Lupita Nyong'o In 'The Jungle Book' Is A Pitch-Perfect Casting Choice
The new movie The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau, recalls Rudyard Kipling's classic stories of Mowgli and the many creatures he encounters in the jungle. The movie, in theaters Apr 15, will undoubtedly bring up bucketloads of nostalgia for viewers who grew up with the 1967 animated Disney adaptation. But Favreau's version is markedly different from the Disney classic in terms of both narrative and style. The new Jungle Book is a live-action/CGI movie, utilizing the voices of famous actors to portray the computer-generator animals onscreen. All of the film's voice acting is impressive, but the performance of Lupita Nyong'o in The Jungle Book is particularly captivating.
This might not be a surprise, given that Nyong'o has previous voice acting experience as the CGI character Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens . In addition, her acting skills have been acknowledged worldwide ever since her performance in 2012's 12 Years a Slave, for which Nyong'o won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Jon Favreau told Vulture in February that he was eager to work with the star after her Oscar win, and subsequently hired her for the The Jungle Book. The director cast Nyong'o as Raksha, an Indian wolf who serves as the adoptive mother to man-cub Mowgli, and after several years in production, the project and its actor's performance are ready for audiences' eyes and ears.
Playing a wolf mom might seem like a major departure from her previous roles, but Nyong'o revealed at a recent press conference for The Jungle Book that she felt she had the perfect inspiration for the role: her own mother. The Rock Father quoted Nyong'o as saying, "I have a lot of very, very powerful women in my life, my mother being the first and most important. She has a fierce love for her children ... For me, that spirit, that tenacity of mothering, was something that inspired my version of Raksha, because it takes a woman with one huge heart to take on not only a child that’s not hers, but of a completely different species."
Nyong'o also stated that her own maternal instincts informed her portrayal of Raksha. She recently told United Press International , "I asked myself a lot of questions about what it would be like to lose one of my own. Although I am not a mother myself, I do love children... so there is that part of me that is very much alive."
Favreau was similarly confident in Nyong'o's ability to play a mother figure even though the actor herself doesn't have children. The director told Vulture that Nyong'o was a natural choice for Raksha because of her ability to use her voice to breathe life and passion into a character. Said Favreau, "Lupita has tremendous depth of emotion in her performance. There’s an emotional underpinning she brings, and a strength, and we wanted that for this surrogate mother."
It's clear that both director and actor felt that Nyong'o was a natural match for Raksha, and so she was an important addition to the all-star cast of The Jungle Book. Enjoy listening to Nyongo's vocal work in this CGI retelling of one of your favorite stories.