Life of Pi was one of the movie triumphs of 2012 as Ang Lee brought Yann Martel's acclaimed novel to the big screen.
Lee was rewarded with a Best Director Oscar earlier this year - the movie was also rewarded for it's stunning cinematography, visual effects and score.
- You have many challenges in this film, not the least of which is such an inexperienced leading man. How did you mentor him through the making of the film?
Well I saw him as Pi, that’s why I cast him. To me he looks like Pi, so I was teaching him into becoming Pi, not so much about performance ability. The two went hand in hand. He didn’t swim, we taught him how to swim. He didn’t have sea legs, we built his sea legs. Acting, the same way.
The whole shooting schedule was shot in [story] order, so what was happening in the shooting was parallel to what was happening in Pi’s life, drifting across the Pacific with the tiger.
I think that in some ways performance and acting happen in the best way, in the purest form, is the person believing what he’s in.
Suraj is an incredible talent. I tested him, I trusted him, I trusted that if we followed him we could find the movie.
- What was in him initially that made you think of Pi?
Well, it was [those] soulful deep looking eyes, he looked very smart. And then I tested him, I asked him to tell a long story, the second story in the movie.
I asked him to tell it as if it was really something that happened to him. Halfway into the storytelling he started to cry.
He couldn’t pull himself out of the situation, he was obsessed by the situation. He’d never acted before, I couldn’t believe it.
- The challenge for him was keeping his energy up physically and emotionally - how did you deal with that?
I was coaching him along the way, and whatever was the most important task during this period of time we tried to hit it. If it’s about survival, so genuinely we were going through that.
If it was about maintaining his sanity, where he gets spiritual towards the end - and by the way we shot in order so he could lose weight along the way, and that’s not easy. But he went along with that.
Then he had to have a look that was spiritual, gaunt and hollow but very alive kind of a look. I stopped people talking to him, nobody was allowed to talk to him. He had to live in silence.
I gave him a lot of spiritual music to listen to, and he just transcended into a different state. Of course I watched him very carefully, charting him, so he was not going crazy.
But I think again, Suraj is such a tremendous talent I think his previous life must be a good actor. So I just sort of awakened him into what he used to know already.
The whole process is spiritual, when you believe something, when you put so much trust in one person, and him to himself, things will happen naturally. You just have to embrace that.
- It’s a stunningly beautiful film, with great 3D and it can now be enjoyed at home on equipment that provides just a fine a viewing experience. How do you feel about that?
At home you probably don’t need glasses, which is a good thing. Of course, when you watch it at home you’re more private, it’s not the same thing as sharing with a crowd in a big black box, as in the theatre.
But as a very private, probably more contemplative experience. Hopefully more emotional.
- Are there any deleted scenes that will be part of the home entertainment package?
Oh yeah, there are five or six deleted scenes and sequences. Even the tiger in the water was already done.
But they were significant scenes that got deleted for the flow of emotion, for one reason or another. I think they’re significant.
I won’t put anything in that I think is redundant, but something significant for the whole sake of the movie, that didn’t make it to the movie, I’ll put them in.
- Was the movie changed greatly by taking them out in the first place?
Well, most of them belong to the voyage, it’s a longer voyage and where you have those scenes in it’s more of a survival story. But the movie is not about the survival story.
It has a philosophical twist to the end so you have to treat it more like a story-story instead of a survival experience. But I think a lot of the details are wonderful details in life as experienced on the sea. Not so much for the sake of telling a story.
- How much pride do you take in the performance of Richard Parker?
I’m very proud of it, I’m proud of the effort we put into it. The computer can do a lot for us, but it’s still our heart, our projection of ourselves, our respect for nature, it’s artistic work.
I’m very proud, not of me having the heart, but hundreds of artists working along with me. We all devoted our lives to creating this character, and I think he came to life and we’re all very proud of it.
- How has Blu Ray changed your viewing and collecting habits, as a film fan?
I totally embrace Blu Ray, it’s just better quality. In some ways they don’t have that rough feeling when you watch a movie, they’re very defined.
But I enjoy the fine details. A lot of movies I saw in the movie theatre, on a regular tv screen, and then when I saw it on Blu Ray I find new things and I think that’s wonderful.
Life Of Pi is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now.