Best quotes by Ang Lee

Ang Lee

Ang Lee

Taiwanese film director

Ang Lee OBS (Chinese: 李安; pinyin: Lǐ Ān; born 23 October 1954) is a Taiwanese filmmaker. Born in the Pingtung County of southern Taiwan, Lee was educated in Taiwan and later in the United States. During his filmmaking career he has received international critical and popular acclaim and a range of accolades.

Lee's early successes included Pushing Hands (1991), The Wedding Banquet (1993), and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), which explored the relationships and conflicts between tradition and modernity, Eastern and Western; the three films are informally known as the "Father Knows Best" trilogy. The films were critically successful both in his native Taiwan and internationally. His first entirely English-language film was Sense and Sensibility (1995), for which he received critical praise and a number of accolades. He went on to direct films in a broad range of genres, including the drama The Ice Storm (1997); the Civil War epic Ride with the Devil (1999); the martial arts wuxia drama Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000); the superhero blockbuster Hulk (2003); the romantic drama Brokeback Mountain (2005); the erotic espionage period film Lust, Caution (2007); and the magic realist survival drama Life of Pi (2012). Much of Lee's work is known for its emotional charge and exploration of repressed, hidden emotions.

Lee has been nominated for nine Academy Awards, of which he has won three: Best Foreign Language Film for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Best Director for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi, becoming the first non-white director to win the latter. For The Wedding Banquet and Sense and Sensibility, Lee won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival; for Brokeback Mountain and Lust Caution, he won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Lee is one of four directors to win the Golden Lion twice and the sole filmmaker to have been awarded the Golden Bear twice. Lee has also been awarded Directors Guild of America Awards, Golden Globes and British Academy Film Awards, among others, and is the recipient of the Order of Brilliant Star, the second highest civilian honor bestowed by the government of Taiwan.

Ang Lee quotes by category:

All CategoriesAbout warAbout fear

FearWhen you talk about God, the first thing that comes along is not love, it's fear. You have to fear, and be in awe. You have to be scared. Any religion, it's like first thing.

FearThe fear factor actually brings the genuineness.

WarWhen I grew up, in Taiwan, the Korean War was seen as a good war, where America protected Asia. It was sort of an extension of World War II. And it was, of course, the peak of the Cold War. People in Taiwan were generally proAmerican. The Korean War made Japan. And then the Vietnam War made Taiwan. There is some truth to that.

There's a certain time in the core of making a movie from pre-production to halfway through post-production I don't read any project, my agent will tell people that "he's not reading." And then when I know how the movie's probably gonna work halfway into post-production, I'll come along.

I don't have a checklist. Whatever material excites me, they'll call for a certain genre or combination of genres. It'll come naturally and I'll be eager to learn how that thing works. I learn the rules, and I'll probably break some of them.

First we pre-visualized it [the flying fish scene in 'Life of Pi'] so the actors could act. It took a long time to get that to come to life and to design those coming out of the screen. We had great fun with that. It takes a long time, a year maybe.

A lot of people will think I changed the book: ‘so you’re the tiger instead, you’re the tiger who ate the cook.’ That’d be totally expository, like in the book, ‘you’re the tiger’ and then it stops there. That seems to have the magic touch. I bring everything together. That’s why he made up the story, the whole thing becomes internalized. That might be the magic, but all I did is not so much interpreted, but try my best to keep everybody still staying in the movie. And I was like, ‘God, it’s so hard to do.’ I make movies for a long time. It doesn't get easier.

I think for most people, the audience probably couldn't tell the difference, but I know they [shots of visual effects] can be better. And the people working know they can be more precise. I'm still doing another round of sound mixing and color timing, pretty technical stuff. I think the movie [Life of Pi] is really presentable, nothing was left out that would take you out of the movie. I just need to perfect the job and I still have two weeks to go [to deliver final cut to Fox].

It's just what I am. When I am in the zone making one movie, I just didn't want to read anything else or do anything else, so I don't really develop projects.

Basically the movies I make are my life, so I choose how I want to live my life for the next two years. So that's a decision I have to make. At some point if I feel there are enough elements - it doesn't even have to have great characters or great stories - it's just elements that can get my excitement and curiosity for one or two years, then I'll jump in and I'll find out what that is. Then I have to do [interviews like this] and rationalize why I do this.

Things that don't have a big impact seem to be crucial. Always when you go out to make a movie you have questions, "What if this doesn't work? What if that doesn't work?" you want to cover yourself, you want to bring back enough [footage] so you can do something.

So there was one point I thought I was gonna lose it, but once I get on something I have to finish it; I just kept persuading them and they turned around. One good thing was the international guys really stood behind this movie, they thought they could support this film. So these guys step up and that's really good, and then they turned around.

Only one time in my career I had that feeling [that this is not gonna get made], it was for this movie [Life of Pi]. It was right before we started the physical pre-production. I pre-visualized the whole ocean part before we made the movie, I was that prepared. At one point they seemed to want to drop it because it was really risky. The budget we proposed was a lot higher than they expected, they wanted to [drop it]. After all, it's a philosophical book and a literature property, it's not Batman.

I try to be a partygoer. But at some point I don't know why I'm doing it and fall back. I've been using repression, the struggle between behaving as a social animal. You're seeking to be honest with your free will, less conflict. I think that's an important subject with me. That's who I am, how I was brought up. I think I use that a lot. I mistrust everything I think. Things you think you can trust, believe in, or hang on to, changes. That's the essence of life.

When you go for something because you're curious about it, you get psyched up about the chance of getting into it. It's like an actor meets a role, and you slip into that body and see what happens, to experience certain conditions, to adopt a certain character. Even shooting is a study of the character. I think both the character and the actor, and eventually the filmmaker - myself - are finding a way to accept their environment and being accepted and feel comfortable of themselves.

