Lee: Tigers, water, 3D provided hurdles for ‘Pi’

Eye on the Oscars 2013: The Director - Ang Lee

On “Life of Pi,” Ang Lee wasn’t just dealing with one unprecedented challenge, but four: an untested actor in the lead; a largely digital tiger; cumbersome 3D rigs; and shooting extensively over water. But this is a filmmaker who has mastered almost as many genres as he has directed movies, and he took each hurdle in stride.

“Water is very important for me, because we spent a lot of time there, and we didn’t have a big movie star like Tom Hanks to hold your attention,” the director tells Variety. “Water is almost a character in the movie. I had to create something new.”

Not satisfied with available facilities, Lee built a huge water tank in his native Taiwan (75 by 35 meters or 246 feet by 114 feet) that allowed him to control the rhythm, shape, size and length of the waves depicted in his metaphysical special-effects extravaganza about an Indian boy cast away on a boat for 227 days with a Bengal tiger.

As if tackling a cherished literary fantasy — Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning novel — didn’t create its own set of expectations, Lee experienced more than his fair share of trials and tribulations. For one, he felt the way animals had been depicted before in films was something he wanted to avoid, so he used the real thing — namely King, “a gorgeous, 7-year-old male, 450 pounds,” who was the main model for his CGI team.

“Bringing in a real tiger created a very high standard for the animation team to match,” he says. “The one principle is not to humanize (the animals). In computer animation, they simulate tigers but they’re projecting their own personality. That’s something I definitely didn’t want to do. The tiger has to look like a tiger and behave like one.”

| HOME | David O. Russell >>

More Film

  • Crawl Movie

    'Crawl' and Other Disaster Movies Pose Unique Obstacles for Production Designers

    The rampaging fires, earthquakes and storms of disaster movies present unusual challenges for a production: On top of the normal work of creating a film’s lived-in and realistic locations, designers must build sets that the forces of nature can batter, flood and ravage into something completely different. Take “Crawl,” in which a Category 5 hurricane [...]

  • The Lion King

    'The Lion King' Tops $130 Million Overseas

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has roared past $130 million in international ticket sales ahead of its domestic debut, led by $76.6 million in its first week in China. Other markets began launching Wednesday, led by France with $8.3 million in its first two days with the second-biggest opening day for a Disney movie after “Avengers: [...]

  • The Lion King The Gift

    Album Review: Beyoncé’s 'The Lion King: The Gift'

    Before touching down on what Beyoncé has called her “love letter to Africa,” it’s important to see what may have brought her to the mother of mankind, with its wide vistas and sonic planes, for “The Gift” in the first place — beyond, of course, voicing Nala in the film and whatever international marketing tie-ins [...]

  • The Lion King

    'The Lion King' Roars to $23 Million Opening on Thursday Night

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has pounced on a mighty $23 million in North American locations in Thursday night preview showings. It’s the biggest preview number since Disney-Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” set the record on April 27 with $60 million. “The Lion King” is expected to debut with $150 million this weekend. Some forecasts estimate the tentpole [...]

  • Major Expansion Planned at Belfast Harbour

    Major Expansion Planned at Belfast Harbour Studios, Home of ‘Krypton’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Belfast Harbour Studios in Northern Ireland, where the Syfy series “Krypton” is shot, is set for a major expansion. The Warner Horizon-produced series has occupied the full site, which currently has two stages, since it opened in 2017. The landowners had signaled that they wanted to expand, and Variety has learned that plans for the [...]

  • Disney Movies

    Why Audiences Are Only Going to Disney Movies

    Julie Bikhman of Manhattan might buy the tickets, but when it comes to deciding what movie to see, her three young children are the ones calling the shots. “We pick them,” her 11-year-old daughter Annie declares before heading into a screening of Disney’s live-action “The Lion King.” “If it’s a Marvel movie, we know it’s [...]

  • Rob Schneider'The Week Of' film premiere,

    Rob Schneider Running for SAG-AFTRA Board, Supporting Matthew Modine

    Rob Schneider is running for a SAG-AFTRA national board seat as a member of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate and as a representative of the union’s San Francisco branch. Schneider is a former cast member on “Saturday Night Live” with movie credits on “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,” “The Hot Chick,” “The Benchwarmers,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content