Movies, Books & Disney+

“The Jungle Book” Press Conference Brings Out Director Jon Favreau, Filmakers and Actors to Talk about Movie

Hi everyone!

We sent a correspondent to the press conference of The Jungle Book in Beverly Hills, California last week. The panel consisted of director Jon Favreau; producer Brigham Taylor; Neel Sethi (Mowgli); Sir Ben Kingsley (Bagheera); Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha), and Giancarlo Esposito (Akela). This was the second event for the film that we’ve attended, the first was a couple of months ago at the El Capitan.

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Jon Favreau was the first to answer questions regarding the film. He said he was impressed with films like Planet of the Apes, Avatar, Life of Pi, and the way Gravity was shot. It was the enthusiasm of Alan Horn (chairman of the Walt Disney Studios) which got him interested in being part of The Jungle Book. Both Favreau and Horn had “great affection for this property”, but believed they could tell the story differently than it had been told in the past. Favreau felt that, “100 years ago was the book. 50 years ago was the animated film. Now, 50 years later, it’s time to update the story for our generation”. And while viewers may know the animated film by heart, the film is a combination of the original Rudyard Kipling stories and the animated film. While it is still a film for the whole family, Favreau’s The Jungle Book will have comedy but also moments that are scary. And the characters that are part of the film will be very different than what viewers will remember from the animated movie.

Kingsley said he said yes to the role of Bagheera before Favreau got to the end of the sentence. “It was a joy to join this beautiful project of his”.

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This was Nyongo’s first voice-over role, and she was drawn to the “earth-mother” quality to it. And she was also impressed by the compassion Favreau had for the characters. “At the heart of it was the love of the story and the real vision for each character that he was going to bring to life”. Her mom was an inspiration to her for playing the role.

Esposito was a big fan of the animated film as a child, that it allowed him “to dream and dream big”. He said he always wanted to be Mowgli as a boy, so he could express himself. He found freedom of expression later as an actor.

Sethi doesn’t climb, he stated that it was because he grew up in the city. He said he could only be 30 inches off the ground while working on the film. But Favreau said that, “Neil’s actually great at a lot of sports”. Favreau felt more like a coach sometimes than a director to Sethi, and would explain to him what to do in baseball terms. When Sethi was running away from cattle on the film, “he was stealing bases” said Favreau. We learned previously that Sethi was chosen from 2000 hopefuls. While Sethi was the only actor on the film that is seen, all of the actors did work together so it was a more conversational movie. Favreau didn’t want – as is often in films with actors voicing roles – each actor working separately from the others. He wanted them to be more of a team.

Taylor said that he tapped Favreau to direct because of his passion for Disney and that he felt Favreau could work best in a setting that included a child and animals (none of the animals in the film are real).

For Favreau, he wanted to “not drop the ball”  on The Jungle Book even while deviating from the original animated film. He also wanted to keep the “soul and the charm and the feeling of the first one (the first animated film)” while updating the G-rated animated musical to a PG adventure that has some scary elements to it.

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We look forward to seeing the film tonight, and will have a review of it up this week.