A film adaptation of Yann Martel’s award-winning 2001 novel, Life of Pi, has been in the works for several years now, with filmmakers such as Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie), Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) and even M. Night Shyamalan having been rumored as possibilities to direct the feature.
Oscar-winner Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) finally landed the job and has now secured a $50 million budget, along with a lead actor for the film – which will be shot in 3D, no less.
Seventeen year-old Suraj Sharma will star in Life of Pi as Piscine Mlitor “Pi” Patel, a young Indian boy from Pondicherry. “Pi” is separated from his family – who decides to move the zoo they run to Canada – during a sea storm and ends up shipwrecked on a small boat with a hyena, orangutan, zebra, and a Bengal tiger he names Richard Parker. The young man manages to survive the ordeal, which lasts over seven months, and eventually recants his strange and sometimes flat-out bizarre experience to two Japanese maritime department officials.
The expensive cost of the project is due largely to Lee’s decision to shoot Life of Pi in the third dimension, as he feels that “the ocean [setting of the story] is perfect for 3D… it will change the way people experience the sea.” Between Life of Pi and James Cameron’s Avatar 2, mainstream moviegoers that are interested in the immersive (cinematic) experience of being in the ocean should certainly get their fill.
Lee has already compared Life of Pi to the film Castaway, which is a similar tale of a person left stranded out at sea, far from civilization. Sharma – like Tom Hanks was in Castaway or Sandra Bullock in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity – will be the only human onscreen for large sections of the Life of Pi, which is not so much a tale of survival, but a parable about a young man’s coming-to-terms with his spirituality and religious beliefs about the world around him.
Life of Pi definitely has the makings of an awards contender, but it could also lure in mainstream ticket buyers who are intrigued by the story and want to see how a versatile filmmaker like Lee brings it to life. The source material is fairly well known and fans of the original book will also be curious to see how it translates to the big screen.
20th Century Fox plans to give Life of Pi a theatrical release in 2012.
Source: USA Today