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Oscar-winning director Ang Lee says 'Life of Pi' is more than just an art house film

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TAIPEI, Taiwan - Oscar-winning director Ang Lee said he worked hard during the four of shooting on "Life of Pi" to give the $100 million art house film appeal for general audiences.

The movie based on Yann Martel's imaginative book stars Indian Suraj Sharma, who plays a boy who drifts on the open sea with a Bengal tiger and a hyena after a ship carrying the rest of his family sinks.

"As an art house film, you can explore the philosophical issues," Lee said at a news conference Wednesday. "But for a popular film, we also need to make the audience feel touched, and that was the difficult part."

Lee said initial reaction to the film had been positive, leaving him to conclude that his "risky experiment" would be a success.

A major problem in the filming, Lee said, was coping with animals on a roiling sea — a problem Lee solved by filming in 3D.

"As a new technology, 3D gives the film additional appeal," he said.

Much of the film was shot in Taiwan, Lee's home. He said that one of the key settings — a large water tank built at a studio in the central city of Taichung — allowed the 150-strong foreign crew to use its imagination freely and not be restrained by traditional Hollywood production values.

"I was relieved that they enjoyed their work in Taiwan. ... We couldn't have made the film if it were not here because of all the help we received," Lee said.

The film is scheduled to premiere in Taiwan and the United States on Nov. 21.

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