedding Banquet)
Eat Drink Man Woman (+ co-sc)
Sense and Sensibility
The Ice Storm
Ride with the Devil
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Berlin Diaries 1940–45
By LEE: books—
Two Films by Ang Lee: Eat Drink Man Woman / The WeddingBanquet, edited by James Schamus, New York, 1994.
With James Schamus, The Ice Storm: The Shooting Script, New York, 1997.
By LEE: articles—
"Dinner for Two," an interview in Filmmaker, vol. 1, no. 4, 1993.
"Ang Lee," interview in Mensuel du Cinéma (Nice), no. 18, June 1994.
"The New Face of Taiwanese Cinema: An Interview with Ang Lee," interview with C. Berry, in Metro Magazine (St. Kilda West, Australia), no. 96, Summer 1993–1994.
"Ang Lee Returned to His Native Taiwan to Make Eat Drink ManWoman," an interview with Steven Rea, in Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, 19 August 1994.
"Eat Drink Man Woman: A Feast for the Eyes," in AmericanCinematographer (Hollywood), vol. 76, no. 1, January 1995.
"Home Truths," in Time Out (London), no. 1273, 11 January 1995.
"The Morning After," interview with G. Cheshire, in Filmmaker (Los Angeles), vol. 6, no. 1, 1997.
"The Angle on Ang Lee," interview with O. Moverman, in Interview (New York), September 1997.
"Ang Lee on Directing in an Ice Storm," in DGA (Los Angeles), vol. 22, no. 4, September-October 1997.
"Storm Alert," interview with D. Noh, in Film Journal International (New York), October 1997.
On LEE: articles—
Shapiro, M., "Ang Lee," in Independent, May 1993.
Hornaday, A., "A Director's Trip from Salad Days to a Banquet," in New York Times, 1 August 1993.
Noh, D., "Ang Lee's Wedding Banquet Serves up a Mix of Cultures," in Film Journal, September 1993.
Berry, C., "Taiwanese Melodrama Returns with a Twist in TheWedding Banquet," in Cinemaya, Autumn 1993.
Hamlin, Suzanne, "Le Grand Exces Spices Love Poems to Food," in New York Times, 31 July 1994.
Kauffman, Stanley, "Eat Drink Man Woman," in New Republic, 5 September 1994.
Schickel, Richard, "Sense and Sensibility," in Time, 18 December 1995.
Fuller, Graham, and Monk Claire, "Cautionary Tale / Shtick and Seduction," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 6, no. 3, March 1996.
O'Neill, E.R., "Identity, Mimicry, and Transtextuality in Mina Shum's Double Happiness and Quentin Lee and Justin Lin's Shopping for Fangs," in CineAction (Toronto), no. 42, 1997.
Williams, D.E., "Reflections on an Era," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), October 1997.
* * *
In the space of only five years, beginning in 1991, and on the strength of four films, Taiwanese film director Ang Lee grew from art-house phenomenon to major studio director. Lee's first three films, a sort of trilogy of charming family dramas, established him as a talented director with a particularly deft hand at creating character-driven studies of human nature. His fourth film, Sense and Sensibility (1995), adapted from Jane Austen's novel, and the winner of a number of well-deserved awards, including Best Director from the New York Film Critics, and Best Director and Best Picture from the National Board of Review (it was also nominated for seven Oscars), marked his emergence from relative anonymity into the film world spotlight.
Lee's first feature was Pushing Hands, a 1991 film in which an aging Chinese martial arts master moves into the New York City home of his son and daughter-in-law. The relationship between the old man, who speaks no English, and his daughter-in-law, who speaks no Chinese, is a difficult one, full of resentment and misunderstanding, but both try to make the arrangement work. A languidly paced comedy drama that displayed Lee's fondness for scenes in which food figures prominently, it was followed by The Wedding Banquet, a film that widened Lee's public somewhat and which also explored family relationships, this time in the context of sexual as well as cultural differences. It focuses on a successful young Chinese professional living in America, whose equilibrium is upset by the impending visit of his parents, whose arrival finds him engaged in an elaborate marital charade to mask his homosexuality. Beautifully observed, charming, humorous, and very poignant, The Wedding Banquet was rewarded with an Oscar nomination.
