Ang Lee Discusses Challenges in Filming “Life of Pi”

Ang Lee (李安) is best known for directing films such as the visually-stunning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon <臥虎藏龍>, the controversial Brokeback Mountain <斷背山> and the action-packed The Hulk <綠巨人HULK>. With the recent release of Life of Pi <少年派的奇幻漂流>, the humble and soft-spoken director shared his experiences in putting this epic film together.

In order to capture the essence of Life of Pi, Ang had to tackle the three main elements, which were: animals, child, water. Ang shared that he sought 3 Bengal tigers for the part and finally settled down with the one named “King”. Although most of the scenes with the tiger can be achieved through CGI effects, Ang insisted on filming with a real tiger because Ang felt that he had to envision the scene from the perspective of a real tiger in order to accurately portray the tiger’s expression and movements. In the end, his persistence resulted in 24 shots with the real animal itself. Ang also had his crew bring in a real hyena, an extremely dangerous and unpredictable animal. Ang said, “Hyenas have odd tempers, always running around and even biting into the tin cans on site.”

In regards to the water element, Ang says, “No matter how experienced you are in trying to film water, there will always be surprises because water is so unpredictable.” In order to understand the strength of a storm, Ang went out on a speedboat with the Coast Guard into the middle of storm where its 9-feet waves swayed the boat violently.  The local Taichung government allowed Ang to transform an old abandoned airport into a studio, where his crew built the world’s largest fully automated wave pool which can create over 50 types of waves.

When it came to working with an inexperienced teen actor, Ang had nothing but praise for Suraj Shama. Interestingly enough, Suraj was only accompanying his brother to the audition for Life of Pi when he captured Ang’s attention. Suraj also had to learn how to swim and rapidly gain and lose weight for the role.  Regardless, Ang only had kind words to say about the actor. “His innocence truly captivated me. The more I worked with him, the more I felt that he’s been an actor for his entire life.”

To say that Ang approaches his directing efforts differently is an understatement, but with Life of Pi receiving rave reviews and rumors of an Oscar-nod, movie goers are sure to be in for a treat.


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  1. Very eager to watch this movie. This movie is getting a lot of buzz!

    1. can’t wait to see this film too! esp learning the efforts Ang took to make everything more realistic.

  2. Opening week in China (actually just 4 days)grossed US$16 Million, adding to the US$30 Million from North America.

    No numbers from HK but that’s probably insignificant consider the size of that market.

  3. When I was at the cinema and watches the 2 part of Breaking down, then they showed alittlebit of this movie,from the trailer then it looked quite interesting.

  4. I’ve seen this movie already and thought it was just OK. The first hour was about Pi’s childhood life. Although it was quite interesting getting to see Indian culture, the movie just moved too slow for me

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