An adaptation of The Life of Pi has taken a winding road to the screen. For the last year Ang Lee has been on the cusp of making the film, but it’s not the easiest thing to translate to film. (Or so I’m told; the book hasn’t floated to the top of my reading stack yet, but I’m getting there.) Issues included cracking the story for a workable screenplay, budgeting said screenplay, and casting the lead. Now Ang Lee has found his lead, and he has secured a shooting plan and a budget from Fox.

USA Today says that Mr. Lee has cast Suraj Sharma, a high schooler from Delhi and newcomer to acting, as Pi Patel, the teen who, after a shipwreck, is left floating in the middle of the sea in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, zebra, hyena and orangutan.

So that’s casting, and since USA Today makes no mention of the screenwriter (who cares about those guys?) for now will work on the assumption that the draft by Finding Neverland‘s David Magee will be used. Checking on that tidbit now. And then there’s the budget. When last we heard about the film, Fox was balking at the $70m estimate David Magee’s draft created. We don’t know the final tally, but the paper’s report says it is north of $50m.

There’s a sort of joke buried in the report as it opens with a quote from the director, who says,

I thought [The Life of Pi] was great movie material, but no one in their right mind should spend $50 million on this…It’s too complex.

But is that no one should spend only $50m, or more than $50m? Regardless, the budget is over $50m at this point, a portion of which will be put to shooting the film natively in 3D.

And while Ang Lee talks up 3D as a storytelling device (“The ocean is perfect for 3-D. I think it will change the way people experience the sea.”) it’s difficult not to see the format as a lure that will help Fox land in the black when all is said and done. Now they’ve just got to figure out how to shoot in 3D while on the water and not have audiences heaving.

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