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Jon Favreau has been collecting A-list stars left and right to join the cast of his upcoming adaptation of The Jungle Book. The process began back in March when Idris Elba was hired to play the story's central villain, Shere Kahn the Tiger, but the production has since kept busy by adding both Scarlett Johansson and Lupita Nyong'o as Kaa, the hypnotic python, and Rakcha, the wolf mother who raises Mowgli as her own, respectively. Now the Walt Disney Company has announced yet another big casting coup for the project, revealing that Academy Award-winner Ben Kingsley has signed on to provide the voice of Bagheera, the friendly black panther.
What makes this casting just a tad bit strange is that the Jungle Book continues to keep plucking players involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Favreau, of course, directed both Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Elba plays the Asgardian Heimdal in the Thor movies, Johansson plays S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanov, and Kingsley appeared as The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. Nyong'o is the only actor signed on so far who doesn't have a contract in place at Marvel Studios. Instead, she's busy working on another one of the Walt Disney Company's other big franchises: Star Wars.
Based on the classic story written by Rudyard Kipling and adapted by screenwriter Jason Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), The Jungle Book will tell the story of a young boy named Mowgli, his adventures with various animals in the rainforest, and, presumably, his reintroduction to human society. Bagheera is classically one of the good guys, having spent years as Mowgli's protector and ward. Disney's classic animated version of the story from 1967 featured the character voiced by British performer Sebastian Cabot, also known for being the narrator in 1977's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh:
Jon Favreau is currently coming off a return to his indie routes with his recently released Chef, but The Jungle Book promises to be his return to big budget filmmaking. While we don't know who will be playing any of the humans yet, the film will be a mix of both live-action and animation. The film is actually one of two Jungle Book adaptations currently in the works in Hollywood - the other one set up at Warner Bros. with Andy Serkis set to helm - so you can be sure that Disney is working hard to get this movie made as quickly as possible.
The Jungle Book will be in theaters on October 19, 2015.