Ang Lee Finds His Life Of Pi Star

Suraj Sharma will board the lifeboat

Life of Pi is one of those movies that has bobbed endlessly around the choppy waters of development and gotten lost on the sea of limbo during its long voyage to the screen. Ang Lee has been clinging onto it for at least a year now and, after a hefty worldwide casting search, he’s found a young unknown actor to play the central role: Suraj Sharma.

He’ll embody the hero of the piece, Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, who sets out on a freighter, only for the ship to bloomin' sink, leaving him stranded in a lifeboat. He’s not alone, though: he’s in there with a hyena, a seasick orangutan, an injured zebra and a Bengal tiger. Which is either the recipe for DreamWorks’ latest Madagascar adventure or a few good meals for the tiger.

But novelist Yann Martel instead spun it into a Booker Prize-winning exploration of spirituality and practicality.

Now Lee will bring David Magee’s adaptation to the screen with the 17 year-old first-time actor in the lead, who beat out 3,000 teenagers for the part.

Fox 2000 is providing the backing, and Lee plans to weigh anchor on the film in January. If he actually makes it to production, he’ll have accomplished something that M Night Shyamalan and Jean-Pierre Jeunet never could.