Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi has turned into a success story for 20th Century Fox which had the Yann Martel book in development for several years but could never crack the supposedly “unfilmable” property until Lee got involved five years ago and figured out a way to bring to the screen this epic story of a young man and a tiger trying to survive after a disastrous shipwreck. Earlier on Wednesday the film passed the half billion dollar mark worldwide for Fox and also just passed the $100 million milestone in America alone. Nevertheless this is a strong international smash and with 11 Academy Award nominations, a remarkable feat since none were for acting, it promises to keep growing the total and has emerged as a genuine threat at the Oscars. If anything Life of Pi stands as a testament to the art and science of motion pictures, a film the director says could not have been made even five years ago. Now it has thanks to the efforts of a group of dedicated craftsmen. Below Lee talks of the challenges as do the film’s Oscar nominees for Visual Effects, Cinematography and Music in a series of exclusive new featurettes premiering now on Deadline.
David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor.
For Life Of Pi, his third collaboration with director Ang Lee, composer Mychael Danna incorporated the sounds of Asia—especially India—into a multicultural stew of a score. Along with a full studio orchestra, accordion, piano, celesta, and mandolin, Danna added Balinese gamelan, Persian ney, basuri (an Indian transverse flute), Indian percussion, and, of course, the sitar. Plus, the venerable Pandit Jasraj (still going strong at 82) contributed vocals.
“Pi is a 21st-century citizen; he belongs nowhere and everywhere,” says Danna of the lead character in the film, based on an acclaimed novel that blends adventure and spirituality. “It’s set in India but in a French colonial town. So we have accordions and mandolins playing Indian melodies and sitars playing French melodies. We also have an English boys’ choir singing Sanskrit and a Tibetan chorus singing in Latin. The goal was to carefully—and, hopefully, artfully—blend every culture that Pi comes across and then makes part of his own essence.”
Related: ‘Life Of Pi’ Sails Into Oscar Race