Ang Lee interview: ‘When I saw Devon, I knew Sense & Sensibility belonged to me’

Ang Lee interview: ‘When I saw Devon, I knew Sense & Sensibility belonged to me’

Formative moments in the lives of great artists can occur almost anywhere. Ang Lee’s came on the train from London to Plymouth. It was a wet winter day in early 1994, and the Taiwanese filmmaker was steeling himself for Sense and Sensibility, an adaptation of the Jane Austen novel and his first entirely English-language project. At that point, the film was to be shot in Ireland for tax reasons – but Lee, then 39, felt he owed it to Austen to see firsthand the Devonshire countryside in which her story was set, “just so I knew what I’d be imitating,” he chuckles. Lee, now 66, takes up the tale. “It had been raining hard when we’d left London, but the moment our train emerged from the tunnel into Devon was one of the most magical in my life. It was bright and sunny, at around four o’clock, and the late afternoon sun was hitting those rolling hills in the most beautiful way. I could already see Marianne Dashwood tumbling down the hillside and being rescued by Willoughby on his white …
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