FilmBlast are proud to share our thoughts on the movie Live of Pi..
Life of Pi FilmBlast Review
The film is a work of art: stunning, beautiful, poignant, moving, terrifying.
An amazing experience, the 3D and Dolby Atmos work to beautiful effect.
You will laugh
You will jump
You will be amazed
You will be confused
You start your journey gently, and then like Pi’s own you are tossed onto the waves.
The film has a different flavour to the book where you can savour moments more.
It is certainly a movie that will carve it’s own place in cinematic history.
Some of the scenes at sea are truly breathtaking.
The use of 3D was also in force, but doesn’t overwhelm the movie or the script.
The soundtrack warms and surrounds.
We saw the movie with Dolby Atmos and it is an extra level that really works to the favour of Life Of Pi.
The Tiger … I dare you to look in his eyes, or even think about jumping.
The line behind CGI and real life is definitely blurring.
The whole movie holds the fantasy, altered reality that makes the story lie in the land between news and fantasy, which is in many ways that followed by the book itself.
Full Production Notes
With LIFE OF PI, director Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”; “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) creates a groundbreaking movie event about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with another survivor…a fearsome Bengal tiger.
Based on the book that has sold more than seven million copies and spent years on the bestseller lists, LIFE OF PI takes place over three continents, two oceans, many years, and a wide universe of imagination. Lee’s vision, coupled with stunning 3D visuals, has turned a novel long thought un-filmable into a thrillingly audacious mix of grand storytelling and powerful and provocative themes.
Since Mr. Lee came aboard the project almost four years ago, he has worked to create a singular vision of author Yann Martel’s unforgettable tale of courage, perseverance, inspiration and hope. The film takes us through a young man’s incredible adventure – at turns thrilling and spiritual; harrowing and triumphant; humorous and inspirational.
In telling Pi’s story, Mr. Lee pushes the boundaries of cutting-edge motion picture technologies. LIFE OF PI represents a moment when the science and art of filmmaking have jumped forward, as it did with the visual effects of “Titanic,” the 3D revolution of “Avatar,” and the CGI work in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which brought unprecedented emotion and depth to the character of Caesar. And like Caesar, LIFE OF PI’s Richard Parker is a fully-realized, accessible character, whom you’ll believe was actually on that lifeboat with Suraj Sharma, who portrays Pi.
LIFE OF PI is Mr. Lee’s first foray into 3D filmmaking, which he envisioned for this story long before “Avatar” hit theaters. He uses that tool to expand the scope of the film, immerse us in Pi’s physical journey, and envelop us in the story’s emotional hold. “I wanted the experience of the film to be as unique as Yann Martel’s book,” says Mr. Lee, “and that meant creating the film in another dimension. 3D is a new cinematic language, and in LIFE OF PI it’s just as much about immersing audiences in the characters’ emotional space as it is about the epic scale and adventure.”
LIFE OF PI begins and ends in Montreal with a writer who, seeking inspiration happens across the incredible story of Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi at 17 years of age is played by Suraj Sharma; the contemporary character is played by Irrfan Khan; and as a youngster in the film’s early scenes, by Ayush Tandon). Growing up in Pondicherry, India during the 1970s, Piscine, known to all as Pi, has a rich life. His father (Adil Hussain) owns a zoo, and Pi spends his days among tigers, zebras, hippos, and other exotic creatures. He develops his own theories about faith, belief, and human (and animal) nature – but after Pi attempts to befriend a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, the young boy learns a harsh lesson from his father about the relationship between human and beast. “The tiger is not your friend!” thunders Mr. Patel at his son. “Animals don’t think like we do; people who forget that get themselves killed!” Pi will never overlook that lesson, which impacts his insatiable curiosity about the world and, ultimately, the journey upon which he is hurtled.
The diversity of Pi’s world is shaken by sweeping changes occurring in his country, and when Pi is seventeen his father and mother (played by Tabu) decide that the family must emigrate to a better life. The move promises new adventures in a new world, but it also means that Pi must leave behind his first love.
Choosing to relocate to Canada, Pi’s parents close their zoo, pack their belongings (including some of the animals from the zoo), and board a Japanese cargo ship, where they encounter a sadistic French chef (Gérard Depardieu). Late in the night, deep at sea, Pi’s joy at the onrush of nature turns on a dime to cataclysm. The ship sinks, but Pi miraculously survives. He is cast adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean aboard a boat with a most unexpected traveling companion – Richard Parker.
As they embark on their adventure, the ferocious tiger, whose true nature was seared into Pi’s memory at his family’s zoo, is Pi’s mortal enemy. But as they learn to co-exist, Richard Parker becomes Pi’s best hope in his quest to find a way home. Their bond is reinforced by another shared experience: both Pi and Richard Parker had little understanding of the real world, and both were raised by the same master – Pi’s father. Now, nothing else remains for them of that past, except each other.
