Yann Martel on the Life of Pi trailer

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First aired on The Afternoon Edition (26/7/12)


The trailer for Ang Lee's adaptation of Life of Pi -- the story of a young boy who survives a shipwreck only to be stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger -- was released last week (which you can watch below). The film is based on Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name, which won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2002. The trailer is visually stunning and technically impressive. But did it impress Yann Martel, the author who created the story in the first place? CBC's Afternoon Edition decided to find out.

"It was thrilling," Martel told Afternoon Edition host Craig Lederhouse. "The music helps build up to it. You have some amazing scenes, especially at the very end. The whale jumping up and breaching was quite a stunning scene."

When Martel was writing the book, he had an image of what Pi's journey looked like. But, as a writer, "those images remain kind of vague," he said. "You see an ocean, you see a lifeboat, you see a tiger, but it's kind of out of focus and hazy. The real purpose of those images in the mind are to trigger certain emotions, certain thought." The trailer takes those hazy images and turns them into a compelling visual story and Martel hopes the film will do the same. "It's easy to string together words but to see them in the live action that is a movie is startling and compelling and very, very concrete."

However, Martel has yet to see the film because it's still in post-production. In fact, he's seen no more than the regular movie-goer has: just the teaser video and the full trailer. He's been very hands off during the making of the film. Martel met with Lee to discuss the book before the award-winning director committed to the project. In the early stages of production, Martel was sent the screenplay twice for review. Once filming started, Martel had a very brief cameo in the film. But he chose to be as hands off and low key as possible.

Martel wanted to give Lee the creative freedom to fulfill his vision and make the best film he possibly could. He felt the best way to contribute as an author was to let go. For Martel, books and movies are two different mediums, with different strengths and different tools. "I'm a writer. I'm not a filmmaker or a screenwriter, so I was quite happy to trust him," Martel said. "Once I read the screenplay and could see he was spiritually faithful to the novel I was quite happy to let go and let him do it."

And if the film is a smashing success, Martel is happy to step aside and let Lee take the credit. "It's my book but it's Ang Lee's movie."

Life of Pi will premiere on November 11, 2012, in New York City and will be released in North America on November 21, 2012.