Profile - James Schamus

James Schamus

Name James Schamus

Born 7 September 1959, Detroit, Michigan, US.

Background Almost uniquely in American filmmaking, Schamus is both an Oscar-nominated writer/producer and a movie executive. In 1991 he co-founded the production outfit Good Machine (which became Focus Features when Universal bought it) and has financed upwards of 40 indie gems including In the Soup, The Brothers McMullen, Safe, Walking and Talking, Happiness and Buffalo Soldiers. By far Schamus’ most creatively and commercially successful ventures, however, are the ten films he’s made with Ang Lee, which have seen Schamus himself securing Oscar nominations for producing Brokeback Mountain and writing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

What’s he up to now? With his tenth collaboration with Lee — the erotic Chinese film noir and winner of the Venice Film Festival top prize Lust, Caution — Schamus is already back home in New York writing and producing their next project, a rom-com titled A Little Game. Meanwhile, his company will be releasing Fernando Meirelles’ Blindness, Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind and the next-but-one Coen brothers film Burn After Reading.

What he says about Lust, Caution ‘It’s a tough movie for Chinese culture. This film opens up a lot of raw wounds. It’s very present stuff in terms of politics and sexual politics, the whole emotional, psychic, cultural stew. But it has broken every box office record in China. And it’s two and a half hours of sexual self-immolation. I think it’s the most important film in the history of Chinese cinema, but Ang was convinced people were going to kill him. And the Venice thing was insane, because we believed it was impossible for a film like this to win, given that we’d won in 2005 with Brokeback. But the jury voted unanimously for it, in the first five minutes of what turned out to be a 12-hour deliberation.’

Interesting fact Schamus is Associate Professor at Columbia University, New York’s School of the Arts. And he likes to wear spotted bow ties.

Lust, Caution is on selected release from Fri 4 Jan.

Lust, Caution

  • 4 stars
  • 2007
  • USA/China/Taiwan/Hong Kong
  • 2h 38min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Ang Lee
  • Cast: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Wei Tang, Joen Chen, Lee-Hom Wang

Lee's newest outing is an espionage thriller. In WWII Shanghai, Wong Chia Chi (Wei Tang), under the tutelage of Kuang Yu Min (Lee-Hom Wang), goes undercover to ferret out Japanese collaborator Mr Yee (Leung). Lushly designed and full of excellent performances this is the kind of compelling and mature filmmaking that lee…

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