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The Real Reason Why Tobey Maguire Was Recast In Life Of Pi

It hardly seems possible, but Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" is turning 10 this year. And if ever there were a film worthy of revisiting on its 10th anniversary, it's this lavishly executed, Oscar-winning spectacle about a boy (Suraj Sharma) stranded in a lifeboat with nothing but the vast expanse of the ocean, and a Bengal tiger to keep him company. Adapted from Yann Martel's lauded novel of the same name, Lee's "Life of Pi" made its way to theaters in the fall of 2012, earning raves from critics and moviegoers alike (per Rotten Tomatoes), many of whom were bowled over as much by the film's jaw-dropping special effects as its potent emotional impact.

By the end of its theatrical run, "Life of Pi" had also obliterated box office expectations to the tune more than $600 million in worldwide ticket sales (via Box Office Mojo) — a fact made even more impressive as the film featured a largely international cast that boasted not a single Hollywood A-lister. That was not always the case, however, as Lee had indeed originally cast "Spider-Man" himself Tobey Maguire for a key role in "Life of Pi." 

Here's why the director ended up recasting Maguire's part in post-production.

Lee came to believe a less famous actor was better suited to the moment

Per Ang Lee's 2012 comments to USA Today, he felt he needed to recast, and thus reshoot the "Life of Pi" scenes featuring Tobey Maguire because the actor was just too famous, stating, "I misjudged the situation. I underestimated the power of stars." Lee continued by praising Maguire, before claiming the actor's worldwide popularity was ultimately distracting to the scenes. "I love Tobey. But it's a small part. So when it's a movie star sitting there, it captures attention. It didn't really work out."

As for Maguire's role in "Life of Pi," he'd indeed already shot the film's bookending scenes as the writer who listens to the older Pi (Irrfan Khan) tell his unbelievable life story. If you've seen "Life of Pi," you know Rafe Spall was the actor who replaced Maguire, and that "The Ritual" star was better than solid in the small role. Regarding the reshoots, Lee told USA Today they were relatively painless, "We knew exactly what we needed. So the shooting went by very smoothly."

Thankfully, there were also no hard feelings between Lee and Maguire, with the latter offering nothing but support for his old "The Ice Storm" director in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter which began, "I fully support Ang's decision to go a different direction for this role in 'Life of Pi.' Ang shared a lot of the film with me, and what I saw was absolutely beautiful." 

And given the film's enduring legacy, it's safe to say Lee made the right call in the end.