Compiled by story editor Jean- Christophe Castelli, this book is a delight. I read it through, then immediately read it through again. Following the making of the film from pre-production through to final cut, it's filled with beautiful images, including iconic cinematic portraits taken by photographer Mary Ellen Mark, and illustrations by Alexis Rockman, whose work has appeared at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
There's something for everyone here. For Hollywood neophytes, we learn that Gerard Depardieu (who plays the ship's Cook) was "total fun" to work with. For cineastes, there are some wonderful titbits of information detailing how director Ang Lee approached using 3D, how certain shots were achieved and the extensive casting process (Suraj Sharma was a sixteen-year-old unknown when he was cast as the lead). I loved the attention to detail - the advert calling for extras for a swimming pool scene, requesting that women paint their toenails "red red"; the Hindu prayer ceremonies held before the start of shooting; and the fact that Lee enlisted the help of Steve Callahan, a naval architect who spent two and a half months on a tiny rubber raft on the Atlantic Ocean after his ship sank, and spent several hours at sea himself. There are even pages from "Pi's Survival Manual", detailing how he was able to survive being adrift at sea.
What this book reveals is that Life of Pi was a real labour of love by everyone involved, from start to finish. In his introduction to the book, Lee writes: "When I first read Life of Pi I found it fascinating and mind-boggling, but I remember thinking that nobody in their right mind would make this into a movie..." Director Ang Lee took on board a seemingly herculean task, and having read this book, it's difficult to imagine any other director going to such lengths.