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The Unsung (Skinny) Body in ‘Life of Pi’


Guest blog: "Life of Pi" CGI magic wasn't just for the tiger; it was for star Shuraj Sharma, too



In Taiwan, there's a self-described "skinny brown guy" named Ricky Henry Peters, who played a very small role in Ang Lee's 3D adaptation of "Life of Pi" — but it's been a big secret, until now.

When Ang Lee gave his Oscar acceptance speech for his Best Director gong for "Life of Pi,” he gave a special shout out to Suraj Sharma of India, who was sitting in the audience but did not win any awards himself, and who played the role of a lifetime in the movie.

The television cameras panned over to Sharma and focused on him smiling as he acknowledged Lee's praise. But he wasn’t the only one who had the role of a lifetime.

While “Pi” was being shot in Taiwan, there was a 30-year-old body double from South Africa named Ricky Henry Peters (left, with Sharma) who was handpicked by Lee during auditions and played a very special role in the 3D blockbuster.

"I’m basically an emaciated Pi. Suraj has more baby fat than I do,” the self-described “skinny brown boy” recently told the media in Taiwan.

Peters, who just happened to be living in Taichung where several movie scenes were being shot, answered an advertisement looking for stunt doubles and extras. Lee liked him immediately, and hired him.

But you never saw Peters’ face in the movie. Peters' job was to be a body double, not a star. The computer graphics team pasted Sharma's face over Peters’ body when they needed the effect of a skinnier body.

It worked, well, like magic. And he gives Lee a big thumbs-up for offering a story to dine out on for the rest of his life – not to mention his own page on IMDB.



Dan Bloom is a freelance writer based in Asia since 1991. During a five-year stint in Tokyo, he covered the triumphs (and occasional failures) of Hollywood movies in Japan and interviewed American actors passing through Tokyo on film promotion tours, including Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Kevin Costner.

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