Once we got over the urge to roll our eyes at the prospect of yet another re-imagining of a classic movie – albeit one with a great literary source – we were overcome with the urge to roll our eyes at the announcement of competing versions of that re-visitation. The Jungle Book will return to screen, courtesy of both Disney and Warner Bros but, if we’re honest, it’s Disney that currently has us most excited.
Firstly, it’s directed by Jon Favreau, who helmed Zathura: A Space Adventure, and drop-kicked Robert Downey Jr.’s career into hyper-drive with Iron Man. Secondly, it has attracted one of the most mouth-watering casts since Soderbergh asked Clooney and his friends to impersonate the ‘Rat Pack.’ Let’s just break it down, and imagine the dulcet tones of these esteemed performers filling these iconic roles.
Scarlett Johansson – whose voice performance in Her had people asking whether voiceovers should be eligible for Oscars – will be Kaa the mesmeric python. Idris Elba – beloved by millions as Heimdall in the Thor franchise and as the star of BBC’s Luther – will be the sinister tiger, Shere Khan. Christopher Walken – whose voice is perhaps one of the most distinctive, and parodied, in modern cinema – will be King Louie, the aspirational orang-utan. Lupita Nyong’o – one of the most sought after performers since her Academy Award winning turn in 12 Years A Slave – will be Raksha, the mother wolf. Giancarlo Esposito – better known as Gus Fring in Breaking Bad – will be Akela, the head wolf. Sir Ben Kingsley – who successfully spun Iron Man 3 on its head as The Mandarin – will be Bagheera, the paternal panther. Finally, Mowgli – the only live action role in this ‘hybrid’ production – will be played by the young Neel Sethi.
Now, that’s all incredible, perfect casting. It’s almost as if Favreau wrote out his wishlist, and all those wishes came true. But there’s one character missing. One big, main character that is perhaps the most beloved, with one of the best signature tunes in the 1967 version of this film. Who will be Favreau’s Baloo? Well, it’s Bill Murray.
Just let the gravity of that settle in for a minute. The elusive Bill Murray – who is famously more likely to be found popping up at random weddings, and gatecrashing bachelor parties, than committing to any of the movie roles he is offered – has signed on for Favreau. Murray, whose vocal rendition of Garfield singlehandedly pulled an entire movie from a fate worse than straight-to-bargain-bin status. Make no mistake, for the director, this is a coup of epic proportions – one which has further cemented this project’s place on the highly anticipated list.
Thankfully, Disney’s The Jungle Book will be released on October 9th, 2015 – a full year ahead of the Andy Serkis-directed version from Warner Bros. Until then, we’ll be keeping a close eye on production, as we eagerly await the first snippets of footage – giving us an indication of just what kind of tone this re-make will be striking.
How do we know that Justin Marks’ script is based more on the 1967 film than Rudyard Kipling’s classic source tale? Because King Louie isn’t in the book – but here, we have the promise of some Christopher Walken-Bill Murray interaction, vocally, at least.
Excited? Most definitely.