Once rivals for Oscar in February and now fellow jurors in Cannes, Ang Lee called Steven Spielberg his “hero” as Spielberg praised Lee’s Life Of Pi, which won Best Director over Lincoln. This mutual lovefest took place as the jury for the 66th Cannes Film Festival was introduced to the world’s press this afternoon. Spielberg, who said he hasn’t served on any festival jury since 1974 (the beginning of his feature film career) is President and has been asked many times but said the timing was finally right. “I’ve been so consistently at work, especially in the spring months directing, that every time I’ve been approached to be on the jury I’ve been working so I suddenly found myself with an open year, and so that’s why this all came together this year. I am honored I was invited,” he said. Spielberg has been to Cannes many times before with films like E.T. and most recently, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.
Asked about being on the Cannes panel with Spielberg after defeating him for the Oscar almost three months ago Lee said, “Steven and I are good friends. I worship him. I don’t know how he looks at me, but I worship him. I don’t think any result would change how I feel about him or even myself. He’s my hero.” Spielberg responding seemed at a loss for words. “I don’t know how to answer that, except to say Ang and I have been friends for a long time and we’ve never ever been competitors, we’ve always been colleagues and that will just contiinue. And certainly I worship Life Of Pi and therefore I worship Ang Lee as well.” READ MORE »
Life Of Pi helmer Ang Lee caused controversy last month when he failed to thank the film’s VFX artists – including those at the troubled Rhythm & Hues – during his acceptance speech for the Best Director Oscar. Today, the director topped the bill at the opening of the 3D Creative Summit in London, appearing via satellite to discuss the visual work done on Pi.
The film’s VFX consultant David Conley presented the audience with a breakdown of the visual effects wizardry featured in two extended Pi sequences, as it pertained to the film’s use of 3D. But Lee, who praised the detail of Conley’s presentation, stuck to discussing the third dimension alone. Speaking of the cost of visual effects, he said he had feared that the economic reality of Pi would not match the artistic demands of realizing it. “It would be like the number Pi: it keeps on going and makes no sense.” 3D, then, was a way to keep the budget manageable. It added a level of authenticity that allowed him to downplay the VFX. “It gives volume. It picks up so much information and gives realism.” He added that the film’s most famous creation, the CG tiger Richard Parker, was rendered more believable because it was presented in 3D. Read More »
On the heels of winning his second directing Oscar for Life Of Pi, Ang Lee will make his television directorial debut with FX‘s high-profile drama pilot Tyrant, from Homeland executive producers Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff and Six Feet Under alum Craig Wright. This represents a major coup for FX and Tyrant producers Fox 21 and FX Prods as Lee had been approached numerous times for pilots, but this is the first one he has committed to. In addition to directing, Lee is executive producing Tyrant, his first project following Life Of Pi. It tells the story of an unassuming American family drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation. The series was created by Raff and developed by Gordon and Wright. Raff wrote the pilot, which comes from Gordon’s 20th TV-based company Teakwood Lane. “Ang Lee has demonstrated time and again an ability to present characters with such depth and specificity that they reveal the universal human condition,” said FX president John Landgraf. “No one could be a more perfect film maker to bring Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff, and Craig Wright’s Tyrant to indelible life.”
Gordon, Raff and Wright also executive produce in association with Keshet Broadcasting. If Tyrant goes to series, Wright will serve as showrunner. With a huge commitment and A-list creative auspices, Tyrant already was fully expected to go to series, something Landgraf alluded to in January. (Backup scripts had already been commissioned.) Lee’s arrival likely sealed the deal. “The fact that the brilliant Ang Lee has signed on to direct his first project for television speaks to the extraordinary nature of Tyrant,” said Fox 21 president Bert Salke. Production of Tyrant is tentatively slated to begin this summer. Read More »
Even as tonight’s Governor’s Ball was winding down, Ben Affleck was still off in a corner of the room celebrating his Argo‘s most unlikely Best Picture victory in becoming only the second film in 80 years to win the top prize without even a nomination for its director. Affleck’s roller coaster ride has been remarkable this season and as he told me earlier this weekend, and tonight after the Best Pic triumph, it has been filled with hills and valleys, but it all came together at the Dolby Theatre when First Lady Michelle Obama (from the White House) opened the envelope and announced his film as the winner.
When he was left off the list of Directing nominees on January 10th he said he was really depressed, but that same night he won the Critics Choice Movie Award as Director and Best Picture, then the Golden Globe three days later, then the PGA, SAG, DGA, WGA and BAFTA honors to name a few. Suddenly Argo was the one to beat and it never wavered. Affleck’s emotional acceptance was heartfelt and perfectly described the personal journey of this actor turned first-rate director. And his acknowledgement of Steven Spielberg from the stage was a nice touch. He won, with Matt Damon, for Best Original Screenplay in 1997 for Good Will Hunting, but this was different as Affleck told me and he was going to savor this moment as long as he could before moving on into the night. It was the same for Argo’s winning screenwriter Chris Terrio who also was hanging late at the Govs Ball even though he had to catch a flight back to his New York home where he is currently writing a new script based on the Greengrass story. As he was just exiting the Ball at the Hollywood and Highland Grand Ballroom, he told me someone gave him advice that he should just try to enjoy this moment first. He seemed to have a hard time soaking it in, but he was going to give it at least this one night before getting back to work.