The two castaways face unimaginable challenges, including nature’s majestic grandeur and fury, which lash their small lifeboat. One particularly monstrous storm becomes a spiritual experience for Pi, leading him to question God’s plan for him. “I’ve lost everything! I surrender! What more do you want?” Pi rails at the sky. But through it all, he never loses hope. Pi finds joy from something as simple as an old survival manual, as well as from the solace of the ocean’s beauty: the bioluminescent, rainbow hues of magnificent schools of flying fish; the shimmering blues of the ocean’s swells; and a radiant humpback whale that streaks to the surface of the ocean.
And through Mr. Lee’s use of 3D, we are there with Pi and Richard Parker, experiencing these extraordinary and visually stunning moments, immersed like never before in an epic movie adventure interwoven with an emotional and spiritual journey.
The film’s journey began with Yann Martel’s beloved book, one of the biggest publishing events of the past decade. The novel won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, and was a New York Times bestseller for over a year.
Producer Gil Netter, who has had a long and successful relationship with Fox 2000 Pictures, brought the book to the company’s president of production, Elizabeth Gabler, who acquired the property for Fox in 2002. Netter was immediately drawn to the story, which he says, “has everything you go to the movies for – and what you can’t get anywhere else.” Together, Netter and Gabler developed and nurtured the project for several years, confident that the story for which they had such passion would become a major motion picture event.
Most significantly, they waited for the right filmmaker to emerge and embrace the project’s formidable challenges and opportunities. As Netter explains: “Ang Lee is an artist with whom I’ve long aspired to work, and is one of those magical talents who could masterfully take charge of the material.”
Elizabeth Gabler adds, “The scope of the film is gigantic, and Ang is a visionary who won’t even consider taking on a project unless it frightens him and provides the opportunity to break new ground. Like Pi and Richard Parker, Ang’s initial fear evolves into triumph over seemingly insurmountable challenges.”
Martel, another longtime admirer of Mr. Lee’s work, adds, “Ang was the perfect choice because he makes emotionally powerful movies. His projects run the gamut from the small and the intimate to the spectacular. From ‘Sense and Sensibility’ to ‘Brokeback Mountain’ to ‘Ice Storm’ and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,’ his work is incredibly varied. And that’s what you want with LIFE OF PI because it is an intimate drama of a young man who loses his family and has to cope with unimaginable challenges set against a spectacular backdrop. To pull that off cinematically and retain the emotional core is extraordinarily complicated and Ang and his team have the know-how, determination, and the creative chops to pull that off.”
Watching his book being translated into film was a heady experience for Martel, who notes that “Life of Pi has been translated into forty-two languages. To see it translated on film as a movie is like the forty-third. The language of cinema is a universal one and to see the story translated that way is a thrill.”
David Magee (“Neverland”) was tapped for the daunting task of adapting Martel’s rich, far-reaching work that married the profound and whimsical with epic adventure and deep introspection. The screenwriter admits that while he read the book for pleasure some time before the assignment, now that he had the gig he wondered “how he could translate it for the screen.” The key, he determined, was the idea of simply telling a story about a story. “In the book, Pi is telling a story to the character of The Writer, just as Ang is telling us a story with his film,” says Magee.
“LIFE OF PI, on a huge scale, is a fable of faith,” adds Mr. Lee. “In many ways, it is about the value of storytelling and the value of sharing stories.”
The heightened emotional connections presented in LIFE OF PI required exceptional performances from its cast, none more so than the neophyte thespian who would take on the titular hero. After an extensive talent search throughout India, during which over 3,000 young men auditioned, Mr. Lee, his casting director Avy Kaufman, and her team chose 17-year-old Suraj Sharma to play Pi Patel. Suraj is a student who at the time lived with his parents in Delhi, India. (Ironically, Suraj’s parents are mathematicians, and now their son was about to embark on his first film role – as a character named Pi – a mathematical constant and transcendental number.)
Suraj hadn’t even intended to audition for the role; it was his brother who was set to read for the part. In the course of six months, Suraj made it through four rounds of auditions. He found the process to be a heady one, because until that point Suraj had been living like a normal teenager. “I was really nervous, especially during the final audition,” he recalls. “I was actually shaking. I talked to Ang for five minutes and he’s got this thing about him: Whoever’s around him, somehow you get really calm. So Ang calmed me down, and we did the scene. I wasn’t really happy with what I did because still I had this little bit of nervousness. Ang talked to me for ten minutes, and we did the scene again. I don’t know what happened, but it was pretty much the best work I had done through all the auditions. Everyone in the room looked really happy.”
During this final stage of auditions, Suraj read an emotional monologue from the script, and his soulfulness, warmth and innate talent won over Mr. Lee and the studio.
“We searched for a young man who had the innocence to capture our attention, the depth of character to break our hearts, and the physicality needed to embody Pi on his journey,” says Mr. Lee. “During his audition, Suraj filled the room with emotion, much of which he conveyed simply through his eyes. His natural ability to believe and stay in the world of the story is a rare treasure.
