Ang Lee Says Asians Still Ignored by Hollywood

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A day before collecting his second Oscar Award for best director, Taiwan born Ang Lee sat down for an interview with M1905, a Chinese news site dedicated to film and television. During the 30-minute conversation, the famed director complained of Hollywood’s tendency to overlook Asian actors.

“It is a pity the young Pi was not nominated [for a Best Actor Award],” said Lee, referring to Suraj Sharma, who played the lead character in Lee’s The Life of Pi. Describing Sharma’s performance as “very natural,” Lee added that he was disappointed at the lack of attention given to the performance of famed Bollywood star Irfan Khan, who played the older Pi in Lee’s film.

Lee won his first Oscar in 2005 for the film Brokeback Mountain, about a love affair between two Wyoming ranchers. He is the first Asian ever to collect two Oscars in the Best Director category.

During the interview, Lee also pointed to his 2006 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which earned Oscar nominations in 10 different categories, none of them for Best Actor or Actress. “[Chinese star] Zhang Ziyi deserved at least a nomination for Best Supporting Actress,” he said, adding Hollywood’s neglect of Asian performers goes beyond Chinese film stars. In the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire, which swept up eight Oscars that year, not a single actor was nominated.

“It is a honor to be nominated," Lee said of his Oscar fame. Still, given the relative lack of attention paid to Asian actors and directors in Hollywood, Lee said that he hoped one day to see China develop its own awards to rival the Oscars.