Argo, after vitually a clean sweep of awards season since the directing snub (which in retrospect could not have hurt), won a respectable three Oscars (also for Editing and Adapted Screenplay), tying Les Misérables for that number of Oscars. But the big winner of the night (if you can call it that) was 20th’s risky box office success Life Of Pi which nabbed four statuettes including a biggie, Best Director for Ang Lee. Had Affleck been nominated, he likely would have won since Best Picture and Director usually go hand in hand, but for whatever reason in a year with an embarrassment of riches it somehow seems totally appropiate that there was a split and Lee was given this award. If anything, Life Of Pi was a directorial achievement like no other and this Oscar was acknowledgement of that. In fact, right after Affleck was snubbed, I predicted Lee would take it, and in the last couple of weeks it was apparent a tide was building for him among Academy voters. It became one of the easiest calls of the night despite the fact that many pundits were calling it for Lincoln‘s Steven Spielberg. At the Govs Ball, Lee, who has won two previous Oscars (for Best Foreign Language Film for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Director for Brokeback Mountain), told me this one means as much or probably more because of the extreme challenges Pi provided. He was clearly thrilled with it and I told him he becomes the first director since George Stevens in the 50s with A Place In The Sun (1951) and Giant (1956) to win two Best Director Oscars for two films that did not win Best Picture, a rare occurence. Read More »
Okay Academy members, this is your last chance to vote.
And by all indications from my own admittedly unscientific survey over the weekend there are many who are choosing to wait, despite the Academy’s emails encouraging them to vote early in this final round. Part of the reason seems to be a desire to catch up on the Documentary Feature, Live Action and Animation Shorts which have been sent to the entire Academy membership for the first time, instead of requiring voters to attend special screenings. One voter told me he received his late and was trying to watch them all before submitting his ballot.
With today being a holiday, those voters who opted for paper ballots and still haven’t mailed them are out of luck if they hope to do that and still have it reach the downtown Los Angeles offices of the Academy’s accountants, PricewaterhouseCoopers, or the Academy lobby at its Beverly Hills headquarters in time before Tuesday’s 5 PM deadline. If you are a paper voter, not electronic, the best you can do at this point is have the ballot delivered in person to one of those locations before 5 PM tomorrow. And every year there are usually many that do just that. It has even numbered up into the hundreds in past years. But with the new, sometimes awkward, transition to online voting this year, that number will probably be significantly decreased. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Whatever happens in the Best Picture Oscar race, where Argo has emerged as a strong frontrunner thanks to an unbroken string of victories in all the key precursor awards, the race for the Best Director Oscar is … Read More »
Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi has turned into a success story for 20th Century Fox which had the Yann Martel book in development for several years but could never crack the supposedly “unfilmable” property until Lee got involved five years ago and figured out a way to bring to the screen this epic story of a young man and a tiger trying to survive after a disastrous shipwreck. Earlier on Wednesday the film passed the half billion dollar mark worldwide for Fox and also just passed the $100 million milestone in America alone. Nevertheless this is a strong international smash and with 11 Academy Award nominations, a remarkable feat since none were for acting, it promises to keep growing the total and has emerged as a genuine threat at the Oscars. If anything Life of Pi stands as a testament to the art and science of motion pictures, a film the director says could not have been made even five years ago. Now it has thanks to the efforts of a group of dedicated craftsmen. Below Lee talks of the challenges as do the film’s Oscar nominees for Visual Effects, Cinematography and Music in a series of exclusive new featurettes premiering now on Deadline.
Scoop hounds like myself love to lock filmmakers into projects and move on in search of the next splashy headline. A look at some recent big director developments, and at the tortured road several directors traveled before getting Oscar nominations this morning, shows that good movies really do find their way into the right hands, even if it takes forever to happen.
Among today’s Best Director nominees, Steven Spielberg only found the handle on Best Picture nominee Lincoln after he trashed an earlier version and labored more than a decade; David O Russell got Silver Linings Playbook because Sydney Pollack could not figure out how to meld humor with mental problems; Ang Lee got to crack the challenging Life Of Pi — which recently became the highest-grossing film in his career — after previous tries by Dean Georgaris and M. Night Shyamalan ended in futility. None of this is as dramatic as, say, when Spielberg traded Martin Scorsese Cape Fear in exchange for Schindler’s List, but it is intriguing how the moves of one major director impacts another, how the right guy for the picture usually ends up in the director’s chair, and why patience can be a virtue. Read More »
This morning’s just-announced DGA Award nominations are good news for the major studios and bad news for Harvey Weinstein. With Ben Affleck for Warner Bros’ Argo, Kathryn Bigelow for Sony’s Zero Dark Thirty, Tom Hooper for Universal’s Les Miserables, Ang Lee for 20th Century Fox’s Life Of Pi and Steven Spielberg for Disney/Dreamworks Lincoln, it was a clean sweep for the majors — a continuing roaring comeback in Oscar contenders for the big boys who the past two years have watched The Weinstein Company take Best Picture (and top DGA) honors with small indies like The Artist and The King’s Speech. Clearly, even as their focus is on money-making blockbusters and popcorn entertainment, the majors are no longer sitting on the sidelines when it comes to the Oscars and seem fully invested in the process this year at least.
