Tue, Mar 07, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Lee takes Oscar for best director

OUTSIDER The filmmaker, who is the first Asian to win a best director Oscar, praised the two gay characters in his movie for portraying the `greatness of love itself'

AGENCIES , HOLLYWOOD

Ang Lee poses with the Oscar he won for best director for his work on Brokeback Mountain at the 78th Academy Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles.

PHOTO: AP

Taiwanese-born filmmaker Ang Lee (李安) on Sunday became the first Asian to win the best director Oscar, when he snatched the coveted award for his groundbreaking gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain.

Lee, 51, has made a career of depicting the struggles of outsiders, and his latest film explores the forbidden love between two cowboys.

Best known for his 2000 martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which won four Oscars, Lee reshaped Hollywood filmmaking with his risky portrayal of gay sexuality in a mainstream movie.

Accepting his award, Lee thanked the fictional characters of his film, based on a short story by Annie Proulx.

"Their names are Ennis and Jack, and they taught all of us who made Brokeback Mountain so much about not just the gay men and women whose love is denied by society but, just as important, the greatness of love itself," he said.

Brokeback Mountain missed out on the best picture Oscar, which went to racial drama Crash.

Modest and mild-mannered, Lee offered his congratulations to the cast and crew of Crash whose Oscar win was announced while he spoke to reporters backstage.

The director, who has lived in the US since 1978, also thanked his father, who encouraged him to accept the risky project after his big-budget feature Hulk flopped, but who subsequently died.

"I just did this movie after my father passed away. More than any other, I made this for him," Lee said.

He also thanked his wife and two children, telling them: "On Brokeback, I felt you with me every day."

Lee finished his acceptance speech by tapping into his Asian roots, thanking his "connections" in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.

Lee's films range from intimate dramas about dysfunctional families like The Ice Storm to period English pieces like Sense and Sensibility, martial arts (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and comic book adaptations such as Hulk.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out the awards, passed over Lee for best director five years ago when he was nominated and expected to win for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Lee has said he never expected Brokeback to meet the strong reception it has.

"I thought it was a small work of love," he said in January. "I never thought it would play like this."

On Sunday he said that the movie had renewed his appetite for filmmaking.

"It certainly changed me. Before I got into this movie I was very tired ... I almost wanted to retire, I just felt I had had it. This movie taught me how to look at myself, how to manage myself and enjoy making them," he said.

"I think we sensed that there is some calling, some need to do some movies ... and then somehow the society catches up, it's meant to happen. I don't think we planned it, we spoke to our heart. The audience is very hungry for respect ... for complexity, for maturity," he said.

The film has earned US$79 million at US and Canadian box offices -- a mighty sum for a low-budget film meant to play mainly in arthouse cinemas.

Lee's effort with Brokeback earned him many accolades this award season including the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe trophy and the best director award from the Directors Guild of America.

also see stories:

Taiwanese cheer Lee's win, but some question subject

Family and friends praise Ang Lee's quiet dedication

'Crash' director 'shocked, shocked'

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