"This is the man Hugh Grant dubbed 'Fang Lee' after making Sense and Sensibility with him," so says a new article in The Age about Ang Lee's apparent reputation for being a cruel taskmaster on his movie sets, although in Lee's defense the piece doesn't offer a great deal of examples to support its premise and comes across more like a hook to write up an otherwise boring piece about Lust, Caution. In fact, the closest it comes to naming names is offering the vague assertion that Heath Ledger once claimed Lee pushed him to the brink of physical endurance during the shooting of Brokeback Mountain, which doesn't sound like a damning accusation even if it's taken in context. But who cares about context? Lets have some more hyperbole: Lee is "the industry's Clark Kent," according to the piece. "Under that mild-mannered exterior -- consisting of a gentle-to-inaudible speaking voice, self-deprecating manner and an overall Zen calm -- lurks a driven obsessive, a Caligula among directors."
According to the article, Lee reportedly spent 100 hours to film a ten minute sex scene in Lust, Caution, but he defends his exactitude as a necessary part of the job. "None of us enjoys it," he's quoted as saying. "By nature it's very uncomfortable, draining and painful. We're just common people. It felt pretty harsh. But we used the pain. We enjoyed the pain." Okay, maybe that last line tags him as a bit of a weirdo, but I rarely believe stories about directors being unreasonable on the set, and if you want to know why, check out the making-of documentary on the DVD of The Shining. There's a great moment when Kubrick loses his cool at Shelley Duvall for not hitting her mark, and you can see how little moments like that can create a 'reputation,' but it still seems like something that's all in a day's work.