Thursday 8 December 2016

'I sent letters, I sent art. I sent smoke signals' - Jon Favreau on getting notoriously elusive Bill Murray on board for Jungle Book

Stephen Milton

Published 18/04/2016 | 13:06

Bill Murray voices bear Baloo in The Jungle Book
Bill Murray voices bear Baloo in The Jungle Book

He managed to round up a stellar A-list cast for his live action revamp of Disney’s The Jungle Book including Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, Idris Elba and Sir Ben Kingsley.

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But director Jon Favreau admits securing the notoriously reclusive Bill Murray – who famously has no agent, no email address and no phone number – to play the part of Baloo the Bear wasn’t the easiest ask.

“He’s impossible to track down,” Favreau tells Independent.ie at the film’s junket in Browns Hotel in Central London. “I had to hunt down connections that had worked with Bill recently and I ended up meeting with Ted Melfi who has worked with him on his last film, St Vincent.

“He gave me advice and I reached out to people who were in contact with Bill. I sent letters, I sent art. I sent smoke signals. Good thoughts. Everything I could and then eventually, I get the phone call.”

The CGI laden spectacular, which also stars newcomer Neel Sethi as jungle boy Mowgli in an adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic, was a scheduling nightmare for former actor Favreau, 49.

Oscar-winner Nyong’o, who voices maternal wolf, Raksha and star Idris Elba who dazzles as man eating tiger, Shere Khan, were the two most difficult to pin down because of their numerous work commitments.

“Lupita and Idris, they were tough because they’re too hot tight now. They’re having so many opportunities in their career. Hard to fit it all in and being in the right city because I wanted to be in the studio with them and have the actors who are working together in the scene, work together in the studio.

“And often, I’d bring Neel, the kid who plays Mowgli, to have this natural rapport. I didn’t want this over the top, animated vocal performances. It would make it like an animation and I wanted it like a live action film.”

Previously helming Iron Man 1 & 2, Favreau claims his casting decisions are the key to his box office success.

“I’ve gotten pretty good at casting. Over whatever the last couple of decades, it’s something that I’m pretty comfortable doing. I think it comes from being an actor. The hard part of getting a hold of them in the timeframe that’s required. But fortunately I got everyone I wanted and once I have that, it’s like the chef who gets the good ingredients from the farmers market - it’s hard to screw up a simple recipe of you have great ingredient.”

The Jungle Book is in cinemas now

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