Taiwanese director Ang Lee won the Best Director at the 85th Academy Awards ceremony for Life of Pi. Behind the success of the film lies stories that are rarely known.
Ang Lee was prepared to produce Life of Pi since 2011. Although Australia, New Zealand and India were all willing to provide funds to Ang for production in their countries, Ang wanted to shoot the film in Taiwan.
Hollywood producers, however, were not familiar with Taiwan and had reservations. Therefore, even though Ang wanted to take his team there, he couldn’t due to funding. Taichung Mayor, Jason Hu, decided to enable a donation made by Sisy Chen, a media person and politician. The donation, which was made for the 100th anniversary of the birth of her grandmother, was worth TW$1 million. This money covered the expenses for the filming team to come to Taiwan and to investigate the filming environment, and finally enabled the filming in Taichung.
Although the final decision was made to film at Ang’s hometown in Taiwan, things did not go as planned. Even shipping the Bengal Tiger “Richard Parker”—who played a significant role in the movie—from India to Taiwan was not smooth. There was a period of time when “everything was ready, but the tiger.” Qichen Jiang, the Press Secretary and KMT (nationalist party) legislator, coordinated through the zoo. An “exchange” application was made to invite the tiger to come to Taiwan. The process took more than half a year, but finally the tiger arrived.
During the filming in Taiwan, the 300 team members lived in Taichung for more than a year. The number of rooms needed exceeded 30,000. It was estimated that the accommodation cost for Ang’s team was more than TW$100 million. The vice-chairman of the Hotel National Taichung, Junlin Chai, said the central and Taichung governments subsidised nearly TW$300 million on the production of the Life of Pi, but the people had earned this “investment” back when calculating the business opportunities brought by the entire cast.
Directing films from Taiwan to the international arena, Ang’s pathway to an Oscar was bright, but filled with hardships.
Ang always keeps calm when handling any difficulty. He used to say: “Be famous when you are older.” Because if a person becomes famous too early, he/she may want to control the whole world. But if becoming famous at an older age, one will regard it as: “I am lucky to have it or it’s my fate not to have it.
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