With the live action remake of Disney’s The Jungle Book now in cinemas [read our review here], staff writer and roving reporter Scott J. Davis got the chance to sit down with the director of the film Jon Favreau earlier this week.
Reviews for the film have been stellar so far, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 94% at present, and the film is set to debut to over $70 million this weekend in the US with the potential for more given its strong reactions so far. In our exclusive interview, Favreau talks about the film and the three year journey it has taken to get to this point.
In fact, when Disney first approached him about directing the film, Favreau was not at all keen, saying: “I didn’t like the idea of one where you just use the title and you use that as an excuse to go an make an action movie in the jungle.” In addition, all the other non-Disney adaptations hadn’t worked well and Favreau thinks the reason was because those live-action films “followed the Tarzan paradigm” and “wasn’t a coming of age story”.
But when Disney head Alan Horn spoke about Avatar and Life of Pi as examples of what they wanted to do, Favreau was sold. But he knew for all the technical wizardry, casting was just as important and so he set off assembling Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito as his cast. But he needed his Baloo, and so he set off on the quest for Bill Murray, who is a hard man to reach: “I wrote letters, left messages, communicated through third parties, it was like negotiating with a government you’re not supposed to negotiate with!”
Finally, after a long search, Favreau found his Mowgli in the form of newcomer young star Neel Sethi, who blew him and Disney away in his auditions: ” We were looking everywhere! He was a kid who had never auditioned before, it was an open call with 2,000 kids… this kid just lights up the screen and he’s got complete confidence, not a lot of experience, not the most seasoned performer but was very watchable and had a quality that reminded be tremendously of Mowgli from the animated film.”
He also spoke briefly about the upcoming Marvel showdown Captain America: Civil War, which opens in two weeks in the UK. While he was tight-lipped on what we can expect, Favreau says the film is “excellent” although wouldn’t be drawn on whether the film is better than his first Iron Man film. We will just have to wait and see…
You can listen to the interview in full in the player below, or you can head over to iTunes and listen there.
Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray). Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire. The all-star cast also includes Lupita Nyong’o as the voice of the fiercely protective mother wolf Raksha, and Giancarlo Esposito as the voice of wolf pack’s alpha male Akela. “The Jungle Book” seamlessly blends live-action with photorealistic CGI animals and environments, using up-to-the-minute technology and storytelling techniques to immerse audiences in an enchanting and lush world.