Why The Lion King Director Jon Favreau Was Super Nervous At The Premiere

Simba in Lion King
(Image credit: (Disney))

Whether it be as an actor or director, writer or producer, Jon Favreau has been making movies for almost 30 years. Between his stints as Happy Hogan, in recent years he’s been best known for kick-starting the MCU with 2008’s Iron Man and helming the $966 million-earning Jungle Book photo-realistic remake. His take on The Lion King is on the way next week and no amount of experience could prepare him for the nervousness he felt at the film’s Tuesday premiere. In his words:

Usually by the time you're premiering the film, you've had test screenings, or you've shown it to groups, or you've had advanced screenings for critics, but we finished just in time for this premiere. And there it was in the Dolby, huge theater where [Jimmy Kimmel] has hosted the Oscars. So it's a bit intimidating. And everybody's there. Actors hadn't seen the film -- most of them hadn't seen any of it yet -- and you're starting to realize maybe they won't like it.

This does sound anxiety-inducing! When a premiere hits Hollywood, usually directors such as Jon Favreau have had a chance to share their movie with the cast and test audiences to gauge the film's appeal before stepping onto the red carpet to celebrate it with thousands of eyes on it. Favreau didn’t get this luxury and started to sweat a bit about it when he got to the massive premiere at the Dolby. He continued:

You never think about that. You do all the publicity and I’m there, just digging in, just biting my nails. I was digging my fingers into my wife’s wrist the whole time. I was [nervous], because I’m used to doing comedy and, you know, at the beginning of The Lion King – no spoilers – but there’s some sad things that happen in the movie. Once Billy and Seth as Timon and Pumbaa came on and I felt the laughs start to spread, that’s when I started to relax.

Thankfully, all he needed to hear was "Hakuna Matata" to chill out and enjoy the movie. Jon Favreau explained that he was out of his comfort zone with the more dramatic parts of Lion King, since he’s showcased humor more prevalently in his work. So when Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen’s Timon and Pumbaa made their way on screen to do their hilarious improv bits (which they actually got to record together), he felt the theater loosen up, and so did he.

Jon Favreau opened up about his experience at the Lion King premiere on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Check it out below:

The director was given an incredibly massive budget to work with after the record-breaking success of Jungle Book. However, this time he was remaking a movie far newer and more beloved by Disney fans. His star-studded cast also includes Donald Glover as Simba, Beyoncé as Nala, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, John Oliver as Zazu, and James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa.

Since The Lion King has screened, it originally debuted with a certified rotten score of 57% but has since moved up to a fresh 60%. Critics have praised the film for its state-of-the-art visuals but weren’t as convinced about why the movie needs to exist.

As the film heads to theaters, it’s shaping up to be a massive hit. It’s expected to make $200 million in its first weekend, and considering it’s one of the most highly-anticipated movies of the summer, it’s going to make even more money after that.

The Lion King comes out on July 19. Are you excited to see it? Let us know in the comments below.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.