Though Disney undoubtedly has Warner Bros. licked in the studios’ race to get competing Jungle Book projects into theaters, the latter’s take on Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel certainly seems more interesting. Supposedly grittier than the more traditional Disney take, Jungle Book: Origins boasts Andy Serkis in the director’s chair and a starry voice cast. Now, the buzzy pic has taken another step forward, with word that The Americans‘ Matthew Rhys is in talks to star.
Rhys is set to play the human character John Lockwood, as opposed to lending his voice to an animal. He joins Bad Words breakout Rohan Chand, who is playing human boy Mowgli.
The voice cast includes Serkis (as Baloo the bear), Christian Bale (as panther Bagheera), Benedict Cumberbatch (as villainous tiger Shere Khan), Cate Blanchett (as python Kaa), Naomie Harris (as she-wolf Nisha), Tom Hollander (as jackal Tabaqui, a jackal and crony of Shere Khan) Eddie Marsan (as Nisha’s mate Vihaan) and Peter Mullan (as Akela, leader of the wolf pack that raises Mowgli).
In addition to directing the project, which combines live action and performance capture, Serkis will produce alongside Harry Potter producer Steve Kloves and his Imaginarium partner Jonathan Cavendish. Kloves’ daughter Callie Kloves penned the script.
Warner Bros. has invested a lot in the film, which experienced many stops and starts before Serkis took the reins. Most recently, we heard that it had been delayed from October 21st, 2016, to almost a full year later on October 6th, 2017. However, the 2016 date was apparently always a placeholder, and Warner Bros. was happy to give Serkis extra time to play with once he was secured.
Serkis’ Jungle Book: Origins will arrive in theaters long after Disney’s competing Jungle Book, which Jon Favreau is directing. That project, opening October 9th next fall, also features an impressive lineup of voice actors, like Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley and Lupita Nyong’o, and it’s said to be a more traditional take on Kipling’s book.