Ang Lee and thesp Tang Wei received a warm welcome at Variety’s Screening Series of “Lust, Caution” on Tuesday at the Arclight, when they got a standing ovation from the aud following a showing of the film.
Although this was Tang’s first major role, Lee explained that he didn’t necessarily seek out an unknown actress for the part. After examining approximately 10,000 hopefuls, he chose Tang because she demonstrated a sensitivity to the role’s historical importance.
Tang’s newness was compounded by a grueling five month sked in which cast and crew worked six days a week, often for 14 hours each day.
“It was hell,” Lee said of the process. But he also joked about the advantages of having an inexperienced actress on the set. “Maybe she thinks, ‘Oh, films are like this,'” he said.
When asked how she managed the emotionally wrought and sexually explicit material so masterfully, Tang described a process similar to method acting.
“I follow what the character wants to do,” she explained. Tang also spoke about the emotional difficulty of watching the now finished project. “I can’t watch it or I will start to cry,” she said.
Lee felt that “Caution” is important primarily because no other such film exists, especially in Asia and said he didn’t necessarily take the NC-17 rating into account when filming.
“I shot until I felt right,” he said.
When asked how he conceives of such complex visual concepts, Lee, once an actor himself, said “I act with the lenses…It was the ultimate performance for me.”