Ang Lee breaks every Hollywood rule in new film Life of Pi

The movie revolves around a shipwrecked Indian boy who survives in a life raft with a Bengal tiger and it is an adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 novel

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The filmmaker Ang Lee says he broke every rule in Life of Pi, bringing the best-selling novel into stunning 3D life with a production featuring an unknown Indian actor, four tigers and the world's biggest wave machine.

"There are a few classic advices in movies: never make a movie featuring animals, kids, water or 3D," the Taiwanese-born American director quipped at the film's premiere on Friday at the New York Film Festival. "We ignored all of them."

The filmmaker had to pull out all the stops to get Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name on screen. The story, centred around a shipwrecked Indian boy called Pi who survives in a life raft with a Bengal tiger, posed obvious casting difficulties. The overriding theme of the search for God was also not standard Hollywood fare.

"I remember thinking to myself that no one in their right mind ... How do you sell this thing?" Lee recalled.

His first solution came in the guise of Suraj Sharma, a hitherto unknown 17-year-old from Delhi who tagged along with his brother to the audition, then found himself being picked out of 3,000 others.

For the movie's other key ingredients, Lee cast his net even wider, creating a Hollywood-financed, but international production that sounds almost as fantastical as the story itself.

The first part of the movie was filmed on location in Pondicherry, India, the picturesque former-French colony where about 5,500 extras were hired for the sumptuous scenes of Indian street life and religious ceremonies.

Then, because the entire second half of the two-hour movie takes place at sea, Lee went to Taichung in his native Taiwan to film in a specially designed wave-generating tank that measures 230 by 100 feet and contains 1.7 million gallons of water."We created our own Hollywood," Lee said.

Having secured his human star and a number of backups, including a rude French cook played by Gerard Depardieu, Lee needed only to fill the main supporting role: the tiger.

The animal, who goes by the name Richard Parker, is mostly the creation of CG special effects. But the all-important physical references that provide a base for the wizardry were provided by four real tigers. - AFP