02/22/2013 05:29 EST | Updated 04/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Composer Mychael Danna ideal for Life of Pi

Once the movie version of Yann Martel's Life of Pi got the green light for production, director Ang Lee had just one composer in mind for the film: Toronto's Mychael Danna.

The two men first met on Lee's 1997 drama The Ice Storm, and have become friends as well as collaborators over the years.

"We were friends, creative partners for a long time," Lee said. He noted Danna's specialty in artfully blending orchestral elements with South Asian and other non-Western instruments and voices and added, "this is right up his alley."

With Danna having already won a Golden Globe for his Life of Pi score, and scoring two Oscar nominations for Sunday night's awards (original song for Pi's Lullaby and original score), the film industry seems to agree.

Danna is known for creating distinctive and layered musical palettes. Other top filmmakers he's worked with over the years include Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote), Deepa Mehta (Water) and Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding). Atom Egoyan is one of his most frequent partners: Danna has scored many of the fellow Torontonian's movies over the past two decades, including The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica, Where the Truth Lies, Ararat and Chloe.

Danna is obsessed with authenticity, Egoyan said, citing Ararat as an example.

"He was insisting on going to Armenia to record the authentic instruments, and I was saying, 'We can also find them in Los Angeles,'" Egoyan told CBC News.

"He is such a perfectionist when it comes to finding the right instrument, and he'll go anywhere in the world to find that."

With Life of Pi, that drive and determination was present from the very start.

"We knew from the beginning that the musical requirements were going to be as rich as the visual requirements," Danna said.

Given his longtime fascination with India, his study of South Asian music and his familiarity with Canadian author Martel's novel, which he read more than 10 years ago — "like a good Canadian," he quipped — Danna was the ideal musical candidate to help shape Lee's story onscreen.

"I think Canadians are good storytellers because I think there is a certain objectivity and a certain openness that we have here," he said.

"When you travel around the world, [you realize multiculturalism] works really well here, compared with other countries …. As Canadians, we are good at collaborating."