Taiwan’s Ang Lee (李安) called it “a miracle” that he could make Life of Pi (少年PI的奇幻漂流), a film that occupied him for four years before it hit the big screen and culminated with his win for best director at the Oscars.
Lee claimed his second directing Oscar on Sunday night in an upset over Steven Spielberg, who had been the heavy favorite for Lincoln. Lee won the same award in 2005 for Brokeback Mountain.
“It was a very sweet moment for me,” he said backstage.
Overall Life of Pi, a shipwreck story told in 3D, won the most Oscars with four, claiming the awards for musical score, cinematography and visual effects, as well as best director.
“It’s a miracle that I could make this movie,” Lee said. “I carried the anxiety for a very long time, four years. It’s a philosophical book and expensive movie, a scary combination.”
The surprise blockbuster about a youth trapped on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger made Lee want to work in 3D again, calling it “a very new cinematic language.”
“The bad news is it’s too expensive. It’s very hard,” he said. “Once it gets cheaper and easier, more filmmakers are going to dive into it. I see there’s quite a brilliant future in it. I will try again if I can afford it.”
Lee thanked his home country, where he said 90 percent of the film was shot.
“They gave us a lot of physical help and financial help,” he said. “I’m glad that Taiwan contribute this much to the film. I feel like this movie belongs to the world.”
Lee recalled how he only spoke broken English when he made Sense and Sensibility in 1995, his first mainstream Hollywood film.
“You can overcome cultural barriers, but you have to be diligent,” he said.
“This is a great night for me and everybody who liked the movie, particularly in Asia,” he said. “I wish them a happy new year of the snake, everybody gets lucky.”
Lee became the 19th director to win multiple directing Oscars. He was nominated in 2000 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Besides Spielberg, Lee beat out nominees Michael Haneke (Amour), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild).
Ben Affleck’s Iran hostage drama Argo won the coveted best film Oscar, while Daniel Day-Lewis won a record third best actor trophy for Lincoln and Jennifer Lawrence was crowned best actress for Silver Linings Playbook.
Spielberg, whose presidential drama had the most nominations with 12 nods, went home from Hollywood’s biggest awards show with only two awards, best actor and a technical prize for production design.
Affleck paid tribute to Spielberg in his acceptance speech.
“Steven Spielberg, I want to acknowledge, I feel is a genius and a towering talent among us,” said Affleck, who was not nominated for best director or best actor at the Oscars, in a perceived snub.
In an unexpected move, the best picture winner was announced by US first lady Michelle Obama, addressing the Oscars show — and final presenter, legend Jack Nicholson — by videolink from the White House.
“I was hallucinating when that was happening. I was just asking ... ‘Was that Michelle Obama?’ The whole thing overwhelmed me. It was an enormous honor. It was very cool,” Affleck said backstage afterwards.