The road to the red carpet outside the Dolby Theatre began at 500 South Goodwin for Ang Lee (’80), who says he might not have two best director Oscar statues (and another for best foreign-language film) if it weren’t for Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
“That’s where I started devouring western drama, which laid the foundation of what I do today. It changed my life,” says the Taiwan-born movie maker, who gave us 'Brokeback Mountain' and 'Life of Pi, becoming the first (and second) non-white person to win the coveted top director statue.
Lee’s other favorite Champaign-Urbana place had nothing to do with his future line of work.
“When I first arrived to UI, I was fresh from Taiwan,” he says. “It was like moving to a big movie set — as I had seen America from TV and movies. I was excited, so I didn’t miss home, but one thing I couldn’t get used to was American food — in the dorm or anywhere in Champaign.
“It’s not that Taiwan had better food back then, but most American food — orange juice, tomato sauce — was too sour for me, too acidic. My mouth wasn’t trained for Western food. From then on, I gradually became a good cook, because I had to cook for myself — I couldn’t take American food, except for Burger King and KFC.
“There was a commercial years ago for Burger King, where they showed that people from all over the world preferred BK to McDonald’s — and I can attest to that.“Since KFC, on Neil Street, was too much of a schlep from where I lived, there were times I would have a Whopper with cheese every night.”