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'Life of Pi' suffers another blow

May 27, 2010 |  7:12 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Speaking of difficult books and the development challenges that accompany them, here comes another example, and it's a high-profile one.

Pi"Life of Pi," Yann Martel's bestselling Booker Prize winner that has had more development go-rounds than a male Bengal tiger has mates, may  be on its way back to the development cage. Eclectic director Ang Lee had been set to shoot the movie, possibly even  in 3-D, but budget concerns appear to be putting the project on hold.

Lee and producer Gil Netter have returned to Fox 2000 with a budget that sources say is too high for the studio division. (A recent Indiewire piece  put it in the $70 million range.)

The filmmakers can still reconfigure the budget, but until they do, the film isn't moving forward. (Netter didn't immediately return a call for comment.)

That the project remains active at all is at least partly thanks to the devotion of  Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler, who has been hugely keen on a “Pi” film.

Gabler has a fair amount of clout within Fox, and Fox 2000 has been highly profitable for the studio with other mid-budget book-based movies, such as "Marley & Me" and "The Devil Wears Prada." But those films, of course, had commercial hooks. This one, about a boy named Pi who finds himself trapped on a boat with a tiger after a shipwreck that sees many other animals meet their end, could be difficult to market (and, it should be noted, difficult to film).

If the Lee version doesn't work out, it wouldn't be the first time a name-brand director took on, then wound up separating from, a "Pi" adaptation.

Genre notables like M. Night Shyamalan and Alfonso Cuaron, along with French auteur Jean-Pierre Jeunet, have all been on board to direct a version of the film at some point. Fox is generally cost-conscious, and the fact that this movie, despite its bestseller status, can be a tricky shoot has them especially concerned -- particularly given the high number of CG creatures, as well as the water-bound location, which tends to drive up budgets in general.  On top of all that, "Pi" is exactly the kind of specialized, non-tentpole movie that nearly all studios are staying away from these days.

The title character in "Life of Pi" survived a difficult 227 days on a raft floating through dangerous waters. The film project may have to endure even more.

-- Steven Zeitchik and John Horn

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

http://twitter.com/JGHorn

Photo: "Life of Pi" book jacket. Credit: Canongate Books



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Comments () | Archives (8)

The comments to this entry are closed.

The story translates very poorly to film. How they would execute the novel's central premise - and what impact it would have on audiences - is beyond me. I'd leave it alone.

a story about a boy and a tiger? uh, even castaway sounds more interesting and easier to film than that.

That's why he's Ang Lee and you're "Polomoche."

I'd like to see this movie become a reality, but I would settle for an animated version?

It is ok to protray it as a film because then you can look at it in another point of view. If you just watch the film and try to understamd the central premise from that it will fall flat. However if you use the film as a tool for understanding, you will go far.

You may remenber the four proverbs:
The first step is the only difficulty.
The fox knew too much, that‘s how he lost his tail.
The fox preys farthest from home.
The frog in the well knows nothing of the great ocean.

Let's face it - it really can't be made as a studio film, in 3D, for less than $70M. If that's an out-of-bounds budget, they should just hand back the rights. Maybe someone could make it as experimental animation.

The book is awesome! Make the movie...I for one will see it! 3-D or no 3-D...just make it!


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