Several years ago, the book blog world was abuzz with praise for Yann Martel's award-winning novel Life of Pi. This month, we're talking about the award-winning movie based on the book. It was directed by Ang Lee and is out next week on BluRay and DVD.
In case you're unfamiliar with the story, here's the studio summary of the film:
A "magnificent and moving" (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) motion picture event that has been hailed as "a masterpiece" (Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times), taking in over $500 million in worldwide box office. Life of Pi follows Pi Patel, a young man on a fateful voyage who, after a spectacular disaster, is marooned on a lifeboat with the only other survivor, a fearsome 450-lb. Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery, Pi and his majestic companion make an amazing and unexpected connection.The premise of the story combined with phenomenal special effects make this one of the must-watch movies of the year.
Because I love both books and movies, I'm always fascinated by the process of turning a story of words into one of moving pictures. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment in conjunction with Think Jam talk about bringing Life of Pi to the silver screen:
The film's journey began with Yann Martel’s beloved book, one of the biggest publishing events of the past decade. The novel won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, and was a New York Times bestseller for over a year, so picking a director who could translate the source into a cinematic spectacle was essential.Movie-goers around the world have loved Ang Lee's interpretation of the novel. Whether you've already seen Life of Pi in the theater or have been waiting to watch at home, mark your calendar for March 12, which is when the BluRay/DVD goes on sale.
Producer Gil Netter explained his choice by saying: "Ang Lee is an artist with whom I've long aspired to work, and is one of those magical talents who could masterfully take charge of the material." Lee is well known for taking on ambitious projects and began working on Life of Pi four years ago. Yann Martel was very happy with Lee’s involvement; he recently said "Ang was the perfect choice because he makes emotionally powerful movies. His projects run the gamut from the small and the intimate to the spectacular."
Watching his book being translated into film was a heady experience for Martel, who notes that "Life of Pi has been translated into forty-two languages. To see it translated on film as a movie is like the forty-third. The language of cinema is a universal one and to see the story translated that way is a thrill."
One of the hardest parts of the film-making was creating Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger with which Pi shares his epic journey. For obvious safety reasons they could not film with a live tiger on the boat so Lee relied on visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer and his CG team to help create this fearsome character. The result of their hard work is clear for all to see and Richard Parker looks as real on-screen as the four actual Royal Bengal Tigers which were used as physical and performance references.
Casting the lead character, Pi, was another big decision for Lee. Surprisingly Suraj Sharma, a newcomer who had not even intended to audition, was cast in the role. Sharma summed up his experience by saying "I can’t even say how much I’ve gained from being in the film. Like Pi, I feel I experienced something remarkable–emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually."
Giveaway: In the meantime, thanks to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Think Jam, I can offer one of my readers (US mailing address only) a copy of the BluRay, which includes three documentaries and other special features. To enter for a chance to win, just fill out the form. I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on March 15. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll delete all personal information.