I don't think the Hulk is a superhero. He's the first Marvel character who is a tragic monster. Really an anti-hero.

You become the movie you are making.

Many times when you make a movie, it feels like your biggest mistake. But even if a film isn't a hit, you shouldn't view it as a mistake.

I guess in Hollywood you chart your life by Oscars. You say to each other, "Remember when that movie won that year? It was 2006. Remember that?"

I had to find my way of translating the excitement you get when you're reading comic books to the big screen.

In my culture, there's a tradition that when you're in an overwhelming situation and you don't know what to do, you put yourself in a woman's shoes.

I like to do drama, something about life that could be disappointing.

I have a lot of repression. So repression is what I make movies about.

My father was the center of the family, and everyone tried to please him.

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

San Francisco is one of my favourite cities in the world...I would probably rank it at the top or near the top. It's small but photogenic and has layers...You never have problems finding great angles that people have never done.

I just did a dramatic love story. Whether it's a cultural phenomenon is not for me to say.

I don't like to deal with studios. I don't like to have conversations with executives. I pitch to the studio, then never talk to them until the test screening.

I'm just a pretty regular dad.

If the movie is quiet I generally feel the audience is busy. That's when they're working.

Kids don't even read comic books anymore. They've got more important things to do - like video games.

When I see something I like, that's all that counts. What they use, how they get there, I never bother them.

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.

I grew up pretty much prevented from knowing anything from Communist China except that they were the bad guys that stole our country.

I'm a drifter and an outsider. There's not one single environment I can totally belong to.

My first instinct was to cast as close to the short story as possible, but then I realized that I needed actors who could go for it and that they had to function well as a couple in a love story.

What is really a stretch to me is to make quick decisions.

After making several tragic movies in a row, I was looking to do a comedy, and one without cynicism.

The thing we call critics are not really reviewers, they are not really critics. They don't have the discipline to write what we would term as critique - it's really just reviewers. They have a common man kind of taste. If you watch them overall, they are not different from the box-office. That's my view.

3D is quite a lot more advanced in animated movies; for live-action movies we're just taking baby steps, we're just in the beginning.

I'm not a romantic. In life I didn't have much experience with romance.

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.

Economically, it’s more expensive to make movies. I hope digital movies change that.

Usually with this genre the first thing that happens is a good fight sequence to show that you're in good hands. So we broke that rule. I think a lot of that comes from the western audience.

The L.A. weather is a lot like Taiwan's, where you don't observe four seasons, so the years can pass and you don't feel a thing.

The way I go about a lovemaking scene is that we will talk about it during the rehearsing time.

Thinking back to those earlier days, I felt I was weak when I wasn't making movies, and then when I was, I thought I was weak as a family member.

When something possesses me, I go ahead and do it.

You can get rich or famous by doing the same thing.

Not taboo - it's just that straight actors still risk their careers commercially and economically. They have to please the crowd - they're movie stars; their image is their industry. It goes beyond acting.

So many times you see beautiful lovemaking scenes with a lot of exposure or an awkward lovemaking scene, but I think it's very rare that you see it private.

When I sent those scripts, that was the lowest point of my life. We'd just had our second son, and when I went to collect them from hospital, I went to the bank to try and get some money to buy some diapers, the screen showed I've got $26 left.

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.

I took the name Green Destiny from - well there is such a sword called Green Destiny. It is green because you keep twisting it, it's an ancient skill, you keep twisting it and knocking it and twisting it until it is very elastic and light.

Americans are hidden dragons to me.

My mother loves me and everything goes well. I have no conflict with her, so that's not dramatic.

My hometown was one of the major U.S. Air Force bases.

Making this movie as a period piece about a period that was very recent in people's minds. I was in Taiwan [during the 1970s], so I hope I did all right. Otherwise, it could be the biggest embarrassment of my life. Also, the story is not linear, it's patchy, like a cubist painting, and there is always the possibility it will not hold together, it will fall apart. The tone is part satire, part serious drama, part tragedy, all mixed together, and it has to hit an emotional core. That's also very scary.

If it was a choice between making movies and doing nothing, he'd probably still wish me to make movies, So he made me keep going.

I like to go back to Chinese film-making from time to time. I don't think I can make Chinese films back to back; it's such a big effort. I'd have to take a very long break.

American films are less American every day, because you have to please a world audience. There's less authenticity, so it's more accessible.

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.

If there's something that can be formulated, regulated, give you security, then nobody would lose money. Every movie would be successful. And that's certainly not the case.

I think each movie-making process is a very exhausting and satisfying and fulfilling experience for me.

In Taiwan, I'd be like Michael Jordan walking down the street.

I basically made the movie from the crew's suggestions. For one scene, I wanted some kids' toys against the wall in Mikey's room, to give the scene texture, and we tried a field hockey stick. It looked really good to me, until someone had to say that in America, field hockey is more of a girl's game. Gradually I got tuned into the world - that happens on every movie.

I don't have incredible knowledge about films or of filmmaking history; I'm not that kind of person.

I wanted to shoot straight, mainstream, somehow off-beat. Not only realistic West, which is quite unfamiliar to the world's population - even to a lot of Americans.

I look at American movies, the big muscles, and try to apply that to Chinese film-making.

I think a lot of people do big movies not because they are talented artists but because they can function in the circumstances.

When I started out, nobody gave me scripts, so I had to write...

Sexuality is a big issue, but there are others - how much you commit to a relationship, to social obligation, to honesty and being honest with yourself.

Now I'm kind of established as a director, I much prefer directing to writing.

I think the American West really attracts me because it's romantic. The desert, the empty space, the drama.

So I'm a one movie at a time person, I don't develop. Normally we do a movie then one thing leads to another. If something pops up that catches my attention, then I'll decide.