A couple years ago, Suraj Sharma was your normal teenager — going to school, hanging out with friends and spending time with family. Now? He’s in one of the most anticipated movies of the year, Life of Pi. So, how did Suraj land the starring role? It’s actually a funny story. His brother, who had been in two previous movies, was nervous about going to the audition alone and promised Suraj a Subway sandwich if he came to keep him company. The director urged Suraj to give the audition a shot, so he did. Suraj ended up beating out his brother and 3,000 other Life of Pi hopefuls. Still wondering if he ever got the sandwich…
The film (out November 21!) follows Pi Patel on his 227-day journey at sea after his family’s ship capsizes during a zoo transfer. The only other survivor? A vicious 300-pound Bengal tiger.
1. Suraj is 19-year-old originally from New Delhi, India.
2. When Suraj landed the role, his parents performed a ceremony that made Life of Pi director Ang Lee his guru and mentor.
3. Life of Pi isn’t just Suraj’s big-screen debut. It was the first time he acted… ever.
4. He is currently studying philosophy at the University of Delhi.
5. Upon graduating, Suraj wants to study film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
6. His mom and dad are both mathematicians. Ironic for someone who is going to be playing a character named Pi. Get it? 3.14159…
7. To prep for the role of Pi, Suraj trained for three months in Taiwan. He also had to learn tiger behavior and mannerisms in order to work with his virtual co-star, Richard Parker.
9. Thanks to his swim coach, he trained hard enough to hold his breath for over a minute, which was necessary for underwater scenes. Suraj told the LA Times, “I started off with 15 seconds and thought it was a really long time. But they trained me. They would have a rope tied to the bottom of the pool and I would go underneath and pull it to the other side…. By the end of it I could do a minute and a half and keep swimming… They had to get me to a level of swimming where I didn’t need to think about that and I could focus on the performance.”
10. The first time Suraj ever saw Los Angeles was through a video game, so when he flew over it for the first time on a promotional trip, he felt like he was in a game. He tells Jimmy Kimmel the funny story below!