Fate plays its part in lead role

Ac­tor Su­raj Sharma com­pletes the Pi, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

HERE were so many quirky co­in­ci­dences sur­round­ing the cast­ing of 17-year-old un­known Su­raj Sharma for Life of Pi that di­rec­tor Ang Lee says you have to be­lieve fate played a part.

Sharma, now 19, had never had any in­cli­na­tion to act and only went to the au­di­tions for Life of Pi as mo­ral sup­port for his brother.

From the 3000 who au­di­tioned, Sharma was cho­sen to play the ti­tle char­ac­ter of Pi. Co­in­ci­den­tally, his par­ents are math­e­ma­ti­cians. But Lee re­fuses to say th­ese were mere co­in­ci­dences. ‘‘Fate, def­i­nitely,’’ the di­rec­tor says. ‘‘And you have to be­lieve in that. It just so hap­pened that this is a project that re­lates to fate and faith. It feels like God was telling me, ‘it will be dif­fi­cult but here’s the boy. Go and make that movie . . . I did have that feel­ing.’’

Lee, an Os­car-win­ner known for films such as Broke­back Moun­tain and Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon, says Sharma may be a first-time ac­tor but it doesn’t feel that way di­rect­ing him.

‘‘Di­rect­ing him is not so much like teach­ing him, but it’s more like re­mind­ing him of what he was good at from a last life or some­thing. It’s un­canny,’’ he says.

Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel’s novel, stars Sharma as Pi, a young man who sur­vives a hor­ri­ble dis­as­ter, only to be­come stranded at sea with a Ben­gal Tiger named Richard Parker.

Aside from film­ing his scenes with an imag­ined tiger (added later with CGI), he had to learn to swim for the role and went from 68kg to 75kg be­fore drop­ping to 59kg in real time dur­ing shoot­ing.

Sharma says learn­ing to hold his breath was harder than learn­ing to swim (it took six days) but the weight loss was in­tense.

‘‘I was think­ing at that point, that I’m pretty thin, so I’ll prob­a­bly lose the weight eas­ily, but no . . . I had no idea what I was get­ting my­self into. That was painful,’’ he says.

Sharma cel­e­brated his 18th birth­day on the set. ‘‘It was a good way to turn 18 but more than my birth­day, in gen­eral, I’ve kind of felt like I grew up in many ways, work­ing on this movie,’’ he says.

Filmed partly on lo­ca­tion in Lee’s home of Tai­wan, Sharma spent most of his days in the largest self-gen­er­at­ing wave tank ever built for a mo­tion pic­ture.

‘‘No mat­ter how promis­ing we do tech­ni­cally, with­out that boy, you don’t have a movie,’’ Lee says.

While 3D is com­mon in big ac­tion films, if he can get the fund­ing, Lee hopes to try it with a drama, say­ing dra­mat­i­cally it has a huge ad­van­tage over 2D.

If his­tory is any in­di­ca­tion, Lee’s next film will be based on a book. So far, his list of cred­its is filled with adap­ta­tions, which aside from Life of Pi in­clude Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon, Sense and Sen­si­bil­ity, Hulk and Tak­ing Woodstock. Lee says books are a source of rich ma­te­rial.

‘‘(But) I’m not just merely trans­lat­ing words into pic­ture. When the book in­spires me it makes me want to jump up and do some­thing cin­e­mat­i­cally about it.’’ Life of Pi is an ex­am­ple of that. ‘‘There’s a line in Life of Pi at the end of the movie when Pi told the writer, ‘the story’s yours now’,’’ Lee says.

‘‘It feels like... it’s my story now. Not only am I the master of the story, but I’m also the slave to that story and if there’s some­thing cin­e­mat­i­cally, the story (will) pass on through me to the au­di­ence.’’

opens on New Year’s Day.

Su­raj Sharma in a scene from

which opens on Tues­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.