Ang Lee Holds Press Conference For The Life of Pi

On October 29, 2010, Oscar-winning director and one of my personal all-time favorite filmmakers, Ang Lee, gave a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan, to formally announce the pre-production phase of his upcoming 3-D cinematic adaptation of the novel The Life of Pi.

Ang Lee directing the movie-version of The Life of Pi has been percolating for some time, and almost got derailed earlier in the summer when his budget appeared to spiral out of control. Thank the stars whatever caused the budget to blow up got resolved, because Ang Lee not being able to direct The Life of Pi would have been one the greatest travesties in the cinematic world.

The Life of Pi is one of the best modern novels I have ever read – occupying a space in the pantheon of stories that once read never leave your soul. Written by Yann Martel, this slim book carries within it a message and a vision so spare yet vivid, reading it your heart expands with the weight of the simplest of words.

The story is basically a boy, on a raft, in the middle of the ocean – just him and a Bengal Tiger for 2/3rds of the novel. Through a open casting call consisting of over 3,000 young men, Ang Lee chose 17 year old newcomer Suraj Sharma to carry an entire film on his shoulders. It’s a heavy load to bear, as Ang Lee so aptly compared him to Tom Hanks carrying Castaway by himself, plus a volley ball.

Ang Lee says:

There is no dialogue, and he is not Tom Hanks. The film is about humankind’s spiritual pursuit, and he must have an appealing temperament. He showed the storytelling ability, and you will believe this is a true story. I hope to take viewers to the sea so they can feel for themselves the relationship between humankind and their beliefs.

Principal filming will begin in January 2011, and take place in Taiwan and India. Ang Lee’s use of 3-D for this movie is not a gimmick or an attempt to bandwagon on the 3-D craze, but a thoughtful realization that the only way to tell THIS particular story is to bring the viewers into that ocean and travel the journey with Pi, who does not have a single line of dialogue except for the very beginning and very end of the novel. It’s ambitious, and I am dazzled by the prospect of what Ang Lee could do to this story.

This is the man who understands how to bring inner emotions to a cinematic medium, and his Brokeback Mountain and Eat Drink Man Woman ranks among the best movies of all time (I liked Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but I prefer Ang Lee’s more introspective works). I have a feeling The Life of Pi may join that pantheon of great Ang Lee movies.


Ang Lee Holds Press Conference For The Life of Pi — 9 Comments

  1. I’m curious, but man, can this be compelling as a movie? as a novel it works, but as a movie? hmm. That said, I trust Ang Lee.

    • I have HUGE reservations about whether this can work as a movie, BUT if anyone can do it, it’s Ang Lee.

      I think it’s going to be 30% how Ang Lee directs it, and 70% how this Suraj Sharma portrays Pi. I’m getting shivers just thinking about it, shivers of anticipation.

      • Castaway was a cinematic success, directing and acting-wise, and I did appreciate it, but I never connected with the movie. So, I guess perhaps I didn’t like it, but not for any failure on the part of the movie. This one falls squarely on personal impression.

  2. this is sad (and funny) but i saw JUST the headline of this below the first post, and my first thought was – WHO ON EARTH WOULD DO A BIOPIC OF YAMAPI? something like this only happens in the world of dorama fans … I didn’t love the book, though I liked the concept of the story. might re-read it in anticipation for the movie though.

  3. I love this book so I’m feeling ambivalent about an adaptation.

    But I really love his work on Sense and Sensibility. So this must be exciting.:)

  4. Life of Pi is a story that changed several ways I look at things.. and despite reading it just once, I can recall many scenes in it quite vividly. Hope this movie will come to our country.. I might be tempted to watch it in the cinema ~

  5. You’re right, if anyone can make The Life of Pi into a movie it would definitely be Ang Lee (I still need to see Lust, Caution—but I’m not ready for the mental anguish that I know I will feel watching it). Even if it works on directing/scripting/acting levels, I’m not sure how audience will react to a film that barely has dialogues.

    Thanks for posting this! I had been wondering who they picked for Pi (and aw he’s cute!)

  6. Life of Pi is one of my favorite novels of all time. Good to hear that the movie is back on track. Thanks for the news, ockoala! Woot!

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