Christine Champ November 26, 2010
Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain … director Ang Lee knows the secret to turning literary gold into Oscar gold — and big-screen green. But his latest endeavor, an adaptation of Yann Martel’s best-selling, Booker Prize-earning 2001 fantasy adventure Life of Pi, may try his talents like they’ve never been tried before.
If you haven’t read the book, get those dorky visions of a pi-calculating ninja nerd a la Michael Cera crime-fighting so he can impress Emma Stone or some other sardonic hottie out of your head. The Life of Pi tells the perilous philosophical tale of a young boy (Piscine Molitor, aka Pi) stranded on a lifeboat for 227 days in the Pacific Ocean with zoo animals that include a Bengal tiger. Lee recently announced the movie would be shot partly in India and mainly in Taiwan’s Kenting waters (most of the story occurs at sea). I guess that’s doable as long as Lee has a Waterworld-sized budget — say about $175 million — to cover the pricey water shoots. He also might want to top that figure off a bit to cover the CGI animal animation, unless they wrangle some extremely well-trained animals that know how to take direction for tedious hours on end, in a tiny boat, and can control their appetites for Pi (the actor behind the novel’s hero, newcomer 17-year-old Suraj Sharma from Delhi). Then again, budget-makers still have to factor in that the ocean ordeal is being filmed in 3-D.
But as of this past May, 20th Century Fox was keeping its purse strings so snug it balked at Lee’s $70 million-budget proposal and stalled production, a frugal attitude that previously drove Micmacs director Jean-Pierre Jeunet from the project. He’s one of many directors, including M. Night Shyamalan, reputed to have been on board the Life of Pi adaptation train at some point. Yet now the movie appears to be officially back on track with shooting slated to begin in January 2011 with a holiday release date of December 14, 2012.
The architect of subtly soulful, beautiful, breathtaking epics like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain (even The Hulk had its heart-squeezing moments), Lee seems like the man to tackle (and sell) a tough task like Life of Pi, a movie Lee says is “about humankind’s spiritual pursuit” — though he doesn’t always sound convinced. At first he had doubts that a story of a boy surrounded by nothing but water would make an entertaining movie. But why? “I have not seen any good movies about water,” he commented at a press event. “Then I realized 3-D could be a way to break the dilemma.” Ah yes, nothing but water + 3-D = good movie. He also added that though there’s no dialogue and his star Sharma “is not Tom Hanks,” he’s confident in his storytelling ability and is sure audiences will believe this is a true story.
No dialogue? No Tom Hanks? I suppose Ang Lee and an award-worthy classic like Life of Pi could make up for no dialogue. But no Tom Hanks? Could Sharma pass as a young, Indian Tom Hanks? You’re not selling it very well, Ang, but of course we’ll still see your movie; we’re already smitten with your sweeping storytelling charisma.
Categories: No CategoriesTags: Ang lee, Life of pi