Who Is The Kid In ‘The Jungle Book’? Mowgli Is Neel Sethi's First Big Role
Disney’s animated version of The Jungle Book might hold a special place in many people’s hearts (seriously, watching Baloo sing “The Bare Necessities” to Mowgli will never, ever get old), but the new live-action, mega star-powered, Jon Favreau-directed version of The Jungle Book coming to theaters in April? It looks like it’ll blow the animated classic right out of the water. Viewers got a glimpse of the impressive trailer during the Oscars Sunday night, complete with super realistic CGI jungle beasts voiced by a big-name cast including Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyongo'o, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, and Christopher Walken. But there was one big question left unanswered: who is the kid in The Jungle Book? It turns out that Mowgli is played by 10-year-old Neel Sethi, a newcomer from New York who was chosen from thousands of kids who auditioned not just in the U.S., but Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand, according to Variety (uh, no big deal, right?).
For a kid with absolutely no professional acting experience, Neel Sethi has nabbed a huge first role. For starters, Sethi is the only actor in the film who will actually appear in the film — despite the laundry-list of stars involved in the project, all the other characters are computer-generated. So he’s essentially acting alone opposite a green screen the entire time.
That’s a lot for a young actor to carry (or any actor, really), but it sounds like he has the full support of Favreau and the entire Jungle Book team. The director weighed in on Sethi in a statement, according to Variety:
Casting director Sarah Finn agreed:
The film has been a big undertaking for Favreau, and one he said, according to Forbes, will be “his Avatar,” referring to the epic 2009 James Cameron flick that boasted a seriously innovative approach to filmmaking (and, let’s face it, was a colossal hit, earning $760 million at the box office, according to Forbes).
But the choice to produce the movie in such a technology-heavy way wasn’t just about showing off: Favreau said it was a specific choice to stay true to Disney’s original version that was so well-loved, according to Gizmodo:
So what does Neel Sethi make of all of it? He’s just going with the flow. On his casting, Sethi told People,
And the hardest part about filming? Was it having his first professional acting experience be the leading role in a huge feature film where he was basically the only actor? Uh, not so much.
Mud, right. Of course the hard part was the mud. Well played, kid.