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Ang Lee's Life of Pi Adaptation on Hold Over Budget Concerns

by
May 28, 2010
Source: 24 Frames

Life or Pi

Just as production on Bryan Singer's Jack the Giant Killer has been delayed until February 2011, we now have word from 24 Frames that Ang Lee's gestating adaptation of Yann Martel's prize-winning book The Life of Pi (which was looking to start shooting this August) won't be moving forward on production until Lee and producer Gil Netter reduce the film's budget. Last we heard via indieWIRE, the budget was around $70 million but apparently that's just too high for Fox 2000. The good news that is Lee and Netter can still reconfigure the budget, the bad news is plenty of people before them have failed to get this off the ground.

This story of a boy named Pi who finds himself trapped on a boat with a tiger after a shipwreck sees many other animals perish is just too hard to shoot and not be expensive. Other big name directors like M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuaron and Jean-Pierre Jeunet have worked on various versions of an adaptation only to have them fall apart. Of course, trying to keep the budget low when there are so many visual effects shots involving CG animals and a setting that is mostly on water is the biggest issue. Aside from that, execs don't think they're going to have an easy time marketing this (hence trying to make it as inexpensive as possible just in case it fails) because it's "exactly the kind of specialized, non-tentpole movie that nearly all studios are staying away from these days." I hope they can reconfigure the budget without sacrificing too much.

We'll definitely keep you update on this project and any other Ang Lee project that's in the works. For now it sounds like it'll be a while before we have anything to report. Who was really looking forward to it?

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  • Miker Calif
    I really, wanna see this movie. But I think I could direct it myself under budget. The books is a great read.
  • This is one of the best books of all time and if they skimp on the production budget they're going to piss off the people who are going to market the film for them. I think Hollywood underestimates the power of "word of mouth".
  • lumière
    "exactly the kind of specialized, non-tentpole movie that nearly all studios are staying away from these days." sounds like exactly the kind of film that should be getting *more* help to be made, not parked in development purgatory. hey, i know - sell it to Platinum Dunes, blow a few things up, rip out the nuances and steamroller over the tones. and make it 3D. job done. great book + difficult film transition = producers - and audience - who see only in black and white with no interest in shades of grey. colour me dispirited.
  • Lana
    Everything is CG these days. But could they pull some Lord of the Rings type camera tricks and film the tiger and the boy separate? I have no idea if getting trained tigers and handlers etc is more expensive than CGI or not, but if it's less it's definitely worth considering. I recall the film The Ghost and the Darkness using real lions and looking really good. Technology has advanced since then. Or they could use interpolated rotoscoping, like they used for A Scanner Darkly. They made that film with only $8mill so the rotoscoping can't be too expensive. So they could use motion capture/footage from real animals. I really liked the look of A Scanner Darkly, it could work for a film like this.
  • The boy and the tiger are technically on separate parts of the boat anyways if they stay accurate to the book. Have their own territory marked out. Considering the cost of CG these days, live animals would probably be cheaper and it doesn't really seem like it'd be a safety issue to film with the boy. This is one of the best books of our age and it would be a shame to see this get pushed aside when Zack Snyders getting 100 mil to make CG owls
  • Andy
    I don't think this should be made in 3D. The book has elements that can put it in the great genre of a "Journey" movie like Lawrence of Arabia, Out of Africa, etc. Good music and classic cinematography can put this on the map. In terms of cutting their budget, I totally agree with above mentioned ideas of using real animals and splicing shots so the tiger can be filmed separately. AND I'm sure there are ways to make the gruesome bits work with prosthetic-like guts and animal skin etc. But who knows, that huge budget may be due to locations, water stuff and the like. I have faith in Ang Lee. I hope he doesn't back out like the previous directors, and finds a way to make this work within a budget the studio's willing to fork out.
  • This will never happen with live animals on a boat with a kid. That's just not how it works, I've been reading Cinefex for years and live animals are never used on an enclosed set; only in an open environment.
  • SlashBeast
    This could be an adaption in the vein of M. Night Shyamalan hackdom, or it could be a brilliantly moving pice of art. Hopefully they handle it right.

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