A tumultuous experience forever changes the life of 16 year-old Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel in Yann Martel's acclaimed literary work, Life of Pi. In Ang Lee's cinematic adaptation, Mr. Patel will eventually grow up into the man who will make life all the more difficult for Peter Parker in the new Spider-Man (in a way).
Three more actors have signed on for Lee's 3D take on Martel's best-selling work and their ranks include a lesser-known actor named Adil Hussain; accomplished French thespian Gérard Depardieu; and Indian character actor Irrfan Khan, who recently joined the Spider-Man reboot cast as the villain Van Atter.
In-jokes aside, Khan boasts a more than solid resume and has appeared in numerous Indian film productions. He also gave an excellent performance as the father of Gogol (Kal Penn) in Mira Nair's adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, The Namesake; appeared briefly, but left an impression as another paternal figure in Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited; and played the police inspector to whom Jamal (Dev Patel) told his life story in Danny Boyle's Oscar-winner, Slumdog Millionaire.
According to Variety, Khan will play an adult Pi Patel in Lee's latest project. Life of Pi will also star newcomer Suraj Sharma as the younger version of the lead character, a boy who is shipwrecked in the Pacific Ocean and survives on a boat with a collection of animals (including a 450-pound Bengal Tiger that Pi dubs Richard Parker) for some 227 days - or at least that is the story he claims to be "the truth" when interviewed by two Japanese maritime officials after the fact.
The essentially unknown (in the U.S.) Hussain will play Pi's father in the film, possibly opposite Bollywood actress Tabu. Depardieu is an accomplished French film star who's also appeared in a handful of English-language period pieces, such as the TV mini-series versions of Les Misérables and The Count of Monte Cristo, as well as the feature-length adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask. He will portray Chef in Life of Pi, a character who plays an important role in a story that Pi tells to the Japanese officials, when they voice their doubts about his fantastical tale of survival at sea.
Life of Pi is one best-seller that has struggled to make its way onto the big screen. It's a difficult tale to realize via film, since most of the action takes place on the ocean and involves a number of dangerous animals that will likely have to be brought to life in Lee's film through the use of CGI, animatronics, footage of real-life creatures, or possibly some combination of all three.
Lee has secured a $50 million budget for Life of Pi, which will be shot in 3D, possibly through the use of the same EPIC digital cameras being used for The Hobbit and (appropriately) the Spider-Man reboot. It will certainly be interesting to see how the filmmaker captures the experience of being adrift at sea using state of the art technology.
Life of Pi will arrive in 2D and 3D theaters on December 14th, 2012.
Artwork by Peter Kasim