‘Life of Pi’ suffers another blow


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EXCLUSIVE: Speaking of difficult books and the development challenges that accompany them, here comes another example, and it’s a high-profile one.

‘Life of Pi,’ Yann Martel’s bestselling Booker Prize winner that has had more development go-rounds than a male Bengal tiger has mates, may be on its way back to the development cage. Eclectic director Ang Lee had been set to shoot the movie, possibly even in 3-D, but budget concerns appear to be putting the project on hold.


Lee and producer Gil Netter have returned to Fox 2000 with a budget that sources say is too high for the studio division. (A recent Indiewire piece put it in the $70 million range.)

The filmmakers can still reconfigure the budget, but until they do, the film isn’t moving forward. (Netter didn’t immediately return a call for comment.)
That the project remains active at all is at least partly thanks to the devotion of Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler, who has been hugely keen on a “Pi” film.

Gabler has a fair amount of clout within Fox, and Fox 2000 has been highly profitable for the studio with other mid-budget book-based movies, such as ‘Marley & Me’ and ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ But those films, of course, had commercial hooks. This one, about a boy named Pi who finds himself trapped on a boat with a tiger after a shipwreck that sees many other animals meet their end, could be difficult to market (and, it should be noted, difficult to film).

If the Lee version doesn’t work out, it wouldn’t be the first time a name-brand director took on, then wound up separating from, a ‘Pi’ adaptation.

Genre notables like M. Night Shyamalan and Alfonso Cuaron, along with French auteur Jean-Pierre Jeunet, have all been on board to direct a version of the film at some point. Fox is generally cost-conscious, and the fact that this movie, despite its bestseller status, can be a tricky shoot has them especially concerned -- particularly given the high number of CG creatures, as well as the water-bound location, which tends to drive up budgets in general. On top of all that, ‘Pi’ is exactly the kind of specialized, non-tentpole movie that nearly all studios are staying away from these days.

The title character in ‘Life of Pi’ survived a difficult 227 days on a raft floating through dangerous waters. The film project may have to endure even more.


-- Steven Zeitchik and John Horn

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