“Suraj’s investment in the story made us really believe that whatever challenges we faced, the film was really going to happen,” adds the director. “When we saw Suraj, we saw the movie.”
To mark the beginning of her son’s journey to a new world of acting and studio moviemaking (much like Pi finds himself on an adventure he could never have dreamed of), Suraj’s mother performed a small ceremony, during which she appointed Mr. Lee as her son’s guru. Ever humble, Mr. Lee’s first thoughts were that he was unworthy of assuming such a formidable responsibility. But the ceremony, he notes, “got to me,” and he agreed to strive to be deserving of the honor.
By the end of production, it was Suraj who became the spiritual leader on-set. Mr. Lee marvels at Suraj’s innocence and efforts, noting, “We are all experienced and perhaps a little jaded. Suraj reminded us why we want to make movies. Every day was a miracle.”
The teen’s many new experiences making LIFE OF PI included the daunting but necessary task of learning how to swim. Given that Pi spends much of the story on and in water, the aquatic training was paramount. Under Mr. Lee’s watchful eye, and through the guidance, hard work and discipline of stunt coordinator Charlie Croughwell and his son, stuntman Cameron Croughwell, Suraj was transformed into an outstanding swimmer, and learned to do his own stunts with uncommon stamina and drive.
To match Pi’s physical transformation, Suraj had to gain weight and then lose those additional pounds of muscle, and more, in real time and with no hiatus. (Tom Hanks’ dramatic weight loss in “Cast Away” was facilitated by a months-long break in that film’s production.) Through a stringent program of diet and physical training, the Croughwells transformed Suraj from a skinny 150 pounds to a muscular 167 pounds. Then during the course of filming they dramatically reduced his weight to just over 130 pounds, to embody Pi’s struggles.
To further evoke Pi’s transformative experiences, Suraj learned ocean survival skills. Steve Callahan was the film’s survival and marine consultant. Producer David Womark explains, “Steve wrote the book, Adrift, about his experience surviving adrift at sea for seventy-seven days. He, together with Ang, created a program that taught Suraj how to fish, build a sail, and collect fresh water — so all these elements that you see in the movie are things he had to take on as challenges, and they became part of his performance.”
Suraj spent much of the production in the world’s largest self-generating wave tank ever designed and built for a motion picture. Located in Taichung, Taiwan, on the site of a former airport, the tank measured 70 meters long, 30 meters wide and 4 meters deep, with a capacity of 1.7 million gallons, and allowed the filmmakers to generate a range of water textures. For the sinking of the ship Tsimtsum, and a massive “Storm of God” sequence, the tank’s water was replaced by CG H20.
“The tank began to feel like my home,” says Suraj, who through his experiences there, learned much about the sea. “As you will see in the film, the ocean has its own moods,” he explains. “It can feel like a monster, or it can be a mirror. It’s both a killer and a savior. The ocean is a beautiful thing.”
Pi’s companion on his oceanic odyssey, Richard Parker, is largely a creation of advanced CG wizardry, overseen by visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”). The digital magic builds upon the revolutionary character CG work of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” creating a sentient creature that feels as real as the four actual Royal Bengal Tigers that served as physical and performance references. The visual effects team strove to maintain subtle animal nuances, and avoid anthropomorphizing the beast.
Westenhofer credits the hundreds of hours of video the filmmakers took of tigers, with providing invaluable reference for their CG creation. (The animals also contributed some performance work.) Animal trainer Thierry Le Portier (“Gladiator”) found three of the four key animals in France and one in Canada. Their names: King, Min, Themus and Jonas. King was cast due to his matching Ang’s visualization of Richard Parker, and thus became the primary physical model for the character.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
LIFE OF PI was filmed primarily on locations in India and Taiwan. The sub-continent made a lasting impression on the entire team. “India’s a place where so many things are possible, says Yann Martel, “It’s a place of infinite stories. Magical stories, realistic stories. India is a mother lode of stories.”
Mr. Lee never considered shooting scenes set in Pi’s childhood home of Pondicherry, India – the entire first act – anywhere but the former French colony. “While we were working on the script I scouted and there is really nothing else that compares to French India,” Mr. Lee explains. “It’s unique and somewhat unfamiliar to the rest of the world. It’s like you can just drop a camera anywhere there, turn it on, and the picture will be beautiful.”
The production settled into 200,000 square feet of studio and office space near the city’s historic Muslim Quarter. The production filmed on 18 locations in and around Pondicherry, and a crew of 600 – almost half of them locals – worked on the opening sequences of the film. Approximately 5,500 local residents were hired as background actors for the magnificent exterior scenes.
The production transformed the town’s Botanical Gardens into the fictional Pondicherry Zoo. Production designer David Gropman explains how that came to be: “The first thing Ang wanted to see when he visited Pondicherry was the zoo, as it was described in Yann Martel’s book. But there was – and never had been – a zoo in Pondicherry. But there was a botanical garden, built by the French around the turn of the twentieth century, and Ang came up with the idea that the story’s zoo was, in fact, the former Pondicherry Botanical Gardens, which Pi’s father had discovered and decided to turn into a private zoo. The wonderful thing about the concept is that it led us to add an influence of French architecture and French botanical gardens, mixed with an Indian aesthetic. So with Ang’s notes in hand, we created the zoo itself.”
