Oscar-winning movie director Ang Lee packed Alumnae Hall at Wellesley College Saturday morning, as he joined collaborator/screenwriter James Schamus for a public discussion of their films before a standing room only crowd.
Lee and Schamus, who were peppered with good though inevitably long questions that come with the territory of being interviewed by a professor on stage, came across as smart, modest and affable during the event. They doled out some academic-speak of their own (“diasporic,” paradigmic”), but when probed about deeper meanings of their movies, they said the bottom line is having the movies accepted and seen by people.
(via kaitenzhushi on Instagram)
When Wellesley College assistant professor Mingwei Song asked Lee for advice to students wishing to follow in his footsteps, Lee raised his otherwise soft voice for the only time during the session: “Don’t Do It!” He said directors find their way into the business in many ways, and for him, an eye-opening experience early on was discovering he didn’t belong on the stage but rather, in the audience.
After the professor finished his interview, dozens of audience members lined up at mics to ask more questions.
While Lee has been celebrated of late for last year’s Life of Pi, the films in his library are difficult to categorize, from The Ice Storm to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to The Hulk to Brokeback Mountain. Lee has a 3D boxing movie in the works now.
Lee said the variety of movies he has worked on is no accident, as he prefers to do movies that have nothing to do with each other. He said it’s a little like sightseeing, where he likes to see different things wherever he goes. He credited his background in coming from the East, in Taiwan, and Schamus coming from the West, in California, in helping to ensure diversity in their approach to movie making. Schamus pointed out that while it’s important to the pair that their movies do well in the U.S., that Life of Pi actually did 6 times more business overseas than in this “small, backwater, provincial market…”