‘Life of Pi’ surprise — five essential facts about Ang Lee’s Oscar-leading film

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Call it the office-pool buster. Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" surprised many by scoring a leading four Oscars on Sunday night, including a jaw-dropper for est Director.

The movie, considered unfilmable before Lee brought it to theaters, also took home Best Cinematography, Visual Effects, and Original Score.

But despite its strong box office ($113 million in the United States, $470 million internationally), "Life of Pi" seemed a long shot to outscore favorites like "Argo" and "Lincoln" heading into tonight.

[ Photos: Red carpet report card ]

With that in mind, here are five things you need to know about the adventure of an Indian boy and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, lost together at sea.

1. Fox 2000 executive Elizabeth Gabler acquired the rights to Yann Martel's 2001 best-seller in 2003. Several A-list directors were attached to the project at one point or another, including M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense"), Alfonso Cuaron ("Children of Men") and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie").

2. More than 3,000 actors auditioned for the lead role of Pi. The part went to Suraj Sharma, a 17-year-old student and acting newcomer who had never auditioned for anything before in his life.

3. It's certainly appropriate that "Life of Pi" has become a huge international hit, as the film is a creative collaboration among representatives from many different countries. Sharma and Irrfan Khan, who plays a middle-aged Pi, are Indian actors. Gerard Depardieu, who has a cameo as a combative cook, is French, and Rafe Spall, who plays the Writer, is British. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda is from Chile, and composer Mychael Danna is Canadian. Oh, and screenwriter David Magee was born in Flint, Michigan.

4. The Oscar-winning special effects -- including the astonishing technology that brought Richard Parker to life -- were developed and created by Rhythm & Hues Studios, which had previously won Oscars for "Babe" (1995) and "The Golden Compass" (2008). The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 13 after a deal to be bought by India-based visual effects company Prime Focus fell through.

5. Director Lee felt that 3D was the key in making what could've been an art film with limited appeal into a rollicking action adventure for mainstream audiences -- one that still stayed true to the story's strong sense of spirituality.

"I thought this was a pretty impossible movie to make technically," said Lee in an interview with Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's so expensive for what it is. You sort of have to disguise a philosophical book as an adventure story. I thought of 3D half a year before 'Avatar' was on the screen. I thought water, with its transparency and reflection, the way it comes out to you in 3D, would create a new theatrical experience, and maybe the audience or the studio would open up their minds a little bit to accept something different."

"Life of Pi" is currently available for digital download and will hit Blu-ray and DVD on March 12.