Ang Lee Says Stage Manager Told Him ‘Brokeback Mountain’ Would Likely Win Best Picture Before Oscars Loss

Ang Lee is once again looking back at Brokeback Mountain‘s memorable best picture loss to Crash at the 2006 Academy Awards.

Speaking with IndieWire, the filmmaker shared that after he won best director for the queer, modern-day Western, he was told by a stage manager to stick around backstage, as the film was expected to also take home an Oscar for best picture.

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“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,'” he recalled.

Lee continued, “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.'”

While announcing the winner, Nicholson appeared to be just as surprised as Lee, seemingly mouthing “wow” after saying the name of Paul Haggis’ film.

Lee previously talked to The Hollywood Reporter about “being on the side of the stage” to hear the best picture announcement. And he was disappointed to hear Nicholson say Crash.

“As a director,” he said, “you cannot just be happy for yourself. You have a lot of hopes for the crew and cast. You just want everybody to win, because it is the Oscar, and the world is watching.”

When THR polled hundreds of Academy members and asked them to recast their ballots in historic and controversial races in 2015, numerous members said they would vote for Brokeback Mountain over Crash. At the time of Brokeback Mountain‘s loss, many decried the Academy’s decision, calling out the snub as apparent homophobia.

When asked if he believes Brokeback Mountain lost best picture due to the Academy’s discrimination against a gay love story, Lee responded, “I think so, yeah.”

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

Besides winning best director, the Heath Ledger- and Jake Gyllenhaal-starring film also received Oscars for best adapted screenplay (it’s based on Annie Proulx’s short story of the same name) and best original score.

Lee later won his second best director Oscar in 2013 for The Life of Pi.

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