Ang Lee’s LIFE OF PI with Indian actors sparks off Oscar buzz

Director Ang Lee’s magnum opus LIFE OF PI based on Yann Martel’s Booker prize winning novel got a fantastic response to an early footage screening at CinemaCom, Los Angeles!

20th Century Fox showcased stunning footage from its roster of anticipated summer blockbusters, including Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’, at CinemaCon, the theater owners’ convention. Buzz is that the biggest movie this year will be December’s LIFE OF PI.

Indeed, the footage shown from the film seemed to inspire a resounding positive reaction from the crowd. In it, 17-year-old protagonist Pi (Played by Suraj Sharma) finds himself on a cargo ship with his family and a slew of zoo animals when a storm begins to rage in the middle of the night. The young man rushes to the ship’s deck to witness the intense weather first-hand when he ends up being thrown overboard and into a lifeboat with a zebra and a Bengal tiger.

The crowd specially was wowed by the 3-D technology which was especially impressive in the underwater scenes, where Pi floated lifelessly for nearly a minute, and in moments when waves of bubbling water and animals came rushing toward him.

The crowd was quick to proclaim the movie as a possible Oscar contender – and Lee immediately walked on stage and told the audience: “It’s unfinished! When you see the movie, it will be a lot more moving.”

In an interview after the screening, the ‘Brokeback Mountain’ filmmaker said being compared to directors like James Cameron and George Lucas — two directors who appeared along with Lee in a promo reel screened at the event — made him uncomfortable.

“To be honest with you, I like to be modest,” the 57-year-old said. “I would like people to get surprised about my work, instead of it being over-hyped. That’s what I’d be more comfortable with. But it’s a big picture. I have to go with the flow.”

Lee said it was the performance of young Indian actor Suraj Sharma, chosen from more than 3,000 hopefuls that ultimately inspired him to move forward with the technically challenging production — even though Sharma couldn’t swim when he was first cast.

“I met him, I tested him, and he held his breath for 20 seconds. So I got him a swimming coach, work-out coach — every coach,” the filmmaker said with a laugh. “He gives an emotional performance in a movie that has the look of a family film, but it’s also a movie about big ideas. I hope people will spend weeks talking about it — that’s my idea of a family film.”

India had much to rejoice when Ang Lee chose 17 year old newcomer Suraj Sharma to essay the role of Pi. Suraj lives with his Mathematician parents in Delhi. He has no previous acting experience and was cast following an extensive, months-long search. Over 3000 young men auditioned for the part.

Lee, whose many other honors include an Oscar nomination for his direction of ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, and whose ‘Sense and Sensibility’ was a Best Picture nominee, has shot LIFE OF PI in 3D, utilizing groundbreaking techniques to capture the story’s epic scope.

LIFE OF PI is based on Yann Martel’s beloved book, one of the biggest publishing events of the past decade.  The book has sold over seven million copies worldwide and continues to sell over 1,000 copies per week and has won the prestigious Mann Booker Prize, and was a New York Times bestseller for over a year.