Ang Lee: "Life of Pi" more than an art house film

Ang Lee poses for the media after a press conference for "Life of Pi" in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 5, 2012.

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee said Wednesday that he worked hard during the four-year shooting of Yann Martel's "Life of Pi" to give the $100 million art house film appeal for general audiences.

The movie stars Suraj Sharma, who plays a boy who drifts on the open sea with a Bengal tiger and a hyena after a ship carrying the rest of his family sinks.

"As an art house film, you can explore the philosophical issues," the Taiwanese director said at a news conference this week. "But for a popular film, we also need to make the audience feel touched, and that was the difficult part."

Lee said initial reaction to the film had been positive, leaving him to conclude that his "risky experiment" would be a success.

A major problem in the filming, Lee said, was coping with animals on a roiling sea - a problem Lee solved by filming in 3D.

"As a new technology, 3D gives the film additional appeal," he said.

Much of the film was shot in Taiwan, Lee's home. He said that one of the key settings - a large water tank built at a studio in the central city of Taichung - allowed the 150-strong foreign crew to use its imagination freely and not be restrained by traditional Hollywood production values.

"I was relieved that they enjoyed their work in Taiwan. ... We couldn't have made the film if it were not here because of all the help we received," Lee said.

When asked how he would describe his achievements, Lee told The New York Daily News, "It's tough for me to say. I think I'm an avid filmmaker and I'd say that the movie directs me, rather than me directing it. I just do my thing and try to make it work. This is how I have lived my professional life from its very beginning 22 years ago. I'm actually living my life with the material I choose to work with. I don't have incredible knowledge about films or of filmmaking history; I'm not that kind of person. I'm just a filmmaker and I just want to make movies."

"Life of Pi" is scheduled to premiere in Taiwan and the United States on Nov. 21.

Check out the film's trailer: