It’s been nearly a decade since Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi began its long courtship with Hollywood, during which such upper-caste filmmakers as M. Night Shyamalan, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Alfonso Cuaron flirted heavily with the project. Now, the long-delayed adaptation finally seems to be headed toward consummation with director Ang Lee, who just cast two pivotal roles — Gerard Depardieu as the chef and Irrfan Khan as the grown-up version of the title character who, as a young boy, spends 227 days stranded on a boat in the middle of the Pacific with a Bengal tiger.
This is particularly exciting news — and not only because it means that Life of Pi will finally reach the big screen (in 3-D, no less). More importantly, these are two excellent international actors whose work we too seldom get to watch in big American studio films like this one. Legendary French thespian Depardieu recently starred as the nightclub owner opposite Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose.” However, much of Depardieu’s best work was done in the ’80s and ’90s in French dramas like “Camille Claudel” and “Jean de Florette.” Indian actor Irrfan Khan is probably most familiar to American moviegoers as the semi-sadistic police detective who’s gradually won over by the guileless game-show Romeo in “Slumdog Millionaire.” But, for my money, Khan gave his most indelible performance in his first big stateside release, as Kal Penn’s character’s traditionalist father in Mira Nair’s adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.
Anyone else haunted by Khan’s work in “The Namesake”? Anyone else as thrilled by the prospect of seeing an Ang Lee-directed adaptation of Life of Pi?