Xan Brooks*1 “Ang Lee: 'I am Hulk! I am the hidden dragon!'” https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jan/30/ang-lee-billy-lynns-long-halftime-walk-film-brokeback-mountain
Appropriately enough, I meet the director in limbo: in the third-floor suite of a London hotel, with bottled water on the table and seat cushions plumped in readiness. He’s exhausted and jetlagged, midway through his own tour of duty, plugging his product to the four corners of the Earth. Somewhere along the way, Lee’s voice has turned soft and his smile grown tired. Nobody would mistake the man for a soldier. He’s more like an overworked academic, patiently keeping his students in line.
As it happens, Lee’s father was an academic: a school headmaster turned university professor. Lee Sr wanted his son to follow the same path and despaired of his artistic ambitions. He saw the boy as a dreamer, a failure, and appears to have clung to this judgment despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Away in the real world, Lee was forging a fiercely impressive film-making career. He cracked the English-language market with Sense and Sensibility and The Ice Storm. He broke foreign-language box-office records with 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And he won an Oscar for 2005’s heart-piercing Brokeback Mountain (a second, for Life of Pi, would follow in 2012). Yet none of this cut much ice with his dad back in Taiwan.
“My father,” sighs Lee, almost tickled by the memory. “I worked so hard to prove he was wrong. And I did it in every way I knew. Winning an Oscar, making a living, making money. I don’t even think [his disapproval] was because he didn’t like movies. It was more that he thought film-makers were funny people, entertainers, that they didn’t lead a normal life.” He shakes his head. “Finally I got his blessing, his acceptance, right before he died. But I think that was more because I had kids and was raising a family. That was important to him. It showed him I was normal.”
The way Lee tells it, every film he makes is an extension of him. They represent the life not lived, the adventure not taken. He points out that he has been happily married for decades (his wife, Jane, is a molecular biologist). He has two adult sons, Haan and Mason. “In my marriage, I am docile and loyal. Film-making is my alter ego. I’m the Hulk. I’m the hidden dragon. I’m that girl from Lust, Caution – the good girl gone bad. And I need that to feel alive. The movies possess me. Sometimes I worry that it’s something I’m addicted to.” He shakes his head. “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
If film-making is such a vital outlet, I wonder how Lee coped during his sparse early years. I’ve read that the director spent the bulk of his 30s unemployed in New York, looking after the kids while his wife went to work. That must have been a frustrating period. Lee shrugs. “Looking back now, I think it was fate. I wasn’t ready. I was a late bloomer. It took me a long time. So for those six, seven years, I grew. I did nothing, but I grew from the inside.”
Suddenly he laughs. “But while I was in it, living those six years, it was very frustrating. I am a person who is no good at anything except directing – and it seemed to me that I couldn’t even do that. So yes, those six years were hard.” Did it make him feel that his father had been right? That he was a dreamer? Lee admits that it did – at the time. But now, in his 60s, he feels more able to understand his dad’s point of view.
“My father thought film-making was not normal, a funny business,” he says. “And I think he was right. It’s play acting. It’s make believe. It’s exploring the unspeakable part of humanity. In eastern philosophy that’s a very dangerous thing.” Lee reaches for his glass of water. “So in that sense, my father was not wrong. I could say that, spiritually, what I do is very fulfilling. But physically, emotionally, it is not healthy at all.”
*1:See also http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20091026/1256580819 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100129/1264744945 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20120126/1327559572 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130718/1374107370 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20141120/1416497670
*2:See eg. Benjamin Lee “Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk review – Ang Lee war drama is a misfiring folly” https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/15/billy-lynn-long-halftime-walk-review-ang-lee-war-drama Ben Fountain “Ang Lee took the ideas in my book and made them unsettling, thrilling and new” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/27/ang-lee-billy-lynn-ben-fountain
*3:See also http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20060106/1136516558 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20060307/1141733791 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20060319/1142769329 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20070120/1169320650 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20070315/1173963832 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20070829/1188363869 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20070903/1188815204 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20070923/1190513302 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20070925/1190686409 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20071019/1192763936 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20071020/1192846221 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20071102/1194030402 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20071106/1194327284 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20071107/1194447848 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20071115/1195100485 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20080210/1202622955 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20080220/1203509593 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20080926/1222412337 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20090206/1233886285 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20091229/1262065501 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20091231/1262234609 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100128/1264605744 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20110703/1309710487 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20110709/1310151718 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20120702/1341195220 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20160315/1457997788