Released in 1994, Eat Drink Man Woman, the first of Lee's movies to be shot entirely in Taiwan, confirmed the originality and subtle understanding of his domestic vision and expanded on his iconic approach to food. It concerns an elderly, widowed master chef at a Taipei hotel and his relationship with his three adult daughters, all of whom are grappling with one problem or another. The action centers around the immense, sumptuous Sunday feasts that he lovingly prepares for his daughters; Stanley Kauffmann remarks that "the preparation of these dishes, their wonderful appearance, their almost tasteable succulence are the film's true base and being. The stories, the hassle and hustle of the characters' troubles, are just garnish around the dishes."
Managing to be at once highly enjoyable and very moving, one might, with respect, argue with Kauffman that the old man's gourmet rituals and his pride in them provide the only mechanism by which he can communicate his love and concern for the daughters, who are so thoughtlessly—and humanly—caught up in their own concerns.
Next came Sense and Sensibility, actress Emma Thompson's adaptation of Jane Austen's nineteenth-century novel about the reduced circumstances in which Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones) and her daughters find themselves after the death of Mr. Dashwood, and their attempts to survive in upper-class English society and find romantic happiness for the two elder girls (Thompson, Kate Winslet). With its impeccable screenplay and a cast of top-rank British actors (including Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman), the film is a fine meld of comedy, drama, and sentiment, held seamlessly together by Lee's finely tuned direction, and his accurate ear for the nuances of a social and domestic order both British and long past. Sense and Sensibility whisked away the veil of comparative anonymity that had previously covered Lee. As Richard Schickel commented, "You certainly wonder how a Taiwan-born director like Lee has managed to reach across time and cultures to deliver these delicate goods undamaged. Maybe some of that whoosh of delight one feels at the end of Sense and Sensibility is for him, and his emergence as a world-class director."
It is this unique ability acutely to grasp the essence of multicultural customs, combined with his professional polish, that distinguishes Lee from his peers. After the success of Sense and Sensibility, he entered the Hollywood mainstream with The Ice Storm, released in 1997, and examining with awesome accuracy a particular social stratum in American society, that of wealthy, middle-class professionals and their families whose affluence seems to have brought only discontented malaise, dispiriting infidelity, and difficult relationships with their children, conditions that come to a head in an ice-bound Connecticut winter. With a cast led by Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, and Sigourney Weaver, this heavyweight domestic drama (leavened with lighter moments), dissects the weaknesses of its protagonists with uncompromising and often disturbing honesty, and attracted a large number of award nominations at home and abroad.
During 1999, the same year that the director returned to the Orient to branch out with a crime film called Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, almost entirely unseen in the West to that date, Ride with the Devil was released. While evidencing yet another area of interest, the American Civil War, for Lee, it proved his least successful film to date. Highly original in treating the war as subsidiary to a small, close band of Southerners, including a freed slave, caught up in it almost, as it were, by accident, and in attempting to depict their inner psychology, the work is ambitious but overlong, too slow and too opaque to grip the interest.
Early in the first year of the new millennium, Ang Lee, striking out yet again, was at work on Berlin Diaries 1940–45, eagerly awaited and certain to emphasize the unique eclecticism, sharp observation, and underlying humanity that are this filmmaker's trademarks.
—Kevin Hillstrom, updated by Robyn Karney
LEE, Ang. Taiwanese, b. 1954. Genres: Plays/Screenplays. Career: Director of films. Publications: SCREENPLAYS: Pushing Hands, 1991; (with N. Peng and J. Schamus) The Wedding Banquet, 1993; (with H.L. Wang and J. Schamus) Eat Drink Man Woman, 1994. Address: c/o CAA, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212-1804, U.S.A.