Ang Lee has said he is counting on the innocent looks and storytelling ability of an Indian boy to assure the success of Yann Martel's Life Of Pi, the fantasy book he is making into a film.
The Oscar-winning director chose 17-year-old Suraj Sharma from 3,000 candidates for the title role of the boy who drifts on the open sea with a Bengal tiger and a hyena, saved after a ship carrying the rest of his family sinks.
"There is no dialogue, and he is not Tom Hanks," Lee said of the boy. "The film is about humankind's spiritual pursuit, and he must have an appealing temperament."
Newcomer Sharma "showed the storytelling ability, and you will believe this is a true story," he said.
Lee will shoot the entire film in 3D in his home of Taiwan and in India. Filming is to start in January.
Lee said that at first he did not believe a fantasy story of a boy surrounded by nothing but water could be made into a film.
"I have not seen any good movies about water," he said. "Then I realised 3D could be a way to break the dilemma."
With new technologies, Lee said: "I hope to take viewers to the sea so they can feel for themselves the relationship between humankind and their beliefs."