Life of Pi | 7 Facts About The Novel And The Movie


Life of Pi is a fictional novel written by Canadian author Yann Martel. The novel has been adapted into a film which was released in theaters in 2012. The movie has been directed by Ang Lee. Here are 7 interesting facts about the novel and the film.


#1 Yann Martel read religious texts before writing the novel

Yann Martel in 2007
Yann Martel in 2007

While researching for the novel Yann Martel read religious texts like the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita. He also studied about animal and child psychology. To portray a detailed description of life in a small boat adrift in the Pacific, Martin read and re-read shipwreck stories and accounts.

#2 It tells a fantastic story of a boy surviving with a tiger

Life of Pi tells the story of an Indian boy Pi Patel who survives 227 days after a shipwreck leaves him stranded in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The prevalent theme of the novel is believability with Pi stating towards the end of the novel, “If you stumble at mere believability, what are you living for?” Barack Obama wrote a letter to Martel in which he described Life of Pi as “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling”.

#3 Life of Pi is partly inspired from Max and the Cats

Max and the Cats
Cover of Max and the Cats

Martel said that the inspiration behind the bizarre setting of the novel came from Max and the Cats, a 1981 novella by Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar. The novella describes the journey of a Jewish family whose ship sinks leaving one member alone with a panther. Scliar was perplexed that Martin didn’t consult or inform him, but after talking with Martel he decided not to take any action.

#4 The novel won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction

The novel was rejected by more than five publication houses before being accepted. It was published in 2001 and won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction the following year. In 2004 it also won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Best Adult Fiction for years 2001–2003. The novel has sold more than ten million copies worldwide.

#5 The lead actor of the movie Suraj Sharma had no experience in acting

There had been a plan to adapt the novel into a movie since 2003 and many directors were considered including M. Night Shyamalan, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Alfonso Cuaron. Finally in February 2009, Fox 2000 Pictures hired Ang Lee to direct the film. After auditioning 3000 people, Lee cast a 17 year old Delhi student Suraj Sharma for the role of Pi. Suraj apparently went to the audition as a favour for his actor brother and had no experience or interest in acting.

Suraj Sharma
Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi


#6 It was speculated that Hurricane Sandy would adversely affect the movie

In April 2011 it was announced that Tobey Maguire would be joining the film but Lee wanted an entirely international cast and so he cut Tobey from the film stating that his presence would be “too jarringly recognizable”. The film includes a massive storm and it was speculated that Hurricane Sandy would have a negative effect on its publicity. However Fox spokesperson stated that it would not affect the film’s marketing approach.

Life of Pi Hurricane Scene
The Hurricane Scene in Life of Pi


#7 Ang Lee won the Academy Award for Best Director for Life of Pi

Life of Pi was a commercial success grossing more than $600 million worldwide. It became the biggest Hollywood hit of the year in India. It is also one of the few Hollywood movies to gross more in China than in U.S. Life of Pi received widespread critical acclaim. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 4 including the Best Director for Ang Lee. Richard Corliss of TIME selected the film as the third-best movie of 2012.

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