It’s highly unusual since the advent of the Miramax takeover of Oscar seasons the past quarter century to see no independent contender in a strong position. But, at least as far as the DGA is concerned, that’s the story here, along with the fact that four of the five nominees are past DGA- and Oscar-directing winners, with Affleck the only newcomer to the DGA club after directing only his third feature film (he is an Oscar winner for co-writing Good Will Hunting). Bigelow and Hooper both won in the last three years and have made a quick return to the golden circle. Spielberg, meanwhile, is the Big Kahuna of the DGA as he is a three-time winner (The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan) and now 11-time nominee as well as winner of the guild’s Life Achievement Award. Lee’s enormously impressive technical feat in bringing what was thought to be an unfilmable book, Life Of Pi, so successfully to the big screen is clearly something that appealed to the sensibility of directors, so his nomination was definitely expected. This will make for one of the tightest and most interesting directing races in years at the DGA. Read More »
Los Angeles – The Visual Effects Society announced today that it will honor Academy Award® winning filmmaker Ang Lee with the VES Visionary Award at the 11th Annual VES Awards on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The award honors an individual who has uniquely and consistently employed the art and science of visual effects to foster imagination and ignite future discoveries by way of artistry, invention and groundbreaking work.
Los Angeles—November 27, 2012—The Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) today announces that Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee will be the recipient of its 2013 Filmmaker Award to be presented at the 60th MPSE Golden Reel Awards on February 17,
Finally opening wide today after a 10-year journey to the screen, director Ang Lee‘s epic and groundbreaking movie about the trecherous ocean voyage of two survivors of a shipwreck – a young man and an imposing Bengal Tiger – represents an enormous gamble for distributor 20th Century Fox. Even Lee who has won Oscars for equally groundbreaking fare such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain initally did not think this reported $120 million film based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel was viable. “I read it 10 years ago. I thought nobody in their right mind would put up more than $15 million for this. It’s too risky, too philosophical a book although it has great adventure in the middle part, the ocean part, but it’s a thinking book. So I didn’t think it was artistically filmable or technically so,” he told me when he came to town last week for a series of well-attended promotional screenings for the WGA, PGA, SAG, DGA and the Academy which drew a strong crowd Sunday night.
Lee wasn’t the only one who thought Life of Pi was unfilmable. Fox had been developing the picture with other filmmakers since aquiring the property in 2002 but until Lee got involved five years ago it was stalled. Even then it almost didn’t come together but the director prevailed in explaining his vision and the need to shoot it in 3D, his first time using that process. “I thought of 3D, that maybe with another dimension I could take a leap of faith. That was way before I knew what 3D was. It was a naive thought. Read More »
After nearly four years of work, Ang Lee tonight unveils his much-anticipated film version of Yann Martel’s Life Of Pi,a book that sold 7 million copies worldwide but was thought to be “unfilmable” until technology finally caught up with it the past five years. Having its world premiere as the opening movie of the New York Film Festival, 20th Century Fox is launching what looks like a box office hit and definite Oscar contender — and this despite the fact it features no name stars or obvious hooks. Chalk it up as another contender in the emerging season along with other fall-festival titles like Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, The Master, The Impossible and Anna Karenina among others. Certainly there is no other film like Pi out there this season which ought to give it some distinction in the race.
The studio has been touting the visually stunning film since debuting 15 minutes of footage at the Las Vegas CinemaCon exhibitors convention in April, when it became clear this November 21st release could become a major awards player. Right after that presentation one pundit told me, “Well this is one of the Best Picture nominees for sure”. Now the wraps are off the completed film, although there is still some minor mixing, color correction and polishing of some 100 effects shots to be done. The studio had a very small initial screening for literally a handful of journalists in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon at their Zanuck Theatre (where I caught it), and this morning for press covering NYFF in New York. Early reaction on Twitter has been strong. Read More »
New York, NY, August 13, 2012 – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today that Ang Lee’s LIFE OF PI will make its World Premiere as the Opening Night Gala presentation for the upcoming 50th New York Film Festival (September 28 – October 14). The screening will mark the Academy Award-winning director’s return to NYFF, 12 years after CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON served as the Closing Night Gala presentation (2000). The selection of LIFE OF PI also allows Lee to join Robert Altman, Pedro Almodóvar and François Truffaut as the only directors to have had more than one film chosen to open NYFF. (THE ICE STORM was the Opening Night Gala selection in 1997.)
A respected presence at the New York Film Festival and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in 2009 FSLC celebrated Lee’s career with a complete retrospective of the director’s work at the Walter Reade Theater. The LIFE OF PI screening will also mark the first time a film has been presented in 3D for NYFF’s Opening Night Gala.