Tobey Maguire has signed on to co-star in Ang Lee‘s big screen adaptation of Yann Martel‘s novel Life of Pi. Lee and Maguire previously worked together on The Ice Storm and Ride With the Devil.

Hollywood has been trying to make a  since the fantasy adventure book was released in 2001. The book tells the story of Piscine “Pi” Molitor Patel, an Indian boy who survives 227 days after a shipwreck, while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a hyena, an injured zebra, an orangutan and a hungry Bengal tiger. According to Variety, the former Spider-Man star is set to play a writer who interviews Pi “about his life-changing experience.”

A variety of directors have been attached to the project, including Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Alfanso Curson and M. Night Shyamalan (who claimed that he decided not to make the film due to the audience’s expectation of a twist ending). Ang Lee signed on to direct the project in February 2009, which included supervising an entirely new take on the screenplay and working through budgetting concerns.

It has been reported that Fox is spending $50+ million for “a 3-D magical fantasy adventure crammed with visual effects.” Ang Lee has talked up 3D as a storytelling device (“The ocean is perfect for 3-D. I think it will change the way people experience the sea.”).  Finding Neverland‘s David Magee has turned in a script.

Suraj Sharma, a high schooler from Delhi and newcomer to acting, has been cast as the film’s title character 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. Gerard Depardieu will play Chef, a pivotal character; Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Spider-Man) will play the adult Pi; and Adil Hussain will play Pi’s father. Bollywood star Tabu will play Pi’s mother.

The paperback version of the book is now available on Amazon for around $10. The official book description follows:

The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them “the truth.” After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional–but is it more true?

The UK edition of the novel won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2002. The film adaptation is scheduled to hit theaters on December 14th, 2012.

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