Following an extensive search, Disney has announced the young actor it has cast as orphaned human boy Mowgli in its upcoming, Jon Favreau-directed adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book – 10-year-old newcomer Neel Sethi.
A New York native, Sethi will be the only actor to appear on screen in The Jungle Book. Other actors announced for the project, including Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson and Lupita Nyong’o, will all voice various animals who come into contact with Mowgli throughout his life in the jungle. Elba is set to voice the villainous tiger Shere Khan, Kingsley will voice the black panther Bagheera, and Johansson and Nyong’o are in talks to lend their voices to the python Kaa and the mother wolf Rakcha.
Of the casting, Favreau said:
“Casting is the most important element of any film and finding the right kid to play Mowgli was imperative. Neel has tremendous talent and charisma. There is a lot riding on his little shoulders and I’m confident he can handle it.”
The casting puts Disney’s version of The Jungle Book, which was scripted by Justin Marks, another step ahead of Warner Bros.’ Jungle Book project. Andy Serkis recently signed on to direct WB’s version following the departures of Birdman helmer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Rush director Ron Howard, but casting has not yet occurred.
Serkis recently went on record to state that his Jungle Book “doesn’t shy away from his darkness,” which would suggest that WB is eyeing a heavier, more brooding take on the classic story. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen – for now, Disney still has the edge, and that doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon. At least, with the talent involved, both films are likely going to fare better than either of this year’s pair of cinematic toss-ups – The Legend of Hercules and Hercules.
Disney’sThe Jungle Book opens in 3D on October 9th, 2015.