Life of Pi is a 2012 American 3D live-action/computer-animated adventure drama film based on Yann Martel’s 2001 novel of the same name.
In Canada, a writer visits the Indian storyteller Pi Patel and asks him to tell his life story. Pi tells the story of his childhood in Pondicherry, India, and the origin of his nickname. One day, his father, a zoo owner, explains that the municipality is no longer supporting the zoo and he has hence decided to move to Canada, where the animals the family owns would also be sold.
They board on a Japanese cargo ship with the animals and out of the blue, there is a storm, followed by a shipwrecking. Pi survives in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a male Bengal tiger nicknamed Richard Parker. They are adrift in the Pacific Ocean, with aggressive hyena and Rickard Parker getting hungry. Pi needs to find a way to survive. Written by Claudio Carvalho
- At one point M. Night Shyamalan was attached to write and direct this project.
- Since the rights were optioned in 2002, several directors have been attached, including M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuarón, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
- Tobey Maguire was originally cast as the Writer. Though he filmed his scenes, he was later replaced by Rafe Spall The director thought Maguire was too famous for such a small role and would have been distracting.
- The Japanese cargo ship’s name, Tsimtsum, is a Hebrew word used by 16th-century Kabbalist Isaac Luria to denote God’s “contraction” of Himself from the world at Creation. In the novel, the adult Pi mentions doing a college thesis on Luria’s theories about creation. In the movie, he mentions teaching a course on Kabbalah.
- The Piscine Molitor is located in Paris, next to Parc Bois de Boulogne, between Stade Roland Garros and Parc des Princes. It opened in 1929, closed in 1989, and was classified as a French monument historique on March 27, 1990.
- Author Yann Martel said he was inspired by a book review of Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar’s 1981 novella Max and the Cats, about a Jewish-German refugee who crossed the Atlantic Ocean while sharing his boat with a jaguar.
- Suraj Sharma was never in the boat with a live tiger. Most of the tiger shots were very high-tech CGI. Only a few scenes, like the tiger swimming in the water, included a real tiger.
- Suraj Sharma never intended to audition for the film. He went to a casting call to support his brother and beat out more than 3,000 hopefuls for the lead role.
- Second 2012 movie featuring Irrfan Khan that has a character named “Richard Parker”. The first is The Amazing Spider-Man.
- In Edgar Allan Poe’s novel book “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”, published in 1838, Richard Parker was a sailor who survived the sinking of his ship together with three others but was cannibalized by the other three survivors in order to survive. In 1884, a ship called Mignorette sank in the ocean. Four people survived, including a cabin boy named Richard Parker, who was subsequently killed and eaten by the other three survivors.
- Tabu and Irrfan Khan previously played husband and wife in The Namesake.
- Several shots include the profile view of a supine Vishnu (the sleeping Hindu God seen in the barge). He appears in the distant hills when Pi is on holiday and visits the church to drink the holy water. He appears in clouds on a dark night at sea. He is in the shape of the Marinas Trench on the oceanic map. He is also the carnivorous island in profile.
- The shot from the overhead of Pi sleeping on the tarp, with the tiger curled up in the boat and the fish swimming underneath them, replicates the best-known cover of the book that the film is based on.
- Ang Lee hired Steven Callahan as a “nautical consultant.” In 1982, Callahan survived 76 days adrift on a rubber lifeboat in the Atlantic after his sailboat sank.
- The first movie in 7 years to receive the Oscar for Best Director without winning the Oscar for Best Motion Picture. The previous movie was Brokeback Mountain.
- Life of Pi became the first family film to win the Academy Award for Best Director (Ang Lee) since Carol Reed for Oliver! at the 41st Academy Awards in 1969, though others have been nominated: Norman Jewison for Fiddler on the Roof, George Lucas for Star Wars, Steven Spielberg for Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Martin Scorsese for Hugo.
- Aspect ratio changes in two scenes. There was 2:35:1 for the flying fish scene and 4:3 in the scene where Pi and Richard Parker laid on the boat and a big glowing fish passed underneath. The aspect ratio shift is something the director always wanted to do since film school and did it in this movie.
- The 2.35:1 aspect ratio was chosen to enhance the visual depth between the flying fish and the ocean. As Lee said “Scope was the only way to see this flying fish scene, and with the black areas at the bottom of the frame, I could pull fish out of there”
- 4:3 was used as a homage to the cover of the book. It’s the exact image but with a whale added.
- The first film not rated PG-13 or R by the MPAA to win the Oscar for Best Director since Out of Africa.