‘Life of Pi’: An Oscar-nominated international film that’s a mostly international hit
Photo: 20th Century Fox
"Life of Pi" has proven to be a modest hit in the States. But the fantastical adventure tale is truly enjoying the lucrative high "life" far from American shores.
Director Ang Lee's screen adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name has certainly found something of a domestic audience, though with only a little over $91 million at the box office since its release on November 21, it's been considerably overshadowed by even more higher-profile holiday season offerings like "Les Miserables," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" and "Skyfall." Fox 2000 probably isn't worried about the $120 million production not making its money back, though, as the film has grossed more than $300 million internationally, bringing its current worldwide gross to just under $400 million.
It's an appropriate fate ("Life of Pi" is big on that concept) that international success should be achieved by a rather international production. "Life of Pi" marks a creative collaboration among representatives from many different countries, both in front of and behind the camera. Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan, who play the lead character of Pi at different ages, are Indian actors. Gerard Depardieu, who has a (rather inexplicable) cameo as a cranky cook, is French, and Rafe Spall, who plays The Writer, is British. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda is from Chile and composer Mychael Danna is Canadian.
And screenwriter David Magee was born in Flint, Michigan. Go Blue!
The production went through a few international directors before Taiwanese-born Ang Lee signed on. Indian-American director M. Night Shyamalan was first approached to direct, though he ultimately turned it down due to the novel's ending possibly clashing with his own reputation for final-act twists. The project was offered to Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, who turned it down for "Children of Men." French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was also briefly attached.
Principal photography involved some rather formidable globe-hopping as well. Filming began in Pondicherry, India and other parts of the country before heading to Taiwan, where the crew shot for five and a half months in Taipei Zoo and Kenting National Park, located in Pingtung County where Lee was born. While in Taiwan, the ocean scenes were shot at a giant tank built in an abandoned airport (which came to be known as the world’s largest self-generating wave tank with a capacity of 1.7 million gallons). After photography was completed in Taiwan, the production moved back to India and wrapped in Montreal, Canada.
The complex visual effects for the film also brought together quite the international team. The lead effects company for the production was Rhythm & Hues Studios, based in El Segundo, California, though the 3D effects were created by artists from all of the R&H divisions, including locations in Mumbai and Hyderabad (India), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Vancouver (Canada) and Kaohsiung (Taiwan).
"Life of Pi" has been nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. It's an honor that is indeed being felt all over the world.
See the trailer for 'Life of Pi':