Af­ter a long jour­ney, ‘Mowgli’ set­tles in at Net­flix


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 on a re­cent af­ter­noon. “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 Fri­day. The af­fa­ble Serkis, kind and soft-spo­ken, who made his name as a pi­o­neer­ing tal­ent in mo­tion cap­ture per­for­mance in “The Lord of the Rings,” ”The Hob­bit“and ”The Planet of the Apes“films, 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.

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