SURAJ SHARMA’S LUCKY BREAK

BATD ON Aug 15, 2014 AT 3:55 pm

by Emily Mongan

Suraj Sharma.

Suraj Sharma.

How does an unknown 17-year-old with no acting experience catch the eye of a famed director, and beat out 3,000 other young actors to land the lead role in film of epic proportions? For up-and-coming Indian actor Suraj Sharma, it all started with a quest for some free lunch.

Sharma’s brother asked him to come along on an audition for director Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, a film adaptation of the best-selling novel about a boy who survives a shipwreck only to find himself stranded aboard a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. Sharma only agreed to go after his brother promised to buy him lunch afterwards.

While waiting for his brother, a casting agent encouraged Sharma to audition despite his lack of acting experience. From there, Sharma went through several rounds of auditions before reading for director Ang Lee, who cast him as Pi for his innocent look and expressive eyes.

Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi.

Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi.

The part required Sharma to undergo intense swimming training, lose weight, and act alongside a computer-generated tiger who wasn’t actually there. But his efforts paid off, as Life of Pi earned Sharma award nominations including an Empire Award for best male newcomer, and a Critics Choice Award for best young actor. The film also launched the young star into a world of starry film premieres and press interviews, and put him on Hollywood’s radar. 

Suraj Sharma now starring in Million Dollar Arm.

Suraj Sharma now starring in Million Dollar Arm.

Sharma, now 21, can next be seen in Million Dollar Arm, which documents the true story of an American sports agent’s (Jon Hamm) quest to turn an Indian cricket player into a professional baseball star through a highly publicized pitching competition. Instead of dropping weight, Sharma had to pack on pounds of muscle to portray baseball player Rinku Singh. Sharma can also be seen on the small screen this year when he joins the cast of the Showtime series Homeland, playing a Pakistani medical student.

Sharma planned on retuning to India to attend St. Stephen’s College after Life of Pi, but now attends New York University while continuing to pursue acting.

Despite his pitching prowess in Million Dollar Arm, Sharma says his favorite sport is football.

Sharma is currently filming his first Indian film, Umrika, which will be released globally with English subtitles. And they movie titles are of course set to start rolling in. We can’t wait to see what this charming one has coming up!

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