Ang Lee says his 3-D learning curve on 'Life of Pi' was huge
LAS VEGAS -- Ang Lee didn't make the decision to film "Life of Pi" in 3-D lightly. For months, he agonized over whether the technology would enhance the story or come across as a gimmick. In the end, it was the number pi that inspired him to make the leap.
Making an expensive 3-D film based on an intellectual, philosophical book required Lee to take "a leap of faith to see the circle that the pi indicates," the filmmaker said at CinemaCon, the theater owners' convention now underway in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, the Oscar-winning director joined Martin Scorsese in conversation, speaking candidly about the future of 3-D and its importance in the industry.
Despite his belief in the format, Lee was open about his struggle to adapt to the technology. While filming "Life of Pi," he said, the 3-D cameras were cumbersome, and he compared working with them to "operating a refrigerator." While directing 17-year-old actor Suraj Sharma, Lee thought he was giving appropriate instructions until he watched the footage in 3-D. "I'd have to go back to him and bring his performance down because it just enhanced it so much more. It's like a new film language," Lee said, describing his learning curve as "humongous."
"Only big movies get 3-D because its expensive -- naturally a quarter of your budget," he said. "Right now, we still need an excuse to watch 3-D, like a fantastic scene."
Scorsese, meanwhile, seemed more at ease with the technology, possibly because Lee is still editing "Life of Pi," which is scheduled for release in December, and Scorsese's 3-D "Hugo" hit theaters last year. Although Scorsese acknowledged that the 3-D equipment was large, he said his biggest obstacle on "Hugo" was not the bulky gear but the child labor laws that allowed child star Asa Butterfield to be on set only a few hours each day.
"I discovered during the costume and makeup tests that [3-D] made the actor come forward," he said. "It made me more interested in them. I like them. I'm with them."
Scorsese is such a fan of 3-D that he said given the opportunity, he would have made every film following 1980's "Raging Bull" in the format. Moving forward, he urged exhibitors to use the highest-grade technology in their theaters to keep moviegoers interested in 3-D.
"If it's too dark and you can't see it, why should they come back and see another 3-D film?" Scorsese asked. "We have to make it so it isn't disturbing to them. It affects what we do, so help us out, and we'll help you out."
-- Amy Kaufman
Photos: (Top) Pi (played by Suraj Sharma) and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker must rely on each other to survive an epic journey in the movie "Life of Pi." Credit: Rhythm and Hues/20th Century Fox. (Bottom) Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee speak during a filmmakers forum at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images