The production secured permission to shoot on the grounds of Pondicherry’s 1000-year-old Villanur Temple. Two thousand authentically costumed extras worked through the night until sunrise and upwards of 20,000 traditional diya candles were kept lit throughout the night– with every available crewmember on-hand keeping constant vigil with torches. A sequence during which the Patels enjoy a family vacation was captured in Munnar, a small but popular hill station in Kerala on India’s southwest coast.
Meanwhile thousands of miles away in Taichung, Taiwan, construction was nearing completion on the world’s largest self-generating wave tank built for a motion picture. In addition, and with the generous support on a both a national and local level from Taiwanese officials, Mr. Lee and his production team retrofitted Taichung’s Sui Nan airport facility and its airplane hangars into a functional working movie studio. Flags representing the nature of what Mr. Lee calls LIFE OF PI’s “international cocktail production,” flew proudly from high atop of the tank’s massive green walls.
The surreal and mysterious island inhabited by a huge clan of meerkats was realized through a combination of a practical location shot deep within a colony of indigenous banyan trees at a Taiwanese botanical reserve, sets designed by production designer David Gropman, and digitally created environments.
Gropman notes that the banyan tree location was a critical one, “I was convinced that we would find inspiration for the meerkat island scenes in Taiwan. One of the biggest challenges was the practical locations and the design of the island itself. And I was convinced that we couldn’t create the island in a convincing way without some inspiration from Mother Nature. Ang knew of a banyan tree reserve hidden within Taiwan’s Kenting National Forest and brought us in for a look. The reserve became the inspiration for the look of the mysterious island. The island as well as the banyan tree is one huge holistic organism and, not coincidentally, an indigenous tree typical of India. So the fact that it would be something that Pi would recognize was perfect.”
After principal photography wrapped, Mr. Lee began the lengthy post-production period, overseeing the work of editor Tim Squyres, A.C.E., composer Mychael Danna, and the critical visual effects. Meanwhile, the film’s young star was preparing for another new chapter in his life’s journey – pursuing film studies as a university freshman at Delhi University’s St. Stephen’s College. But whatever exciting adventures lie ahead for Suraj Sharma, he notes that making LIFE OF PI will always be an unforgettable experience. “I can’t even say how much I’ve gained from being in the film. Like Pi, I feel I experienced something remarkable – emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
“Making LIFE OF PI has enabled me to look at things from a different perspective. I’m a lot stronger, and I know that I’m now capable of a lot more than I ever thought possible. This past year has been pretty much everything to me.”
FOX 2000 Pictures presents a Haishang Films / Gil Netter Production of an Ang Lee film, “LIFE OF PI.” The film stars Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Rafe Spall, and Gérard Depardieu. The music is by Mychael Danna, the co-producer is David Lee, and the film editor is Tim Squyres, A.C.E. David Gropman is the production designer, Claudio Miranda, ASC is the director of photography. The film is produced by Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark. The screenplay is by David Magee, based upon the novel by Yann Martel. LIFE OF PI is directed by Ang Lee.
SURAJ SHARMA (Pi Patel), the son of a mathematician, until recently has lived all his life in the middle-class suburbs of South Delhi with his parents. With no previous acting experience, Ang Lee cast Suraj for the role of Pi following an extensive, months-long search throughout India.
As a young boy, Suraj displayed a strong ability in music and trained in Hindustani vocal and tabla, as well as the keyboard and guitar. Seeking neither admiration nor accolades, he sang, drummed, and played the guitar for fun and to entertain his South Delhi neighborhood friends and classmates.
Suraj trained in karate under the tutelage of Senpai Khurshid Alam, acquiring a Junior Black Belt in the Seido Karate School by the age of 13. He excelled in katha – the dance-like movements used for rehearsing karate moves – and earned accolades performing Kalaripayattu, an Indian martial art and one of the oldest fighting systems in existence. He’s an avid soccer player, participating in sport all throughout his school years. In addition to his love of sports, Suraj has a strong aesthetic sense, often advising family and friends on matters of style and design.
Extremely popular among his schoolmates, Suraj actively campaigned for his friends who were seeking school executive office. While known among his peers for his happy-go-lucky attitude, his enthusiasm and his readiness to play the clown and to entertain, Suraj is also a gentle and emotional young man.
Suraj, who was 17 years old during much of LIFE OF PI’s production, actually found himself celebrating his 18th birthday with the film’s crew in the midst of shooting LIFE OF PI’s lifeboat scenes in the massive outdoor wave tank built in Taiwan for the movie. As far as future plans, Suraj is entering his freshman year at Delhi University’s St. Stephen’s College.
