Idris Elba has joined the cast of the Mouse Guard movie. While there's a lot of uncertainty about what comes next in the wake of Disney finalizing its purchase of 21st Century Fox's assets this week (including, 20th Century Fox), it appears that Fox's Mouse Guard comic book film adaptation is still going full speed ahead. The studio has recruited its Maze Runner trilogy director Wes Ball to oversee the fantasy adventure and is reportedly spending $150 million on the production budget. That goes to show just how serious they are about kicking off a lucrative new franchise here.
Adapted from the bi-monthly comic book series of the same name (which David Petersen has written and illustrated since 2006), Mouse Guard has so far assembled a cast that includes Andy Serkis and Maze Runner veteran Thomas Brodie-Sangster as the film's antagonist and young hero, respectively. With filming slated to get underway in May, the movie's casting search is well underway and should be over within the next few weeks. In the meantime, another key role has been filled.
According to THR, Elba has essentially finished a deal to play the character Celanawe in Mouse Guard. The original comics take place in a medievel fantasy world where mice are protected by the titular order (a group of highly-specialized warrior mice) from dangerous predators, like foxes and birds. Celanawe, as it were, is a legendary member of the Mouse Guard - one also known as "Black Axe" - who, when the story begins, vanished long ago and has since been presumed dead or gone.
Elba, like Serkis and Brodie-Sangster, will bring his character to life through motion-capture, with Weta Digital (Lord of the Rings, Avatar) handling the visual effects. While Elba has done voice work in the past on films like Disney Animation's Zootopia, Pixar's Finding Dory, and Disney's live-action/CGI The Jungle Book (where he lent his vocals to Shere Khan), he's less experienced when it comes to the art of motion-capturing. Then again, he only just finished shooting his role as Macavity for Tom Hooper's Cats musical adaptation, which is speculated to be bringing its feline characters to life via a combination of motion-capture and practical means. Regardless, one imagines that an actor as multi-talented as Elba will have little trouble adjusting to the challenges of playing a mo-cap talking mouse.
Beyond that, it'll be interesting to see how the members of the Mouse Guard turn out in the film itself. Serkis similarly used motion-capture to bring non-primate animals to life in his own Jungle Book adaptation Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (which debuted on Netflix last year), but the results were arguably uneven and otherwise unsettling compared to the photorealistic CGI critters featured in Disney's Jungle Book. Unlike Mowgli, however, the (Oscar-winning) digital FX in Jungle Book were handled by Weta, so that bodes well for their efforts on bringing the Mouse Guard to cinematic life.
Mouse Guard does not have an official release date right now. We'll let you know when that changes.