Today, it was announced that Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley has joined the already-impressive cast of Disney’s The Jungle Book, one of two big-budget adaptations of the Rudyard Kipling classic currently being fast-tracked for release.
Kingsley, whose recent roles include Ender’s Game and Iron Man 3, will lend his voice to the part of Bagheera, a kindly panther who becomes a fatherly figure to young orphan boy Mowgli (still uncast). He joins Idris Elba, who will voice tiger Shere Khan, in the adaptation, which is a combination of live-action and animation. Lupita Nyong’o, hot off her Oscar-winning debut in 12 Years a Slave, will voice the wolf Raksha, who takes in and helps to raise Mowgli, while The Avengers actress Scarlett Johansson is set to lend her seductive voice to the hypnotic python Kaa. Most of the animals in The Jungle Book will be strictly CG creations.
Disney’s The Jungle Book, which will be directed by Jon Favreau, is racing to get out ahead of Warner Bros.’ darker take, which The Lord of the Rings and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes actor Andy Serkis is now set to direct. Disney currently has the lead though, seeing as WB went through Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Ron Howard before settling on Serkis, who’ll make his directorial debut on the blockbuster (though he did do second unit on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy).
Serkis’ version doesn’t have a script or a cast yet, so it seems pretty safe to say that Disney is going to win this race. As for who will come up with the better movie, however, is still a big question mark. I’m more immediately intrigued by Serkis’ version, given his recent comments that The Jungle Book won’t “shy away from its darkness,” but the cast on Favreau’s version is pretty great.
Disney’s The Jungle Book is scheduled to land in theaters in 3D on October 9th, 2015.