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Ang Lee Blames 2006 Academy Awards Loss On Discrimination Against ‘Brokeback Mountain’

Director Ang Lee is finally pointing the finger.

Lee told IndieWire in a recent interview that his Brokeback Mountain losing the Academy Awards Best Picture to Crash in 2006 was because of discrimination against a gay love story.

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“Back then, [‘Brokeback Mountain’] had a ceiling. We got a lot of support — up to that much,” he said. “It has that feeling. I wasn’t holding a grudge or anything. It’s just how they were,” Lee said of the Academy at the time.

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Brokeback Mountain did win three other Oscars that year for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay for Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, and Best Original Score for Gustavo Santaolalla.

Ang remembered coming off the stage after accepting his Best Director award.

“I got my award, which was [second to] last to the big one, and I was walking off the stage, they called me down, and said, stay here. That’s your mark. Everybody assumes you will win, so stay at that mark,” Lee said. “Right next to the stage was the curtain. The next was Best Picture. Stay here, just stay here. I saw Jack Nicholson, his profile, he opened the envelope, and I go, ‘Oh my god, oh my god.’ It took like 10 seconds before he announced, and then he went, ‘Crash.’”

Lee spoke with IndieWire ahead of receiving an honorary award from New York University, his alma mater, at an April 8 Tisch School of the Arts gala in NYC. The filmmaker has won Best Director twice (for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi ), and his 2000 Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon won four Academy Awards, including Best International Feature.

He is sanguine about the 2006 Oscars experience with Brokeback Mountain.

“In my upbringing, art wasn’t an option. Making movies was crazy,” said Lee. “We were outsiders in Taiwan, then outsiders in America, then go back to China, we’re outsiders. I always feel like an outsider. Repressed characters, I suppose, those stories attract me. ‘Brokeback Mountain’ is just so beautiful. You’ve read the short story. I have nothing in common with Wyoming gay cowboys. But why did I cry? It’s haunting. It’s just a beautiful story.”

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