Ang Lee talks 'Taking Woodstock'

0

Comments

Add +

Ang Lee is one of the world’s most successful and diverse filmmakers. Following the seriousness of ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Lust, Caution’, Lee, 55, has brightened up with ‘Taking Woodstock’, a comic tale of the men behind history’s greatest music festival

What appealed to you about ‘Taking Woodstock’?
‘Woodstock is just fascinating. It’s a legend, a myth, an abstract utopia. But Elliot Tiber’s book offered a window, a slice of life to give you a real taste of Woodstock. And I’d been making some heavy-duty movies. I wanted happiness, innocence… It felt right.’

Are you a positive person?
‘Life doesn’t make sense. We create stories so it makes sense, but life is always a mixed bag. I think I’m a happy person. It’s just when I study the world I can’t help but see this misery, awkwardness, conflict and death.’

Was the set of ‘Taking Woodstock’ all peace and love?

‘You make a movie about Woodstock, you need the Woodstock spirit in your crew. I was like an angel on the set. I made an effort to smile, to show appreciation. Which I didn’t do before, not because I’m a Scrooge-like person, but because there was a lot of responsibility so I had to stay serious. Shooting time is precious, many people are making such a lot of effort, and if I joke around and miss something I won’t forgive myself. As a result I think people thought they could never please me. But this was a very happy set.’

How did you feel about directing so many naked people?
‘The biggest problem was that the girls had to be cast two months ahead of time to… well, to grow their hair back, to fit the period. And we had a switch of schedules, so some of them had to be photographed only from the waist up. It was continuity hell!’

Have you dabbled in psychedelics?
‘I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t. But I was very intrigued by how I was going to show the Woodstock stage for the first time. Michael Landy (one of the festival organisers) described that stage as the centre of the universe, but how do you show that? It had to be somehow abstract. People have said it’s the best acid trip they’ve seen on screen.’

Did you worry that this period in time has been exhaustively documented?
‘It’s more like mockery. I’ve hardly seen a movie about that era, apart from documentaries, that didn’t make a joke out of it. But there were a lot of good things going on, planting good seeds for what we are today. Woodstock was three days of peace, love and music. They did hold it together. There was no violence. You have to give them credit: I think there was some precious idealism in there worth capturing.’

Why make a Woodstock movie with no musical acts?
‘It’s realistic. For most people, Woodstock wasn’t about the music, it was about the experience. People who have seen the documentary have this false impression that it was all about Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. But how many people could actually see the stage? Just the documentary makers! To me, it was about something larger, the idea of Woodstock. The utopia. Also, it was cheaper!’

Do you think your outsider’s position has helped you become one of cinema’s most acute observers of American history?
‘It’s important for the world that outsiders make movies about American subjects. To make a movie without narcissism, to get the facts straight. And I feel very insecure about the idea of contemporary stories. I’m not a hip person. I’m not smart enough to know what’s going on.’

Read our review of 'Taking Woodstock'.

Author: Interview: Tom Huddleston



Users say

0 comments


Top Stories

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.

Oscar predictions

Oscar predictions

The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards

January film highlights 2013

January film highlights 2013

Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow

October film highlights

October film highlights

Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.

Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'

Martin Freeman interview

Martin Freeman interview

'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.

Sam Mendes interview

Sam Mendes interview

Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.

Ang Lee interview

Ang Lee interview

The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'

Michael Haneke interview

Michael Haneke interview

The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.

Read our interview with Michael Haneke

Thomas Vinterberg interview

Thomas Vinterberg interview

The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.

Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.

Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us

On the set of 'Sightseers'

On the set of 'Sightseers'

Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.

Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set

Tim Burton interview

Tim Burton interview

The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.

Read our interview with Tim burton

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.

Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'

What's your film guilty pleasure?

What's your film guilty pleasure?

Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.

Read 'Film guilty pleasures'

When teen stars turn serious

When teen stars turn serious

Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.

Read 'When teen stars turn serious'

50 years of James Bond

50 years of James Bond

From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.

Read '50 years of James Bond'

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.

Read the interview

Hilarious horror films

Hilarious horror films


Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.

Read 'Hilarious horror films'

Martin McDonagh interview

Martin McDonagh interview

The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.

Read the interview

Autumn horror films

Autumn horror films

We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.

Read about this Autumn's best horror movies

On the set of Skyfall

On the set of Skyfall

Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.

Read 'On the set of Skyfall'

Bond: then and now

Bond: then and now

Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?

Sally Potter interview

Sally Potter interview

The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.

Daniel Craig interview

Daniel Craig interview

'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’