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Life of Pi Seeks Fox Green Light with Ang Lee Directing in 3-D

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 28, 2010 at 2:42AM

Remember The Life of Pi? It's been seven years since Fox 2000's Elizabeth Gabler acquired the rights to Canadian Yann Martel's Booker prize-winning 2001 global bestseller about a boy adrift in a lifeboat in the Pacific with a Bengal tiger. What's taking so long? Well, this kind of lyrical literary material is tricky to get right. M. Night Shyamalan fell out. So did Alfonso Cuaron and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Finally, it may get made thanks to Ang Lee--and 3-D.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Remember The Life of Pi? It's been seven years since Fox 2000's Elizabeth Gabler acquired the rights to Canadian Yann Martel's Booker prize-winning 2001 global bestseller about a boy adrift in a lifeboat in the Pacific with a Bengal tiger. What's taking so long? Well, this kind of lyrical literary material is tricky to get right. M. Night Shyamalan fell out. So did Alfonso Cuaron and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Finally, it may get made thanks to Ang Lee--and 3-D.

Gil Netter, producer of The Blind Side, brought the project to Gabler and is scouting locations in Taiwan and Pondicherry, the French-settled city in southern India. Lee is producing and directing, marking a departure from making movies produced and/or written by frequent collaborator, Focus Features chief James Schamus. While Focus released Oscar contender Brokeback Mountain, Lee and Schamus's collaborations Hulk and Taking Woodstock were disappointments. Lee could use a quality hit--something very hard to come by in Hollywood these days.

Gabler and the filmmakers are lining up a big budget well north of $70 million for a 3-D magical fantasy adventure crammed with visual effects. There's a shipwreck, the ship sinks, and a teenage boy is launched overboard and climbs into a life raft with a zebra, hyena and a tiger. There are many CG animals (whales, fish, meercats) plus ocean and atmosphere. "It has a gigantic visual effects component," says Gabler. "You can't put a live tiger in a boat with a child. It has elements of Castaway, when the kid is alone in the boat. You don't need language to convey what's on the screen. We need to make the movie for the whole world."

David Magee (Finding Neverland) has delivered the screenplay, but while Gabler is eager to proceed for an August start and a 2012 release, no casting has begun (a 16-year-old Indian boy would star amid a cast of unknowns) and Fox has yet to green-light the picture. Fox co-chairmen Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos should make the final decision within the month. UPDATE: Looks like the project is facing budget concerns, reports the LAT.

This article is related to: Genres, Studios, Stuck In Love, In Production, Exhibition, Production , Action, Twentieth Century Fox, Screenwriters, 3D, VFX


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.