Neel Sethi was chosen out of two thousand other hopeful young actors for the role of Mowgli in Disney’s new lifelike version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The 12-year-old boy from Manhattan is the only human character in the action-packed movie, full of stunts and scares. In the movie, Mowgli jumps from tree to tree, gets tackled by a snarling panther, and jumps into a stampede. So, with the help of a blue screen, did Mowgli do his own stunts in The Jungle Book?
In an interview with movie review website Collider, Sethi said his favorite part of making the movie were the stunts he could do on his own. The stunts weren’t too dangerous for the debut actor — the animals and backdrops that surround Mowgli in the movie are all motion-captured and CGI.
“I like doing all the stunts,” Sethi said in the interview with Collider. “That was a lot of fun. [I could do] almost all of them. Most of it was just blue screen, so it looks like it was so dangerous, but it really just 30 inches off the ground.”
Even in his audition for the movie he had all the intentions of doing as many stunts as he could on his own. Sethi told Good Morning America about his audition that landed him the role.
“They literally just wanted me to do a couple lines and I had to play imaginary tennis,” Sethi said in the interview with Good Morning America. “I showed a karate move and I said, ‘I don't need no stunt double. And they really, they started laughing.”
“The kid made me smile. He made me laugh,” director Jon Favreau told Toronto Sun Sethi’s boldness stuck out to him. “After he finished his audition, he started doing martial arts moves and said he would do his own stunts, and I thought he was a plucky kid. And I remember Mowgli feeling like that in the original movie from 1967.”
The entire movie was filmed in downtown Los Angeles, and for Sethi and for most pre-teen boys, it was like giant playground where he could cut loose and have fun.
“I like that, that it was so playgroundish,” Sethi said in the Toronto Sun interview. “And Jon really changed things up, whenever it got a little boring. It would make me excited again.”
For live-action scenes, Sethi acted with puppets to represent his scenes with the animals.
Technology has come to a point where stories can be told in so many different ways, bringing some of what our imaginations create to the big screen for everyone to experience. And if “The Bare Necessities” can be sung with a lifelike big bumbling Baloo, then it’s been a good day for all.