Actors routinely end up on the cutting room floor, particularly lesser-known names in small parts. But the performer excised at the last minute from director Ang Lee's upcoming release "Life of Pi" was neither obscure nor played a minor character: It was Tobey Maguire, who co-starred as an author in a crucial role that opens and closes the movie.
The problem? Maguire was simply too famous for the role, meaning test audiences were overly focused on the actor himself, rather than his character.
Premiering Friday night at AFI Fest, "Life of Pi" is a 3-D adaptation of Yann Martel’s bestselling novel about a shipwrecked 16-year-old named Piscine Molitor Patel (played by newcomer Suraj Sharma), who is forced to share a lifeboat with a Royal Bengal tiger. In screenwriter David Magee’s adaptation, an adult Pi (played by Irrfan Khan) relates what happened at sea to a novelist looking for inspiration.
Lee, who won the directing Academy Award for "Brokeback Mountain," cast the "Spider-Man" alumnus as the writer. It was not the first Lee-Maguire collaboration: The actor had lead roles in the filmmaker's movies "The Ice Storm" and "Ride with the Devil.”