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Ang Lee Discusses Filming the Unfilmable, the Practicality of 3D, and Winning the Oscar with Tim Squyres and David Magee at 'Life of Pi' Event

By Cameron Sinz | Indiewire March 12, 2013 at 10:33AM

When Ang Lee was awarded with his second Best Director Oscar during the 85th Annual Academy Awards, it marked the end of more than five years of work on "Life of Pi," his 2012 3D adventure epic. With the film taking in almost $600 million worldwide and becoming the most awarded film at this year's ceremony (it won four Oscars), it seems fair to say that the investment paid off. At a recent event celebrating the film's upcoming 3D Blu-ray release at New York's Crosby Street Hotel, Lee spoke at length about the film with his editor and longtime collaborator Tim Squyres and writer David Magee, covering almost every aspect of its' production, going back as far as 2008, when the writing process first began.
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On the possible artistic uses of 3D, and how Hollywood may use it in the future.

Lee: "One of the very first solutions I thought of as to how to physically how to do it was I thought if I add another dimension thinking-wise and also just visual-wise, maybe I could solve the problem. Of course I thought with the visual effects I would have to do a great job; raise the bar and all that. So I thought of 3D, another dimension. And so the first thing I saw about 3D when I learned it was that it did particularly well with water.

"If I want to make an independent, I can go from high budget to low budget, I want to have that freedom. If I cannot afford it, then I will not do it."

"I think the movie is encouraging for the industry to watch 3D. You just saw the deleted scenes, they're not that comfortable to look at because Tim hasn't really done it carefully, and I don't think everybody is really doing it carefully yet, but we'll get there pretty soon. It gets better every month. This is a new cinematic language we are all trying out. Whether eventually people think of some other ways or if it will take over we do not really know. I can't tell, I just made one. But I know I'm just in the beginning of learning that language. It's very different how we stage things. How we give volumes. How we deal with the things that we used to compensate in our heads for the lack of depth in the flat screen. All of that is changing and how do you build a language and a trust in that media. I think it will still have a way to go. Where it's going to go I don't know. I see positive things to it. I know I want to try it again to get to know it better. I've just began to look at this media. I think it's got to get better and cheaper, more filmmakers would like to try it then the projector system will get better too. Then we'll see. It doesn't matter what you think, how the critics are viewing it, or how people come at it. It's just going to take its own way whether it rises or falls. It's going to take its own route."

Squyres: "I think that data shows that the audiences worldwide that are least enthusiastic about it are American audiences. In other parts of the world, it's much more popular. I think that one of the things we did in this film that most other people don't do is that we did everything in 3D. We never watched it in 2D. Very often 3D is kind of an afterthought, and since we had never worked in it before we didn't want to have to think, "well this looks good in 2D, but I bet in 3D we might want to hold this a little longer." And have to intellectualize it that. So we avoided that by just working in 3D the whole time. This is a 3D movie, and the 2D can take care of itself. And that's important, because when you start to see it every day, after a while you start to see that this could be better, and this could be more comfortable, and we could do something here with the 3D for dramatic effect. It's not somebody else adding it on at the last minute, it's part of the filmmaking process. So I think that was a decision we made from the beginning and looking back it was very worthwhile."

Lee additionally spoke about his interest in continuing to shoot on 3D, and how we would tackle it in the future

Lee: "I think I'd envision it differently. Like the per-visualization is in 2D, but in the future I think starting from here, I've got to think 3D. Actually thinking in 3D I think really helped me make the movie. And when I see the 2D version, I still think it's a good movie, but I'm so thankful that I actually went through the trouble to make the 3D. A lot of happenstances need to be changed and I don't know what to rely on, but I think that put me in a position to conceive and make the movie somehow differently. 3D is still expensive. If I want to make an independent, I can go from high budget to low budget, I want to have that freedom. If I cannot afford it, then I will not do it. I still enjoy doing 2D, and when I get the chance I'm going to do it."
Lee, post-Oscars
Lee, post-Oscars

Finally, Lee spoke about winning his second Oscar, in addition to the now notorious photo of him eating a cheeseburger following the ceremony.

Lee: "To tell the truth, I didn't know what to expect. I'm the captain of the ship and I have to carry on. So, I was thinking least about myself, and each time we had somebody win I would scream.  I had somehow in my head prepared a speech just in case but not too well prepared because I didn't know really what to expect. So when the name was mentioned, there was sort of a little bit of that involuntarily. What really moved me is unlike the first time, where I was sort of expecting to me, but for this one, I don't know, they all screamed. A big portion of the audience screamed. And as I got up and stage, they all started to stand up. I was quite overwhelmed and I was very touched, so I guess I didn't do too well in the speech. That was totally unexpected. From my perspective, which is different from I guess everyone on television's view, I was looking at them and they were all standing at me and going 'AHHH.' So this seems to be quite happy, so it was quite memorable, more so than the first time I think. But I tried to enjoy it, tried to be proper, and by the time I got to the Vanity Fair party, I was hungry and they were offering In N Out Burger. That picture reminds me of this Disneyland kind of a moment."

Squyres: "(laughs) I just won the Oscar and I'm going to Disneyland!"

This article is related to: Ang Lee, David Magee, Life of Pi, Interviews





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