After the commercial and critical success of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, audiences around the world have been wondering “Who the hell is that kid who plays the lead?” It’s always bittersweet when a director chooses an unknown actor as a lead in their movie. Moviegoers generally prefer to see people on screen that they already know, but it’s also nice to get new talent out there. The faith from directors in new actors have certainly launched the beginning of some great careers, (take Orlando Bloom, for instance) and it looks like the lead in Life of Pi will be no different.
So who is the young boy who stars in Life of Pi? His name is Suraj Sharma. And if you don’t know who he is now (likely), you will in the future. The 19 year old actor, whose acting debut is in the fantasy epic film, has basically gotten all access to the perks of Hollywood after the release of the film. USA Today did an expose on the actor, that revealed his start, his adventures on the set, and his bright, bright future.
Sharma got his start in acting in a true case of divine intervention. At just 16, the boy accompanied his brother to the audition for Pi at a local casting office in New Dehli, India, Sharma’s home town. As he waited in the office, he was encouraged to “give it a shot” as well. That small shot lead Sharma to the chance of a life time.
Despite no previous experience, Lee said that he chose Sharma for the pivotal role because of his “poignant” audition and “soulful eyes.” And instead of penalizing the young boy for his inexperience, the veteran director celebrated it. He treated the movie as a training experience for the actor saying, “You don’t have to take anything out. The best actor is talent and where you start from zero.”
After an intense 227 days of shooting, Sharma didn’t go wild on the streets of Hollywood with all of his new found fame. Instead, the actor went back to school in India. He now studies philosophy at St. Stephen’s College in New Dehli. It seems that sharma has the mentality to put his whole heart into every endeavor he sets out to do. The actor had to miss some of the European premieres for Life of Pi, on a count of his college finals! How’s that for dedicated?
Although Sharma is currently back at school, he’s caught the acting bug. The boy revealed “Hopefully I’ll get to make movies,” he revealed. Sharma continued, “That’s the plan. As an actor, director, producer or on props. I don’t really care. I just want to tell stories.” With the rave reviews of Life of Pi, and the friendship of a prominent director life Ang Lee, I’m sure Sharma will get his wish.
To see Suraj Sharma’s performance as the title role of Piscine Molitor Patel, check out Life of Piin theaters now.