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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a Chinese name; the family name is Lee.
Ang Lee
Ang Lee, 2009
Chinese name 李安 (Traditional)
Chinese name 李安 (Simplified)
Pinyin Lǐ Ān (Mandarin)
Born October 23, 1954 (1954-10-23) (age 55)
Chaochou, Pingtung, Taiwan (Republic of China)
Years active 1992 – present
Spouse(s) Jane Lin (1983-)
Children Haan Lee (b.1984)
Mason Lee (b.1990)

Ang Lee (Chinese: 李安; Pinyin: Lǐ Ān; born October 23, 1954) is a Taiwanese American film director.[1] Lee has directed a diverse set of films such as Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Ice Storm (1997), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Hulk (2003), and Brokeback Mountain (2005) for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director.


Early life


Ang Lee was born in the town of Chaochou in Pingtung,[2] 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, a native of Kiangsi Province in southern China, imbued his children with studying Chinese culture and art, especially calligraphy. Lee's grandparents died during the Cultural Revolution because they were accused of being one of the Five Black Categories (simplified Chinese: 黑五类traditional Chinese: 黑五類pinyin: hēiwǔlèi)[citation needed]

Lee studied in the 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, 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.[3]

After finishing the Republic of China's mandatory military service, Lee went to the U.S. in 1979 to study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he completed his bachelor's degree in theater in 1980. Thereupon, he enrolled at the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University, where he received his MFA. 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 (Chinese: 林惠嘉pinyin: Lín Huìjiā), a molecular biologist, was the sole breadwinner for the family of four. This arrangement, usually an embarrassment in Taiwanese culture, put enormous pressure on the couple, but with Lin's support and understanding, Lee did not abandon his career in films but continued to generate new ideas from movies and performances. He also wrote several screenplays during this time.[4][citation needed]

In 1990, Lee submitted two screenplays, Pushing Hands and The Wedding Banquet, to a competition sponsored by the Republic of China'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 strong interests 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.


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.[5] Many of Lee's films, particularly his early Chinese trilogy, have also focused on the interactions between modernity and tradition. Some of his films have also had a light-hearted comic tone which marks a break from the tragic historical realism which characterized Taiwanese filmmaking after the end of the martial law period in 1987. While The Wedding Banquet (1993) became a break-out hit for Lee as the most proportionately profitable film of 1993, it was Sense and Sensibility (1995) that brought Lee his first true international acclaim. Following that, both Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) (nominated for Academy Award for Best Director) and Brokeback Mountain (2005) (which won the Academy Award for Best Director) became cultural touchstones, sweeping awards ceremonies and, in the case of Brokeback Mountain, sparking intense critical debates. When asked by a TV interviewer how he found his films, Lee is said to have replied: "I don't find my films, my films find me."

Lee's film Brokeback Mountain (2005) 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). In January 2006, Brokeback scored a leading eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, which Lee won. He is the first Asian and non-Caucasian director to do so.

In 2007, Lee's film Lust, Caution earned him a second Golden Lion.

Debut from Taiwan

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, Hsu collaborated with Lee in their second film, The Wedding Banquet (1993), which won the Golden Bear in the Berlin 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.

Lee's 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 once again 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. Hollywood optioned the film rights and remade it into Tortilla Soup (2001, dir. María Ripoll). This is one of the rare occasions in which a Taiwanese film was remade outside the country.

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.

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 has had high VHS and DVD sales and rentals and repeated screenings on cable television, which has increased the film's popularity among audiences.

1999 onward

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 Taiwan, Hong Kong, 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 for Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Director at the Academy Awards. 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 audience.


In 2003, Lee returned to Hollywood to direct Hulk, his first big-budget movie. 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.

Brokeback Mountain

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 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 was declared Best Picture by such organizations as the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the Independent Spirit Awards, the 2005 Biennale Venice Film Festival, and the Producers Guild of America. Ang Lee also received his second Best Director award from the Directors Guild of America. 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. There was wide speculation that Brokeback Mountain's homosexual theme was the reason for that upset. Lee said he was disappointed that his film did not win Best Picture,[6] but was honored to win an Academy Award for Best Director, becoming the first person of Asian heritage and the first non-white to ever win the award.

Lust, Caution

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 materials.

Lust, Caution is 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 have decided not to appeal the decision. In order to be permitted to show Lust, Caution in mainland China, however, Lee removed 9 minutes from the film to make the content suitable for minor audiences, according to government restrictions.[7]

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. The critics in the United States, however, were not all positive. 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 U.S. audience since "its pace, its film language — it's all very Chinese."[8]

Lee has been chosen as president of the jury for the 2009 edition of the Venice Film Festival, set to take place from September 2 to September 12, 2009.[9]

Collaborations with James Schamus

Ang Lee has had a career-long collaboration with producer and screenwriter James Schamus.[10]

Schamus produced or co-produced the following Ang Lee movies:

  • Pushing Hands
  • The Wedding Banquet
  • Eat Drink Man Woman
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • The Ice Storm
  • Ride with the Devil
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Hulk
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Lust, Caution

Schamus co-wrote the following Ang Lee movies:

  • Pushing Hands
  • The Wedding Banquet
  • Eat Drink Man Woman
  • The Ice Storm
  • Ride with the Devil
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Hulk
  • Lust, Caution

Personal life

A naturalized U.S. citizen,[11][12][13][14][15] Lee lives in Larchmont, New York with his wife Jane Lin, a microbiologist, whom he married in 1983. They have two sons, Haan Lee (born 1984), and Mason Lee (born 1990).[16]


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.

