The movie “Life of Pi” is based on a novel of the same name written by Yann Martell. Although the book and movie revolve mostly around characters that are from India, Martell himself is Canadian. During his childhood and teenage years, Martell lived in Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico, France, and Canada. He writes in English, but French is his first language. Other books by Martell include “We Ate the Children Last” and “Beatrice and Virgil.”
The story in both the novel and movie centers on the life of Piscine Molitor, an Indian boy who was named for a swimming pool in Paris. Because his name draws jeers from boys at school, Piscine takes on the nickname Pi. “Life of Pi” is told in a framed story format, which means an older Pi is telling the story to a reporter. The story is mainly about how the younger Pi survived a shipwreck and spent time on a lifeboat with wild animals, including a fully-grown Bengal tiger.
In addition to drawing a lot of attention from moviegoers of all ages, “Life of Pi” also has quite a bit of interesting trivia associated with it. The film is directed by Ang Lee, but numerous other popular directors were attached to the film at some point in development, including M. Night Shyamalan.
“Life of Pi” also has several fun connections to the Spider-Man franchise of movies, including links to the trilogy starring Tobey Maguire as well as the reboot film “The Amazing Spider-Man.” The first link involves Maguire and Andrew Garfield, who played Peter Parker in the newest film. Maguire was originally cast as the reporter who interviews the older Pi, but Garfield was also considered for the role. Although Maguire filmed some scenes, Ang Lee made a decision to replace him before editing. According to reports, Lee felt Maguire was too big an actor for the role.
Another link to Spider-Man can be found in actor Irrfan Khan. Khan, who plays the adult version of Pi, played the role of Dr. Rajit Ratha in “The Amazing Spider-Man.” The name of the tiger in “Life of Pi” is Richard Parker, which is also the name of Peter Parker’s father in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
Martel did not get the name Richard Parker from the Spider-Man stories, however. He got the name from an English law case from 1884. The case, known as R. v. Dudley and Stephens, centered on an argument about whether necessity could be used as a defense in a murder trial. Specifically, the argument was about cannibalism in a castaway situation. Four men, including a seventeen-year-old cabin boy named Richard Parker, were shipwrecked. After days of hunger, the three other men killed a possibly dying Parker and ate him. Martel’s choice of this name for a shipwrecked tiger that could, at any moment, eat Pi is full of dark comedy.
The name of the ship from the 1884 court case was the Mignonette. In a scene in “Life of Pi” where the older Pi is being interviewed, a ship called the Mignonette passes in the background.
An interesting fact about the film’s creation has to do with the tiger. Suraj Sharma, the actor that plays Pi, was reportedly never in contact with an actual tiger. In fact, all scenes depicting Sharma and the tiger within the lifeboat were computerized. Although the CGI is very well done, there is at least one moment in the movie where it is apparent to viewers. The tiger jumps from an island to the boat, but there is no movement on the surface of the boat. When Pi makes the same move a moment later, the surface of the boat flexes under his weight.
Sharma was almost not seen on the lifeboat at all, though. He didn’t even mean to audition for the film. He was with his brother, who was responding to a casting call, when the casting team spotted him. With more than 3,000 other young men showing up for the role, the team chose Sharma as the lead. “Life of Pi” was Sharma’s first movie and, as of January 2013, he has not appeared as an actor in any other film.
“Life of Pi” is a fun and thoughtful film that examines topics like survival and religion in an offbeat and unique manner. It is fitting that the movie is also associated with so much fun and odd trivia.