As the film ‘Life of Pi’ continues to do well at the box office, I cannot help but look at its success and wonder ‘what if.’ You see, I was actually asked by Fox to adapt the novel into a screenplay. Unfortunately, studio executives were not pleased with what I gave them. Below are their notes on my script.
P. 1 – You write ‘Fade in to reveal two tigers making out on the deck of a ship.’ Even with your parenthetical instructions to ‘smear bacon grease all over their lips so they’ll kiss’ we believe it would be impossible to get tigers to make-out.
p. 3 – Here the ship begins to sink, the crew rushes below deck and notices a big crack leaking water. The captain asks what happened and a crew member points to a sticker that says ‘made in China’ and the captain just shakes his head. This seems like a hokey cause for a ship to sink.
p. 6 – The captain rushes into the ship’s ballroom to warn the passengers of the ship’s impending doom, yet on his way to sound the alarm, you have a woman grabbing him by the arm and saying ‘captain, would you care to dance?’ It’s hard to believe the captain would feel obligated to dance AN ENTIRE SONG when his ship is sinking. Even the fact that he ‘keeps checking his watch frantically’ doesn’t atone for this. It also slows down the action dramatically that you insist the audience watch the entire dance in real time.
p.10 – Here PI is on a boat with a wounded Zebra. A hyena emerges and kills the zebra. An orangutan emerges and starts fighting with the hyena. Then you call for the sound of a pistol cocking to echo out. The orangutan and the hyena freeze and turn around. It’s the tiger. Why would a tiger need to carry a gun? It’s also hard to believe that animals would recognize the sound of a cocking pistol.
p. 12-102 – We can understand the tiger lunging at Pi, but you have the creature chasing the boy around the boat for an hour and a half. No way the audience will sit through this.
p. 120 – Here a cruise ship approaches the stranded Pi and his tiger. Pi reaches for his distress signal, then notices the name on the side and says ‘ugh, Carnival. No thank you.’ This seems like a frivolous reason to pass up a potential rescue. Also, the Carnival people are not going to be happy with this vicious and unprovoked slam.
p. 131 – what do you mean ‘it’s movie night on the boat?” Where did Pi suddenly get a ‘dvd player, a 32 inch Panasonic flatscreen and a tub of movie popcorn’ not to mention the electricity to power these things?
p. 140 – Pi kills a dolphin. The tiger takes a bite and Pi says ‘oh yeah, I guess we could eat it.’ What was he planning to do with it???
p. 150 – After the rescue back on land – a fat investigator asks Pi his name and then responds with ‘mmmmm Piiiiiii’ Let’s lose this.
p. 175 – You write ‘the lead investigator is about to file his report when a police officer runs in and hands him a cell phone. It’s Pi, he says, he and the tiger have somehow gotten themselves lost at sea again!’ The investigator just shakes his head, laughs and says ‘Ohhhh Pi!’ and the two laugh ‘for ten minutes straight, roll credits, let’s use their laughter instead of music for the credits.’ This is a very unsatisfying ending and ten minutes straight of laughter would like infuriate any audience.
Thank you for your adaptation, but we’re going to go with a different writer.