As Director:

Year Film Chinese Title Oscars BAFTA Golden Globe
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
1992 Pushing Hands 推手
1993 The Wedding Banquet 喜宴
1994 Eat Drink Man Woman 飲食男女
1995 Sense and Sensibility 理性與感性
1997 The Ice Storm 冰風暴
1999 Ride with the Devil 與魔鬼共騎
2000 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 臥虎藏龍
2002 The Hire
2003 Hulk 綠巨人
2005 Brokeback Mountain 斷背山
2007 Lust, Caution 色,戒
2009 Taking Woodstock 胡士托風波

See also: Films directed by Ang Lee

As Writer:

As Actor:

As Editor:

As Producer:



  1. ^ "Best picture goes to gritty drama 'Crash', Lee best director; Hoffman best actor; Witherspoon best actress". CNN. March 7, 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  2. ^ Ho Yi. Family and friends praise Ang Lee's quiet dedication. Taipei Times. March 7, 2006.
  3. ^ Interview from Studio 360
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Melancholic nostalgia pervades life in front of Ang Lee's lens". Taipei Times. 2007-12-16. 
  6. ^ AP (2006-03-08). "Lee Disappointed Over 'Brokeback' Loss". CBSNews. 
  7. ^ AFP (2007-09-11). "Ang Lee bows to China and self-censors award-winning film". Yahoo! News. 
  8. ^ Min Lee, Associated Press (2007-09-23). "Ang Lee: Don't expect much from 'Lust, Caution'". USA Today. 
  9. ^ "Ang Lee to head Venice festival". BBC News. February 27, 2009. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Ang Lee 'very satisfied' new film shown in entirety - The China Post
  12. ^ Ang Lee returns to Taiwan for the premiere of Lust, Caution - Movies
  13. ^ ANTARA :: Ang Lee donates prize money to promote Taiwan`s film industry
  14. ^ Patrick Frater, Taiwan breaking the arthouse mold (4 October 2007), Variety.
  15. ^ Rachel Abramowitz, [1] (Aug. 27th 2009) LA Times
  16. ^ A Chicken Coop, but No Tigers - New York Times


  • Cheshire, Ellen. Ang Lee. London: Pocket Essentials, 2001.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Ang Lee [李安 : Lǐ Ān] (born 23 October 1954) is a Chinese-American film director


  • It's the first movie I feel really proud of. But I know it's not a movie for everyone. Some people will embrace it, but some people will hate it, and I'm not really sure how to deal with that. In the past I've made movies that were pretty universally liked. You can't really hate them. You can discard them, but you can't really hate them.
  • Gradually I got tuned into the world — that happens on every movie. I did a women's movie, and I'm not a woman. I did a gay movie, and I'm not gay. I learned as I went along.
    • On developing a sensitivity for authentic details in the making of movies, Salon (17 October 1997)
  • The stern dad stuff doesn't work anymore. You have to be level with the kids, you have to be a nice guy... The authority thing just doesn't work anymore. It's like directing a Chinese film vs. directing an American film. On a Chinese film you just give orders, no one questions you. Here, you have to convince people, you have to tell them why you want to do it a certain way, and they argue with you. Democracy.
    • On parenting, Salon (17 October 1997)
  • Mainstream films have occupied Hollywood but you can get bored very easily. It can be very repetitive and I think now we want something fresh and something inspiring and different, daring. The mainstream film is very expensive to make and it scares people. It's made for the worldwide audience, you have to please so many people, and the business men start running the movies rather than artists. This is back to the oldest way of Hollywood filmmaking, creating a fantasy, but it has been lost. It seems to take a foreign language film to recoup that ultimate movie viewing experience.

External links

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Simple English

Ang Lee

Ang Lee (born October 23, 1954) is a Taiwanese film director. He has directed films like Eat Drink Man Woman, Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hulk and Brokeback Mountain. He won an Academy Award (Oscar) for Brokeback Mountain.



Ang Lee was born in 1954 in a town called Chaozhou, Pingtung in Taiwan.[1] He went to the National Tainan First Senior High School where his father was the principal, and then to the National Arts School. He graduated in 1975. In 1979, he went to the United States and studied theater at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He got his Master's degree at New York University, and he worked there with another famous director called Spike Lee.


  • 1993: The Wedding Banquet
  • 1994: Eat Drink Man Woman
  • 1995: Sense and Sensibility
  • 1997: The Ice Storm
  • 2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • 2003: Hulk
  • 2005: Brokeback Mountain
  • 2007: Lust, Caution


  1. Ho Yi. Family and friends praise Ang Lee's quiet dedication. Taipei Times. March 7, 2006.

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