Five things we learned about Ang Lee’s movie adaptation of Life of Pi

Five things we learned about Ang Lee’s movie adaptation of Life of Pi

(Illustration by Andrea Offermann)

When Yann Martel‘s fantastical novel Life of Pi won the 2002 Man Booker Prize, Hollywood was chomping at the bit to get its hands on the movie rights. So how come eight years and a handful of directors later, Pi and his tiger still haven’t made the leap to the big screen? In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Martel spoke about the long journey the book has taken to finally land in the capable hands of director Ang Lee. Here’s what we learned about the film, scheduled for release in 2012.

Insurmountable obstacles
M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) was the first director to attach his name to the project, but eventually gave up after struggling with the novel’s twist ending. Next up were Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and Jean-Pierre Juenet (Amélie), but both bowed out due to budget and scheduling concerns.

A writer’s director
Ang Lee seems like the right man for the job. He adapted Annie Proulx‘s Brokeback Mountain and Rick Moody‘s The Ice Storm, both to critical success. Martel was reportedly tickled that he was the first author Lee has ever bothered to consult before shooting.

A piece of the Pi
Lee auditioned some 3,000 prospects to find the perfect boy to play young Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel. The lucky future star: 17-year-old Suraj Sharma, a high school student from Delhi.

Creative concerns
After reviewing a draft of the script, Martel sent Lee notes airing his concerns about screenwriter David McGee‘s (Finding Neverland) adaptation. His tips: make the dialogue less English-American and more Indian, and make sure the tiger is ferocious, not cuddly.

It worked for Transformers
Other directors shied away from the project because filming a movie set almost entirely in a tiny boat filled with animals presented some pretty tricky obstacles. Lee’s solution: shoot in 3-D. Martel agrees with the decision and says that though the format has the potential to turn a film into pure spectacle, he has faith that Lee is “a filmmaker of substance who understands beauty is often in the barely discernible things.”

How Ang Lee found the recipe for Pi [Globe and Mail]