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Lovers of the stop-motion animation classic Chicken Run have had a long wait on their hands when it comes to getting a sequel, but 2018 finally saw Aardman Animation announce that it had begun work on the long hoped-for installment. While many who worked on the original project have been asked to return, we already knew that Mel Gibson, who voiced Rocky the first time around, wasn't going to be asked back. Now, the production has run into a bit of drama, as actress Julia Sawalha, who voiced lead Ginger in the first film, has accused the sequel of being ageist.
Chicken Run 2 has been seriously gearing up for a little over two years now, and with the film set to go into full production in 2021, it's no surprise that the producers are beginning to set the cast for the film, which is due to premiere on Netflix. Unfortunately, star Julia Sawalha has taken to Twitter to let fans of the original know that she's not going to be a part of the new movie, and says it's because of her age. According to Sawalha, she was contacted through her agent and informed that she wouldn't be asked back because they wanted a younger actress to voice Ginger.
Sawalha said the notice came out of the blue, and that actors are usually asked to do a voice test before such a decision is made, but she was never even given the opportunity to prove to producers that she still sounded like the Ginger fans know and love. Determined to secure the part, though, Sawalha did her own test (which she made public so that fans could hear it), but still got a letter back which noted that Ginger would be re-cast. Here's what Sawalha had to say next:
I received my letter of dismissal the day before it was announced that the ‘Lone Free Ranger’ had been axed from the sequel and that the character of Rocky was to be re-voiced. The reason given was that his voice is now too old. I feel I have been fobbed off with the same excuse. I went to great lengths to prove to the production that my voice is nigh on the same as it was in the original film. If they will be using some of the original cast members…let’s be frank, I feel I have been unfairly dismissed.
As I mentioned in the opening, Julia Sawalha also noted that she was told that Mel Gibson would no longer be playing Rocky. While there were rumors that this was mainly because of his problematic history, it could also be true that the production felt he now sounded too old for the part of the lost circus rooster who became both an ally to Ginger and her friends, and Ginger's eventual boyfriend.
This news is certainly disappointing for fans who have been hoping to have as much of the cast back together as possible for Chicken Run 2. The film was set to catch up with the whole gang of chickens, who'd managed a daring escape form the farm where they were set to become meat pies to a peaceful island, with Ginger's constant planning and plenty of help from Rocky. Ginger and Rocky will have a little girl, Molly, but will leave their paradise to help when they realize that chickenkind off of the island faces a new threat.
It sounds like Julia Sawalha believes that, because the producers had already decided to re-cast Mel Gibson, they decided to simply do away with her as well, without even giving her adequate notice or a chance to show that she could still deliver the Ginger they wanted for the film. In her full post, she also said that the creative who got back to her after listening to her voice test admitted that she didn't sound any older, and it's clear that all of this really stings for Sawalha:
To say I am devastated and furious would be an understatement. I feel totally powerless, something in all of this doesn’t quite ring true. I trust my instincts and they are waving red flags. I am saddened that I have lost the chance to work with Nick Park and Peter Lord from whom I learnt so much. The three of us, together, created Ginger.
The actress wrapped up by saying that she did wish the production luck and success with the sequel, and thanked the fans for their commitment and support of Chicken Run over all these years. It will be interesting to see if Chicken Run 2 producers respond publicly to Julia Sawalha's allegations, so be sure to stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest.