The global press conference for “The Jungle Book” was jam-packed full of amazing stories and perspectives about the new upcoming Disney live-action film. So much so, that I wanted to give our readers two articles covering the event! In Part 1, I talked about some of the discussions heard from producer Brigham Taylor and director Jon Favreau. There were also several of the film’s actors present, and when telling their stories about their character work and the filming process you could sense each of them having a genuine passion for this film, and a deep love for their character and dedication to the story they wanted each of their characters to get across.
Twelve-year-old newcomer Neel Sethi played Mowgli, and said it was an experience that felt unreal. Only having to audition once to land this major role, the whole process of casting and filming was an exciting whirlwind. It was easy to see that he didn’t take this once-in-a-lifetime experience for granted, and cherished the time he had mentoring under such talented actors.
Lupita Nyong’o plays Raksha, Mowgli’s adoptive wolf mother, who takes in and loves Mowgli with all her heart despite him not being one of her kind. Lupita also recently played Maz in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” via motion capture, the role of Raksha, however was completely a voiceover role; the actress’s first. She shared how she felt she could really connect with the character of Raksha, for she has always been drawn to children, and even as a child would prefer babysitting her cousins over going outside to play. Over the course of the film, she said she truly developed a bond and love for Neel/Mowgli.
Giancarlo Esposito voiced Akela, the head of the wolf pack. Esposito talked about his longtime love of “The Jungle Book”, and that growing up with a single mother and his brother, his mother would recite the wolf pack law from Kipling’s stories, encouraging them growing up to stick together. Not only that, but he dreamt of being Mowgli when he was a young boy, he wanted the freedom to express himself and be who he truly was; acting helped him find that freedom in real life. He jumped at the offer to do the role since “The Jungle Book” already meant so much to him, and he said that the filming process was also a great experience. Esposito recollected how director Jon Favreau would always challenge him in the recording studio, encouraging to push the boundaries in his performance of Akela, but he would challenge him in a loving way. He reflected this challenge-out-of-love teaching in the way he would have Akela act towards Mowgli.
Lastly, the voice of Bagheera, Sir Ben Kingsley talked about his experiences. He grew up with Rudyard Kipling stories, and has for a long time been passionate about “The Jungle Book”. He had the stories read to him as a child, and he now reads the stories to his own children. In reading “The Jungle Book” aloud to one of his children while he was researching his role of Bagheera, he shared that he had a revelation; he felt that Bagheera was actually Kipling himself, and Bagheera and Mowgli’s relationship was a reflection of the relationship between Kipling and his own son. He really delved deep into this idea of Bagheera being Kipling and tried to use this revelation to drive his performance of the character. He even shared a fun fact that when he was a child his boy scout group was called Akela!
It was definitely an event to remember, and all of these stories made me even more excited about the film, knowing what hard work and heart was put into it.
Be on the lookout for my review of the film, and you can check out part 1 of the press conference here, where I talk about the producer and director’s stories they shared.
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