As if adapting a tale that relied on cumbersome 3D, a giant water tank and a computer-animated tiger as its co-star weren’t daunting enough, Ang Lee cast a non-actor, Suraj Sharma, in “The Life of Pi’s” title role. Lee spent three months training the Indian high school student. “You don’t have to be a great actor, but you always have to be available to us,” says Lee. “That takes a lot of dedication for a 17-year-old, not to have a meltdown, not to throw a tantrum, and to always stay in character. And he did that. The last three months (of production), every shot is him.”
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Sharma had to lose considerable weight for the film’s final third and was subject to potentially hazardous shooting conditions. “I was extra-careful toward the end because he’s getting thinner and thinner,” recalls Lee, “and we were getting into the spiritual part — the part where he fights his own insanity.
“It’s (Sharma’s) dedication, the belief he invested, the discipline (and) the innocence most of all that reminds us why we want to be filmmakers in the first place.”