IRRFAN KHAN (Adult Pi Patel) is a graduate of the prestigious National School of Drama (New Delhi, India) and was recently honored by the Indian government with a 2011 Padma Shri award recognizing his contributions to the Indian Cinema. Shortly after he made his acting debut in Salaam Bombay! (1988), he moved to Mumbai to pursue his career in acting. He then became a household name on the television screen in the popular Hindi sitcom “Banegi Apni Baat.”
Most Hindi movie actors disappear when they hit middle age, but Khan arrived at an age when others retire. His unconventional looks and intense eyes gained him the coveted title role in the film Maqbool, a Hindi interpretation of Macbeth set in the Bombay underworld. Khan’s stunning performance as Maqbool won all the major Indian acting awards. He garnered further awards for his portrayal of a student leader who rises from nowhere but falters before he can reach his pinnacle in Haasil (2003), a love story set against university politics (Allahabad). Critics hailed it as a rare performance in Hindi cinema.
Khan’s most challenging role came in British director Asif Kapadia’s acclaimed The Warrior, winner of the BAFTA award for Best Film in 2003. Khan plays a lone warrior who renounces his violent role as the law enforcer to a local lord, only to be murderously pursued into the Himalayan Mountains.
Kahn has a lengthy list of credits from his consistently excellent work in Indian cinema, but he has recently made the transition into English language films. He recently appeared in Partition, directed by Vic Sarin and A Mighty Heart for Michael Winterbottom, opposite Angelina Jolie. Earlier this year, he appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man.
TABU (Gita Patel) is widely considered one of the finest and most versatile actresses working in the Indian film industry. With over 70 films to her credit, Tabu has received widespread critical acclaim and was honored by the government of India with a 2011 Padma Shri award, recognizing her unmatched contribution to the Indian Cinema. She holds the record for the most wins of Filmfare’s Critics Award for Best Female Performer, with six. Tabu first shot to fame upon winning India’s leading prize for best actress, the National Award, for her role in Maachis (1997), shortly followed by the Critics Award for Virasat (1998). She won the National Award again for the critically acclaimed film from independent filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, Chandni Bar (2001), portraying a poor girl lost in a busy metropolis who is forced to become a bar dancer to make ends meet.
Tabu received worldwide recognition and widespread critical acclaim for her leading role in Mira Nair’s American film The Namesake. Known to be selective about her film roles, Tabu has said, “I do films which move me and most of all, the unit and the director should appeal to me.”
Born and raised in Hyderabad, India, later moving to Mumbai to study at St. Xavier’s College, Tabassum “Tabu” Hashmi is the younger sister of actress Farah Naaz. She began her work in film as a child actress, eventually earning her status as the most versatile leading lady of the Indian screen.
RAFE SPALL (Writer) is one of Britain’s rising acting stars. He recently starred in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller Prometheus, starring alongside Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, and Noomi Rapace. Prior to that, he was seen in Lone Scherfig’s One Day with Anne Hathaway and in Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous, starring as William Shakespeare opposite Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Derek Jacobi, David Thewlis, Joely Richardson, and Mark Rylance.
Spall’s other films include Edgar Wright’s hits Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz; Menhaj Huda’s award-winning independent feature Kidulthood; Ridley Scott’s A Good Year, with Russell Crowe; Tom Harper’s The Scouting Book for Boys; and Alan Brennan’s upcoming Earthbound.
Spall starred on television in Desperate Romantics and Pete Versus Life, the latter in the title role. He recently completed production on the six-part The Shadow Line, written and directed by Hugo Blick with a cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor and Christopher Eccleston.
Spall’s telefilm credits include Andrei Konchalovsky’s The Lion in Winter, with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close; Nicholas Renton’s A Room with a View, starring opposite Elaine Cassidy; Adrian Shergold’s He Kills Coppers; John Alexander’s Frankie Howerd: Rather You Than Me, starring opposite David Walliams; Bill Eagles’ Dracula; and Brendan Maher’s Wide Sargasso Sea, starring as Edward Rochester opposite Rebecca Hall.
Spall’s theatre credits include Just a Bloke and Alaska, at the Royal Court; The Knight of Burning Pestle, at the Young Vic, Michael Grandage’s production of John Gabriel Borkman, at the Donmar Warehouse; and, most recently, If There Is, I Haven’t Found It Yet, at the Bush.
GÉRARD DEPARDIEU (Cook) is renowned worldwide for his versatility and his unique combination of gentleness and brutish physicality. Born in France, from humble beginnings, Depardieu become a worldwide movie star. The award-winning actor has enjoyed a film career spanning more than four decades, and has appeared in over 170 films. Many of those films have garnered him critical and commercial success, both in his native Europe and around the world.
