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"I couldn't even tell a joke in front of him. I had to behave," Lee jokes. "I had to look after him. Normally when I work with actors, they move on and I move on. ... I can pretty much say he started at the top -- getting this kind of reception and making a movie. So I want to make sure he's grounded and still getting his education -- not only in school but in life. He should be OK if he doesn't get crushed by what's coming."
"He's a good boy," adds Lee. "It seems like he can take it."
In "Life of Pi," there's nowhere for a young actor to hide, either. For a long stretch of the film, Pi is alone in the skiff with only the tiger, which was digitally added. Sharma had the added pressure of acting extensively in front of a blue screen, with little to go on other than Lee's directions.
"Honestly, I still feel like I don't know how to act," says Sharma. "It was just him. I was just an instrument. He has this thing -- suppose you're really nervous and stressed out and going crazy -- he'll look you in the eye in a particular manner, and no matter who it is, you just go: whoosh! He's like a Zen master or something. He makes you so calm that you just let him mold you into whatever he wants to mold you into."
Sharma is now in his first year at Delhi University, where he's concentrating his studies on philosophy.
"I'm pretty sure I want to end up in the film industry," he says. "I don't know if I want to act or not, but I do want to be part of making magic."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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