Now that the two dueling adaptations of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book – one produced by Warner Brothers, the other by Disney – are beginning to take shape above the line, it’s becoming easier and easier to keep them separate from one another. But in the race to put the classic text back on the big screen, the Mouse House is in first place; they’ve already secured the services of Iron Man director Jon Favreau at the helm, and cast Pacific Rim‘s Idris Elba as the arrogant, proud, carnivorous Shere Khan.
Meanwhile, WB’s own project has floundered as Disney’s has flourished; originally, Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu (of Biutiful fame) came aboard to tame production, until alleged scheduling conflicts provided too big a hurdle for him to overcome. All seemed well in hand when the studio contacted Ron Howard to gauge his interest in taking over, but their talks never quite panned out, and besides, Howard has a lot on his plate as it is, from The Graveyard Book to Heart of the Sea (which is currently in post).
None of this bodes especially well for WB’s film, but they’re finally managed to catch a break: Andy “Gollum” Serkis has signed on to direct The Jungle Book for them. This latest update comes from THR, though all other details on this development remain thin for the time being; whether Serkis’ participation means he’ll appear in the film personally or not, for example, is up in the air, though the film is reportedly being crafted with Kipling’s original text in mind more than Disney’s far more whimsical 1967 animated version of the story.
So, now we have a darker, truer rendition of The Jungle Book on the way to the multiplex courtesy of Andy Serkis. If Serkis’ hiring doesn’t make a ton of sense at first blush, that’s okay; fans primarily know and love him for his acting, whether he’s motion-capturing CG characters in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, King Kong, or The Lord of the Rings films.
Less celebrated are his efforts at second unit directing (which often involves shooting background or filming action sequences), something he’s gotten to do quite a bit of for Peter Jackson on The Hobbit . Similarly, Serkis is lined up to direct a motion-capture animated adaptation of George Orwell’s political allegory Animal Farm; last we heard, he was planning to start production in 2014, but news of his attachment to Jungle Book (presumably, the higher priority) raises doubts about that proposal.
While that’s a far cry from having already wrangled an entire feature film, Serkis is enough of a veteran in front of the camera that his more limited experience from the other side of the lens ought to sufficiently aid him in directing The Jungle Book. And besides that, the man knows his way around getting CG creatures to interact believably with real actors and physical sets; if the specifics on WB’s plan for The Jungle Book are vague, it’s a safe bet at least that they’ll be going that route with bringing the film to life.
Is Andy Serkis directing The Jungle Book an oddball choice or an inspired stroke of genius? Whether the movie ends up being any good or not, it’s still a cool decision on WB’s part; hopefully their unconventional pick works out for them in the long run.
We’ll keep you up to date on WB’s The Jungle Book as more information becomes available.