Ang Lee Confirms His Next Film is ‘Life of Pi’

Ang Lee hasn’t had much mainstream success since he won an Oscar for directing “Brokeback Mountain” a few years back. His follow-up was the hard-to-distribute NC-17-rated Chinese period romance “Lust, Caution.” Then, this past summer he released the much broader “Taking Woodstock,” a comic look at a singular true story behind the scenes of the legendary music festival, and it failed to find an audience (I recommend seeing it when it hits DVD on December 15, specifically for Imelda Staunton, who deserves an Oscar already).

Fortunately, Lee’s next film will be based on a best-selling novel and could therefore bring him back to the spotlight for the moviegoing masses. He confirmed to Digital Spy that he thinks he’s going to do “Life of Pi,” which he’s adapting from Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winner. Of course, if you’re familiar with the source material, you may wonder how on earth it’s going to work as a film.

“A little boy adrift at sea with a tiger,” Lee said of the basic plot. “It’s a hard one to crack.”

Apparently he has somewhat figured out a way to adapt the novel, as he revealed that he recently finished a first draft of the screenplay. Yet there are still some uncertainties.

“I think I’ve cracked the structure of the movie,” he revealed, before admitting that he’ll “figure out how to do it later. How exactly I’m going to do it, I don’t know!”

I haven’t read the book myself, but friends who’ve read it were shocked to learn that it was being made into a movie. From what I know of the story, I imagine Alfred Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” meets Calvin and Hobbes. Except the tiger isn’t the title character’s imaginary friend. It’s a real animal that initially has no problem eating his fellow shipwreck survivors, the rest of which include a hyena, an orangutan and a zebra.

The difficulties with this adaptation should be clear to even those of us who aren’t too familiar with the source. How do you get a child actor on a small boat with a tiger and have it be both safe and realistic? Would Lee employ CG for the animals and risk having “Life of Pi” compared to his much-criticized effects in “Hulk”?

Personally, I’d love to see Lee manage this without too much computer effects. Instead, he should shoot it like the beginning of “The Black Stallion,” but with a tiger rather than a horse. There must be a tiger tame enough to employ for such a role. I wonder if the tiger from “The Hangover” is available.

Any fans of the novel think “Life of Pi” could work as a movie? Are you hopeful that Ang Lee will do a good job bringing the source material to the big screen?