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Life of Pi sells 1.5 million copies since film release

Even if Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi doesn’t receive a single Academy Award on Sunday night, the film is already a winner for the author.

According to a press release from Martel’s agency, Westwood Creative Artists*, the novel has sold more than 1.5 million copies via its English-language publishers, Canongate in the U.K., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the U.S., and Random House Canada, which published a movie tie-in version of the book under its Vintage Canada imprint.

In an email interview with Canadian Press, Martel recommends reading the book prior to seeing the film. “One should start with the original work,” he says.

Life of Pi enjoyed an initial sales bump in 2002 after winning the Man Booker Prize. Prior to the film’s release, international sales in all languages were reported to be in excess of nine million copies, with 812,000 copies in Canada alone.

The film is up for 11 Academy Awards, including an adapted screenplay nomination for David Magee.


*Update Feb. 22: A previous version of this post did not mention Westwood Creative Artists.

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Yann Martel lands cameo in Life of Pi

Ang Lee’s film version of Life of Pi isn’t due in theatres until late next year, but anticipation is running high. In a feature interview in today’s Globe and Mail, author Yann Martel – who is scheduled to speak with one of the film’s stars, Bollywood actress Tabu, in Vancouver on Friday – discusses his involvement in making the film, which recently wrapped after 100 days of shooting.

Martel didn’t write the screenplay but says he was “kept in the loop” as the project cycled through directors. He also expresses his approval of Oscar winner Lee, who shot the film in 3-D.

Martel tells reporter Marsha Lederman:

“[Lee] is a perfect director for this kind of story…. He’s good at both the emotional detail but also he’s very adept at making complicated movies that demand special effects. So he’s good at the tight angle and the wide shot…. And I like that it wasn’t someone who had the bluster that some American directors might have brought to the project.”

Martel says that under Lee’s direction, he expects the technology will contribute to, rather than overshadow, the storytelling. “The danger of 3-D would be I guess that it looks spectacular, but it feels hollow. That’s why I was happy to have someone like Ang Lee, who is too sensitive a director and too ambitious to want to do something that just looks good but is clunky and has no heart.”

Martel also discusses the surreal experience of appearing as an extra in the film, and of meeting actor Tobey Maguire, who plays the role of a journalist who records the story of Pi, a 16-year-old boy who spends 227 days on a raft with a Royal Bengal tiger. Maguire had grown out his curly hair and scruffy beard to resemble the famed Saskatoon-based author when the two met in Montreal.

“It seemed unreal that this is what’s become of a story that I wrote when I had no money. I mean two years before I finished Life of Pi, my declared income was $6,000. I was way under the poverty line. … But every morning my office had a tiger in it and I had to keep it alive and that was my main concern.

“So I was flabbergasted at the extravaganza of the production,” he continued. “It’s delightful. It’s amazing that a product of my mind should 10 years down the road lead to this.”

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Life of Pi to be filmed in 3-D

More details have emerged about director Ang Lee’s planned film adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, and it looks like it will be shot in 3-D. From indieWIRE:

[Fox 2000 producer Elizabeth] 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.”

Hollywood producers don’t tend to invest $70 million in a movie without having some marquee names tied to it, and since the lead is a young Indian boy, should we anticipate Morgan Freeman and Ben Stiller and others as talking animals?

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Ang Lee to adapt Life of Pi

According to The Bookseller, Yann Martel’s crazy popular Man Booker-winning Life of Pi is finally going before the cameras, courtesy of Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee.

Filmmakers such as M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie) are among those who have expressed an interest in the story before.

Lee, whose credits include Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution, told [the website Digital Spy]: “I think I’m going to do Life of Pi… A little boy adrift at sea with a tiger. It’s a hard one to crack.”

The project is still at the scripting stage, and no casting has taken place yet.

Though Lee also directed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, he has never, to our knowledge, worked with an actual tiger before, so it’s hard to know if he’s the right man for the job. For our money, you couldn’t entrust the book to a surer bet than Caroll Ballard, who directed what is possibly the greatest boy-and-his-animal movie ever made, The Black Stallion. And just a few years ago, Ballard proved he could work wonders with big cats in the barely released Duma, about a boy and his cheetah.

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