Even though Ang Lee's name had surfaced in most Oscar prediction summaries, the "Life of Pi" director wasn't so sure he'd make the cut this year. At least not at first. After his film was overlooked in the first round of critics' awards, Lee resigned himself to the notion that "Life of Pi" might not make the awards-season splash he'd hoped it would. Well, today, "Life of Pi" -- the story of a young man, Pi (Suraj Sharma), trapped on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a tiger -- earned 11 Academy Award nominations, the most ever for a film directed by Lee. Among those 11 nominations are one for Lee's directorial efforts, making him a three-time nominee in the category. (Lee is also the only director this year to score DGA, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Oscar nominations.) We spoke to Lee on the phone this morning to gauge his reaction to the news. Spoiler alert: yes, he's a happy man.
You've had a good day today.
Um ... yeah [laughs]. A good morning.
You had been a leading candidate for Best Director, but were you optimistic before the announcement?
I don't know what to expect. Just the way awards season started, I didn't expect much.
Why do you say that?
Well, from the early critics' awards. And then I started to see the movie pick up business from around the world. It's kind of a late-start type of movie. Started warm, then gets hotter and hotter in theaters around the world. In the last three months, I've been all over the world.
Why do you think that is with this particular movie?
I think people didn't quite know what the movie is. it looks like an expensive movie, but it's a philosophical book with an unknown actor, and you see the tiger on the poster. And, then, everywhere from the States to Asia to Europe, it's always the second week [that performs better] than the first week. Even when you get bombarded with all the commercials, still the second week was better -- then the third week is better. It does better and better for quite a few weeks and starts picking up business -- that's the pattern all over the world. And it's the same thing with awards [laughs]. Still, I was quite surprised this morning how many we got.
So that first week, you would not have thought this would get more nominations than any film you've directed before?
After the New York Film Festival, the reviews are basically good. There are some not-so-good and some not-so-nice ones. But it's basically over 80-percent positive. So I don't know, I think we're doing fine. So I started feeling fine. And then, starting from Asia, they so take it in. They intensely love the movie and it feeds back here -- they witness how it plays elsewhere in Europe and Latin America. It just takes a while before people actually take it up.
From what you're saying, it reminds me of how people feel about "Hulk." I think people appreciate that movie now more than they did at first -- only "Life of Pi" took a lot less time for that to happen.
Much longer! [Laughs] Yeah, this happened in a matter of months and that one is like ... it's taken over 10 years.
So I assume you're happy it happened quicker this time?
Yeah, yeah. It's a lot of pressure making this kind of movie. Now it's twice making an expensive movie -- I've only done it twice. The pressure is quite tremendous.
So with a movie that costs more money, do you feel more pressure to come through with awards nominations than something like "Brokeback Mountain"?
No. The business side, it's more pressure. But, of course, awards are great -- but, with this movie, the business slowly but surely kept on going. And that's very encouraging to me. That's very heartwarming to me. I don't feel so lonely anymore [laughs]. Not so much like Pi as he drifts across the Pacific.
I would imagine that today is not a lonely day for you.
No [laughs]. I almost didn't know what to do!
What did you do?
Normally ... I have to tell myself, "I feel good about making this movie." Now, people are telling me. I'm still trying to get used to it.
You've won the Oscar for Best Director before. On a personal side, does it still mean as much to get nominated?
It's great. It's always great to be recognized. But, this time, more hoping everybody on my team could win something. It's more going out to everybody else.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.