One week ago I was headed to The Beverly Hilton Hotel for the Jungle Book Press Junket. We had the opportunity to interview Jon Favreau and Neel Sethi, Lupita Nyong’o & Giancarlo Esposito and Sir Ben Kingsley. Today I’m sharing a few fun things I learned from our interview with Jon Favreau and Neel Sethi!
1. Plan on trick or treating at Jon Favreau’s house this year!
Jon was very sad that there was never any merchandise for his hit comedy, Elf. With Ironman, he was sent very few so he felt like he had to protect them. Jon didn’t hesitate when he was told to order plenty of Jungle Book merchandise early on, ensuring he’d have it by the time the movie opened.
I look at the pictures and this doll and said oh give me 10 of those, give me 20 of those. Oh, give me 50 of those. I want to give some of those out. And I filled out the thing. I don’t think anything of it. Are any of you old enough to remember “I Love Lucy”? Do you remember when she gets a freezer and orders a side of beef? And she says, I don’t know, give me a side of beef. And cause there’s a freezer about this big and then they start delivering it for the whole episode, they’re bringing in packages and packages and the whole set gets filled up with all this meat, that’s hanging.
And that’s what it felt like. There would be boxes. They delivered about 20 boxes the first day and that was the first shipment. And my wife was like what’s going on here? Our whole, the whole dining room is filled with boxes. Then I get back from Australia, the entire driveway is full of boxes. So we have so many stuffed animals and every kid that comes over, it’s like Christmas cause you’re like take one of these things. You have this, you want this, and if it’s still around by Halloween, there’s gonna be very lucky kids in the neighborhood!
Who wants to trick or treat in Jon’s neighborhood this year?!?
2. The one thing Jon’s wife insisted on.
Early on one of the songs wasn’t actually in the film. Normally Jon’s wife is supportive and doesn’t say anything about the movie process. Jon reconsidered when she insisted.
But this is the one time, she was like ‘you’re not gonna have that song in.’ And I’m like No, No, it might not fit tonally. And she’s like, ‘I think you should have the song.’ And the kids were like, wanted to hear the song… And so it was early enough in the process that we worked it in because I came on board, there was no music in at all.
She insisted that they include King Louie’s, “I Wanna Be Like You!” After seeing the movie, you will definitely appreciate it’s inclusion. They did a beautiful job with the musical score and all the songs fit really well into the scenes they are featured in.
3. How Neel’s sister helped him win the part.
Neel’s dance teacher suggested he audition for the part of Mowgli. He’d never considered acting before but decided to audition on a lark. The fact that he wasn’t a kid looking for acting jobs appealed to Jon. It was just fun for him. “It didn’t feel like he was concerned about failing or concerned about getting the part or not.”
Neel was a little younger than they originally thought for the part but they really liked his confidence. After looking at 2,000 kids, Jon met with Neel and his family. Neel made Jon smile and he really appreciated that Neel was just having fun. It was Neel’s sister that sealed the deal, though. Not only did Neel’s sister help him prepare for the audition, but when Jon saw how well she had turned out at 16, he knew that Neel’s parents did a great job raising her and could provide the support system Neel would need.
4. Neel disliked the mud scenes the most.
The movie has a few intense scenes (I’ll be sharing more thoughts on this in my Jungle Book Movie Review later this week). Neel was asked which scene he thought was scariest. He didn’t think any scene was scary to film. He was only 30″ off the ground during filming. He confessed that he really disliked the mud scenes. It would dry on him and get hot and itchy. I can see how that might annoying!
5. Jon’s souvenir from the set of The Jungle Book
Amongst the relics in King Louie’s temple is a cowbell. Just as a reminder, King Louie is played by Christopher Walken. 🙂 The whole room clapped and cheered when Jon confessed that his souvenir from the Jungle Book set was the cowbell!
The Jungle Book opens in theaters on April 15!
I was invited by Disney to cover the press junket for The Jungle Book and Walk The Prank. As always, all opinions are my own.