Depardieu made his screen debut in the short film Le Beatnik et le minet (1965) and began to appear as a bit player in full-length films in the early 1970s. His performance as a young thug in Les Valseuses (1973) brought him his first real notice, and he subsequently appeared in \ Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 (1976), François Truffaut’s Le Dernier Métro (1980; The Last Metro), Loulou (1980), Le Retour de Martin Guerre (1981; The Return of Martin Guerre), Andrzej Wajda’s Danton (1983), Jean de Florette (1986), and its sequel, Manon des Sources (1986; Manon of the Spring). He starred in Camille Claudel (1989), and in 1990 Depardieu won the approval of fans and critics alike in the title role of Cyrano de Bergerac, a box-office smash in 1990, for which he won a Best Actor Oscar nomination. The film garnered nine Césars – the national film award of France – including Depardieu’s Best Actor award, a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, and the 1990 Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Male Performance.
Depardieu starred alongside Andie MacDowell in the 1990 romantic comedy Green Card, playing a French musician who agrees to a marriage of convenience. The following year he shared the role of 17th-century composer Marin Marais with his son Guillaume in the biopic Tous les matins du monde (All The Mornings of the World).
Depardieu has played a wide variety of roles, including both historical figures (from peasants to the French Revolutionary leader Georges Danton and artist Auguste Rodin) and contemporary figures (from composers to thugs). He is notable for projecting a screen image of masculine strength that was nevertheless imbued with gentleness and sensitivity. At one point, he acted in as many as six films a year, and became the most popular actor in Europe, achieving international reputation.
Depardieu maintains many interests outside of acting. A wine enthusiast, he owns a château and winery where he creates his own vintages.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
ANG LEE (Director/Producer) is one of the world’s most revered and honored film directors. He has won two Academy Awards: in 2006, for his direction of Brokeback Mountain, and the 2001 Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. His films have twice won the prestigious Golden Lion Award for Best Picture at the Venice International Film Festival (in 2007, for Lust, Caution, and in 2005, for Brokeback Mountain) and twice won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival (in 1993, for The Wedding Banquet and in 1996, for Sense and Sensibility). Lust, Caution, swept Asia’s Golden Horse Awards (Taiwan’s equivalent of the Academy Awards), with eight wins including Best Film; it is one of the highest-grossing and most critically acclaimed films in the history of Chinese-language cinema.
His most recent film, Taking Woodstock was nominated for a Golden Palm Award at Cannes Film Festival, a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film, and the film’s composer Danny Elfman received a World Soundtrack Award nomination for film composer of the year.
Prior to that, Mr. Lee’s groundbreaking Brokeback Mountain won two additional Academy Awards, for Best Adapted Screenplay (Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana) and Best Original Score (Gustavo Santaolalla), and was nominated for five more, including Best Picture. Mr. Lee also won the Directors Guild of America, BAFTA, Independent Spirit, and Golden Globe® Awards for Best Director, among other industry accolades. Brokeback Mountain won three additional Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture [Drama]; the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature; three additional BAFTA Awards, including Best Film; and the Golden Lion Award, for Best Picture, at the 2005 Venice International Film Festival, among awards all over the world. Additionally, Mr. Lee and the film’s star Jake Gyllenhaal were honored with the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award, and Brokeback Mountain was named outstanding film by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s (GLAAD) Media Awards.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, based on a novel by Du Lu Wang, won three additional Academy Awards – Best Cinematography (Peter Pau), Best Original Score (Tan Dun), and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Tim Yip) – and was nominated for six more, including Best Picture and Best Director. Mr. Lee won the Directors Guild of America, BAFTA, and Golden Globe Awards for Best Director, among other honors.
Mr. Lee moved to the United States in 1978. After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre from the University of Illinois, he went to New York University to complete a Masters of Fine Arts Degree in film production. His short film Fine Line won Best Director and Best Film awards at the annual NYU Film Festival.
Ang Lee’s first feature film, Pushing Hands, was screened at the 1992 Berlin International Film Festival and won Best Film at the Asian-Pacific Film Festival. The film was also nominated for nine Golden Horse Awards in Taipei.
Pushing Hands was also the first film in his “Father Knows Best” trilogy, all of which starred actor Sihung Lung. The next film in the trilogy, The Wedding Banquet, opened to international acclaim following its Berlin premiere. The film was nominated for the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, and received six Independent Spirit Award nominations. Mr. Lee capped the trilogy with Eat Drink Man Woman, which was selected as the opening night feature for the Directors Fortnight section of the 1994 Cannes International Film Festival. Named Best Foreign-Language Film by the National Board of Review, the film was nominated for the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, and received six Independent Spirit Award nominations.
In 1995, he directed Sense and Sensibility, starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won for Best Adapted Screenplay (Emma Thompson, from the Jane Austen novel). Sense and Sensibility also won Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture [Drama] and Best Screenplay; and was named Best Picture by BAFTA, the Boston Society of Film Critics, and the National Board of Review. Mr. Lee was cited as Best Director by the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review, and the Boston Society of Film Critics.
Mr. Lee next directed The Ice Storm, adapted by James Schamus from Rick Moody’s novel, and starring Joan Allen, Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, and Tobey Maguire. The film premiered at the 1997 Cannes International Film Festival (where it won the Best Screenplay award), and was selected as the opening night feature for the 1997 New York Film Festival. For her performance in the film, Sigourney Weaver won a BAFTA Award, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Mr. Lee’s subsequent films were Ride with the Devil (adapted by James Schamus from Daniel Woodrell’s novel); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; the box office hit The Hulk (starring Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly); and, for Focus Features, Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution.
