A shy smile broke across his face as the award-winning film director contemplated some words of wisdom for the youth of Taiwan.
Seconds passed, Lee Ang (李安) finally looked up and said, "Live an honest life. Always be true to others and above all, to yourself."
The Taiwan-born, U.S.-trained Lee personified his motto, staying true to his cinematic passion, despite of years of unemployment and rejection. In 2000, Lee rose to international fame when his "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
At age 51, Lee has won acclaim as one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers. His latest love epic "Brokeback Mountain" swept four awards at the Golden Globes, one of them for Best Director.
Speaking about the movie, which is a strong Oscar runner, Lee said the desire to make the film was sparked when he first came across the book four years ago.
"My heart stood still for a moment when I read the book," Lee said. "I felt a surge of melancholy and sadness, yet I was extremely touched and moved by the genuine love portrayed in those pages."
He said the film is more than just a story about homosexuality.
"It is about two people confronting the vulnerability of falling in love. It challenges the societal norm of how men, especially macho men should behave."
Lee was full of praise for the original story, written by Pulitzer Prize winning American author Annie Proulx.
"Every dialogue, every description in the story was skillfully constructed. Almost all the conversations in the movie were portrayed in the exact manner written in the book," he said.
"Brokeback Mountain" describes a forbidden romance between two cowboys who first met as sheep ranch hands during a stolen summer. The conflict escalates when the men reunite four years later, each married with children, and discover they still have intense feelings for each other.
For 20 years, the men are forced by the society to live under a macho facade by disguising their true identities. Only when they are in the privacy of the open Wyoming mountain ranges can they unreservedly be themselves.
Lee, noting that homosexuality is still a somewhat taboo subject in the film industry, said that he was surprised at the overwhelming accolades "Brokeback Mountain" received in Europe and the United States.
Such acceptance, said Lee, proves that love has no culture barriers.
When it comes to deep human emotions, there is no distance to far for people to connect, said Lee, adding that the movie details the complexity of human emotions.
"I expect the movie to be well received in Taiwan because the culture is more detailed-oriented and candid about homosexuality than in the United States," he said.
Hours before the scheduled showing of the movie last week, a megaplex in the conservative U.S. state of Utah reneged on its licensing agreement and refused to open the film.
"It was unethical, but it was only one theater out of hundreds," Lee commented. "To present a movie such as "Brokeback" is to allow people the personal freedom to express their honest opinions about the film."
Turning his attention to the struggling Taiwan movie industry, Lee said that the biggest stumbling block for Taiwanese movies is the lack of a local market.
"Producers are either making small budget films or big productions, both of which lack drawing power," he said. "Most people are interested in the films that fall in between these two extremes," said Lee.
Hollywood has led the trend for a long time, Lee noted, and up and coming Chinese filmmakers must be extra creative in order to lead audiences to explore new directions and novel concepts.
Lee's cinematic repertoire includes the Oscar-nominated "The Wedding Banquet," Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," and action flick, "Hulk"
The common denominator of his films can be summed up in a Shakespearean quote, "And above all, to thine own self be true."