2011 / 11月
Su Hui-chao /tr. by Josh Aguiar
For many people, watching a movie is akin to seeing their own lives.
Lee Lieh's vicissitudinous career and love life would make for a gripping movie. From atop the pinnacle of fame she sank into obscurity and then climbed her way up again. But she hasn't any interest in publishing her story-the story of her life after 50 will be expressed in the films she produces.
She was born into a warm and supportive family. Her father was a police officer who doted on his wife and four children. But Lee always had a rebellious streak-when her father dragged her off to take the high-school entrance exams, she ended up ditching the exam anyway.
Then at age 18 her father's sudden passing left her grief-stricken. She began acting originally as a way to earn a little bit of extra cash to help the family out, but her sweet appearance and fearless attitude propelled her to the top. She had completely blown up. She appeared on TV every day and was in movies, and was instantly recognizable to audiences on account of her peculiar (especially masculine) sounding name. But she wasn't happy. She felt suffocated and wanted to escape. More than anything, she wanted to find a man who was like the father she so adored.
Escape she did. While working on the show The Diary of Di-di she met David Mao and the two quickly married when she was 23. Her onscreen activity fell off sharply for the three years they were married; when it ended, she went right back to acting.
At age 31 she tried her hand at business. With a friend as a co-investor, she set up a garment factory in mainland China, and for a while she was one of those people who live their lives on airplanes, traveling back and forth with briefcase in hand. It was a rocky journey with high highs and low lows, and when it was done, she returned to Taiwan empty-handed.
In the interim, she maintained a 12-year on-again off-again relationship with pop superstar Lo Ta-yu in which the two were apart more than together. When they did finally marry, it fizzled after little more than year.
Forty-five years old and without a penny to her name, it dawned on her that it was far more important that she love herself than seek the affections of the right man. What was it that she really wanted? She had never given up on her big-screen producer dreams, though she had certainly sidelined them. She started a production company with a friend and together they built their company from the ground up, from television and eventually to film, positioning themselves to take advantage of the upswing in the industry.
Emotional scars heal over time-at the very least they coarsen to the point that they don't bleed at the slightest provocation. Lee's life today consists of but two things: work and friendship. Though not prone to dwelling in the past, she nevertheless keeps one black-and-white photograph of her family, taken when she was a child, in her office as a memento of her happy upbringing.
"In life, you have to make your passions happen, no rationalizing and no excuses, because you never know when your time will be up," she says. For her, film is her present and her future. It is a tough business, but one that she finds eminently satisfying, for there is no truer pleasure than that which comes from striving with all of her being, achieving, and then basking in the afterglow of accomplishment.