LOS ANGELES -- In mathematical terms, divide the circumference of the world by its diameter, and you have pi. In Hollywood terms, add a United Nations mix of ingredients and you have the blockbuster Life of Pi.
With 11 Academy Awards nominations -- second only to Lincoln with 12 -- and the sort of global box-office receipts normally reserved for superheroes, Life of Pi is one of the most unusual megahits ever to hit the big screen. Approaching $600 million at the box office worldwide, the film is by far the top grosser among the nine Best Picture nominees.
Life of Pi has action and spectacle, but it's a thoughtful film that touched something in the worldwide psyche.
Though backed by 20th Century Fox, the film has an international sensibility that Life of Pi director Ang Lee hopes will become part of everyday business in Hollywood.
"It's a global movie culture. The mainstream cinematic language was largely set up by Hollywood, Americans, therefore it's American. Some European directors, but it was an American spirit," Lee said. "I think the film language that's established here, that's the biggest obstacle when you try to do something different. You know, the world views things differently. They have different life experiences."
The film is based on the bestselling novel by Canadian author Yann Martel, a globe-trotting writer born in Spain.
Lee grew up in Taiwan and has become one of Hollywood's most eclectic filmmakers, turning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon into a critical and commercial smash and winning the Best Director Oscar for Brokeback Mountain.
"Every big movie doesn't need to be American. This movie had virtually nothing American about it," said Gitesh Pandya, who runs the website BoxOfficeGuru.com. "The more we see examples of these unorthodox films with global settings that are actually making the cash registers ring, it's a step in the direction of trying to find more of them."