Ang Lee has tackled English period drama, kung fu and gay cowboy romance. Just don't expect him to make small talk at a dinner party.
The Oscar-winning director says that despite his celebrity, he's extremely shy and struggles with social interaction.
"When I'm off the set, it's hard for me to carry a conversation. That's more difficult for me than making a movie," he said Saturday on CNN's "Talk Asia."
"Making a movie, I have plans in my head. Somehow one way or another I manage to roll the camera and get something in the can. But off the set, at the dining table ... it's still awkward for me," said Lee, a native of Taiwan.
He feels comfortable "momentarily" if the conversation turns to movies, the 52-year-old filmmaker said, but "that's kind of about it."
"It's hard for me to feel comfortable socially," he said. "I'm always shy, it's just part of my character."
Lee won an Oscar for "Brokeback Mountain." His Chinese-language spy thriller "Lust, Caution" won the top Golden Lion prize at this year's Venice Film Festival. His films also include "Hulk," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Sense and Sensibility."
He said being one of the most famous Chinese-speaking directors in the world is a tremendous burden.
"I'd rather be watching somebody else carry the torch," Lee said. "It's an incredible burden on my shoulder. But I'm passionate about making movies, so as far as I'm concerned, that's the duty I have."