In addition to the Venice prize, Lust, Caution’s other honors included Independent Spirit Award nominations for lead actors Tony Leung and Tang Wei; Ms. Tang also earned a BAFTA Award nomination. The film was a nominee in the Foreign-Language Film category from both the BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards.
DAVID MAGEE (Screenplay) was nominated for a 2004 Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Finding Neverland. Along with Simon Beaufoy he wrote the screenplay for Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day starring Frances McDormand and Amy Adams, released in 2008.
YANN MARTEL (Author of the book) is a Canadian author best known for the Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi. Born in Spain, Mr. Martel has travelled the globe, spending time in India, Turkey and Iran. After studying philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, at age 27 he embarked on his writing career. Living in and visiting many cultures influenced his writing, providing the rich cultural background of Life of Pi. To write the novel, Mr. Martel spent six months in India visiting mosques, temples, churches and zoos, and then an entire year reading religious texts and castaway stories. After the research, the actual writing required two more years. Life of Pi was chosen for the 2003 edition of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads competition, where it was championed by author Nancy Lee. In addition, its French translation, Histoire de Pi, was included in the French version of the competition; Le combat des livres. Mr. Martel currently lives in Saskatoon, Canada.
GIL NETTER (Producer) nurtured LIFE OF PI to fruition after acquiring the rights to the book in 2003 with Fox 2000 Pictures’ Elizabeth Gabler. Netter recently produced Water for Elephants starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz. Prior to that, he produced the box office phenomenon, The Blind Side, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and garnering an Oscar for Best Actress for Sandra Bullock.
Previously, Netter produced the hit film, Marley and Me (2008), starring Jennifer Aniston and Luke Wilson. He also produced Phone Booth (2002), starring Colin Farrell and directed by Joel Schumacher.
Netter, additionally, produced the comedy, Dude, Where’s My Car?(2000) starring Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott. His other film credits include High School High, BASEketball, My Boss’ Daughter, Flicka and the Farrelly Brothers’ Fever Pitch. Netter served as executive producer of Eragon.
Netter was president of Zucker Brothers Productions for seven years, where he executive produced such films as My Best Friend’s Wedding, First Knight, My Life, Naked Gun 33 1/3: Final Insult, Naked Gun 2: The Smell of Fear and A Walk in the Clouds. Netter began his career as a talent/literary agent for The Agency and later was vice president of Imagine Entertainment.
DAVID WOMARK (Producer) executive produced G.I. Joe: The Rise of The Cobra, Stardust, and The Chronicles of Riddick. He previously worked with Ang Lee as Associate Producer on The Hulk.
Womark began his career as an assistant director, working on over 20 movies, including the award-winning A Dangerous Woman with Debra Winger and Barbara Hershey and Paris Trout starring Dennis Hopper, as well as the Emmy-winning miniseries Family of Spies.
He served as associate producer on Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Jurassic Park III. His work in production includes such films as Dante’s Peak, The X-Files and EDTV.
CLAUDIO MIRANDA, ASC (Director of Photography) worked for director David Fincher as a stage manager, electrician and best boy. He then moved on to gaff Fincher’s The Game, followed by the watershed feature Fight Club in 1999. He is best known as the director of photography on Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the first digitally filmed feature nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and the American Society of Cinematographers Award.
The son of a Chilean architect and an interior designer, Miranda’s big break came in 1994 when Dariusz Wolksi hired him to work as chief lighting technician on Alex Proyas’ “The Crow.” The 2005 Sundance Film Festival hit A Thousand Roads, directed by Chris Eyre, was Miranda’s first feature cinematography credit and cemented his reputation as a DP to watch. Most recently, he was the cinematographer on “Tron: Legacy.” He also gaffed Tony Scott’s “Crimson Tide,” “The Fan” and “Enemy of the State.”
After honing his lighting skills on several features, Miranda began garnering Best Cinematography awards for his commercial and music video work. He won AICP and Clio awards for the Pocari “Tennis” spot in 2002, a Clio for Xelebri in 2004, an AICP for Heineken in 2005, as well as an MVPA for a Beyoncé clip (featuring Sean Paul) in 2004.
TIM SQUYRES, A.C.E. (Editor) has edited eleven previous films for director Ang Lee: Pushing Hands, The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman, Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm, Ride with the Devil, the short Chosen (part of the “The Hire” series of BMW Internet short features starring Clive Owen), The Hulk, Lust, Caution, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and most recently, Taking Woodstock.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon earned Squyres an Academy Award nomination, as well as a, BAFTA Award, Hong Kong Film Award, and American Cinema Editors (A.C.E.) Eddie Award nominations, as well as the Golden Horse Award (Taiwan’s equivalent of the Oscar). He was again an Eddie Award nominee for his work on Robert Altman’s Academy Award-winning Gosford Park, which earned Squyres an American Film Institute (AFI) Award nomination.
