Mowgli settles in at Netflix
LOS ANGELES — To say Andy Serkis has been through the ringer with his adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is a bit of an understatement. It was always going to be an ambitious project for a first-time director – dark, intense and more in the spirit of Kipling’s stories, with a big studio (Warner Bros.) behind it, a blockbuster budget, A-list talent to match, from Christian Bale to Cate Blanchett, and all the high-pressure stakes that go along with that.
But five years ago when he signed up to direct, Serkis didn’t know that Walt Disney Studios would soon be announcing its own live-action Jungle Book, which would beat his to theatres by over two years and become a nearly billion dollar box-office sensation. And no one would have guessed that at the 11th-hour this summer, after promotions had already begun, his own studio would sell his version to Netflix.
“This wasn’t the easiest ride for anybody,” Serkis said. “It really did go through a massively long journey.”
Serkis was even able to direct another movie (Breathe) and star in at least one (War for the Planet of the Apes) during the post production for Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle which debuts on the streaming service today.
The affable Serkis is just excited people are finally going to get to see his passion project.
The Callie Kloves-written screenplay takes the Mowgli myth away from the sunny, toetapping Disney versions, and back to Kipling’s original vision of the boy raised by wolves.
Actor Rohan Chand (Lone Survivor) was brought on to lead the film at age 10 (he’s now 14), opposite heavyweight actors like Bale, who plays Bagheera, Blanchett as Kaa, Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan, Naomie Harris as Nisha and Serkis himself as Baloo.
In order to see through Serkis’s grand vision, Chand had to essentially shoot the film twice. First with the “A” talent like Bale and Cumberbatch, wearing motion capture tech on their faces and arms, and then again on location with a different set of actors mimicking the movements of the jungle animals.
“Rohan was extraordinary,” Serkis said of his young star who he helped guide through some intense scenes, emotionally and physically. “He had to endure real physical pain and a lot of technical challenges which he did with great ease.”
The Motion Picture Association of America has given Mowgli a PG-13 rating.