My Favorite Mistake: Ang Lee

Article excerpt

Byline: Interview by Marlow Stern

The 'Life of Pi' director on his greatest balancing act.

Many times when you make a movie, it feels like your biggest mistake. But even if a film isn't a hit, you shouldn't view it as a mistake. My mistake is having two sides to my character. When I'm not working, I get very down, but when I am working, I get very immersed in it.

For six years, from 1985 to 1991, I felt pretty weak and useless. I was at home, working on scripts and cooking and taking care of the kids, while my wife, who's a very strong woman, steady and pragmatic, really stabilized the family. She was working as a medical researcher. I didn't have much self-esteem, because I'd pitch so many scripts and get back rewrites. It was just endless frustration. I got moody and fell into a near depression. But then I became an older, more mature person who was much more prepared to direct a feature-length film.

Years later, when I was making Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hulk, I was hardly at home. I spent two years on Crouching Tiger and then another year promoting it all over the world. After the Oscars, I went right into working on Hulk, which took two years. This meant that during my son's teenage years, I didn't spend a lot of time with him. I grew up in Taiwan, where those years are all about academics, so I didn't feel as though I had a lot of life experience to share with him while he was in high school. American high schools are psychologically more complicated. When your children are little, you educate them and share your experiences, but when they're older, it's harder, and I wasn't home enough to give him guidance. …