His other feature credits as editor include Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married, starring Academy Award nominee Anne Hathaway; Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana, starring Academy Award-winner George Clooney; Paul Auster’s Lulu on the Bridge and The Inner Life of Martin Frost; and George Butler’s documentary Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry. Earlier in his career, Squyres was supervising sound editor on Nancy Savoca’s Dogfight and True Love; and Yurek Bogayevicz’ Anna, starring Academy Award nominee Sally Kirkland. He has also edited television documentaries for Bill Moyers (What Can We Do About Violence? and Addiction: Close to Home), Michael Moore, ESPN, and VH1; and commercials and music videos.
DAVID GROPMAN (Production Designer) was an Academy Award nominee for Best Art Direction, shared with set decorator Beth Rubino, for his work on Lasse Hallström’s The Cider House Rules.
He reteamed with Hallström on Chocolat, for which Gropman received a BAFTA Award nomination and won an Art Directors Guild Award; The Shipping News, for which he was an Art Directors Guild Award nominee; Casanova, starring Heath Ledger; and An Unfinished Life.
More recently, Gropman was a Satellite Award nominee for his work on Adam Shankman’s blockbuster musical Hairspray; and an Art Directors Guild Award nominee for John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt. Mr. Gropman’s other feature credits as production designer include Date Night, Todd Field’s Little Children; Robert Benton’s The Human Stain, Twilight, and Nobody’s Fool; Steven Zaillian’s A Civil Action and Searching for Bobby Fischer; Jerry Zaks’ Marvin’s Room; Michael Hoffman’s One Fine Day; Forest Whitaker’s Waiting to Exhale; Alfonso Arau’s A Walk in the Clouds; Gary Sinise’s Of Mice and Men and Miles From Home; Merchant Ivory’s Mr. & Mrs. Bridge and Slaves of New York; and Robert Altman’s O.C. and Stiggs, The Laundromat (for television), and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.
DAVID LEE (Co-Producer), who was born in Taiwan, began working with Ang Lee while still a student at New York University’s film school.
Initially a production assistant, on Ang Lee’s film “Pushing Hands,” David Lee then became the director’s assistant on “The Wedding Banquet.” Ever since then, David Lee has assisted Ang Lee on the latter’s feature films
MYCHAEL DANNA (Music) is recognized as one of the pioneers of combining non-Western sound sources with orchestral and electronic elements in the world of film music. Danna has been scoring films since his 1987 feature debut, Atom Egoyan’s Family Viewing. He hails from Canada, where he has won five Genie Awards, the latest for his score for the Academy Award-nominated foreign language film Water, directed by Deepa Mehta. Danna received Genie Awards for his composing work on the Atom Egoyan films Ararat, Felicia’s Journey, The Sweet Hereafter and Exotica. LIFE OF PI marks Danna’s third collaboration with Ang Lee, having previously written the original music for The Ice Storm and Ride with the Devil.
Danna collaborates regularly with such noted filmmakers as Bennett Miller, for whom he composed the scores for the multiple Oscar-nominee Moneyball starring Brad Pitt and the Oscar-winning drama Capote starring Philip Seymour Hoffman; Terry Gilliam on the Oscar-nominated The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Tideland; Mira Nair on Vanity Fair, Monsoon Wedding and Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love; and Billy Ray on Breach and Shattered Glass.
Danna’s composing credits also include the Oscar-winning hit Little Miss Sunshine, for which he shared a Grammy® Award nomination for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album; Marc Webb’s acclaimed romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer; Robert Schwentke’s romantic drama The Time Traveler’s Wife; James Mangold’s Oscar-winning Girl, Interrupted starring Angelina Jolie; Neil LaBute’s Lakeview Terrace; Sony’s animated film Surf’s Up; Gregory Hoblit’s Fracture starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling; Istvan Szabo’s Oscar-nominated Being Julia starring Annette Bening; Denzel Washington’s directorial debut Antwone Fisher; Scott Hicks’ Hearts in Atlantis; and Joel Schumacher’s 8MM.
Danna received an Emmy nomination along with his brother, composer Jeff Danna, for Outstanding Main Title Theme music for their theme to “Camelot” starring Joseph Fiennes.
Danna studied music composition at the University of Toronto, winning the Glenn Gould Composition Scholarship in 1985. He served as composer-in-residence at the McLaughlin Planetarium in Toronto.
For LIFE OF PI, in addition to writing the original score, Danna co-wrote the film’s original song “Pi’s Lullaby” with singer/songwriter Bombay Jayashri, who performs the song in her native Tamil language. The film allowed Danna to draw from many chapters of his musical upbringing — church choirs, piano, Indian music, electronic music — in writing and recording the score. He traveled to India to work with Jayashri and other respected Indian musicians and also incorporated such notable Western influences as the accordion and mandolin, as well as a full Los Angeles studio orchestra.