Live-Action 'The Jungle Book' Has Found Mowgli, But Can Newcomer Neel Sethi Hold His Own?
Disney's live-action version of The Jungle Book has found its only live actor. At this point, the movie is probably best known for having cast Lupita Nyong'o as one of The Jungle Book's voice actors, but since Mowgli is basically the face of the franchise then it's good that they took their sweet time in casting the right one. Newcomer Neel Sethi has been cast as Mowgli and this could be the film that turns him into the next Dakota Fanning.
As far as physical acting goes, Sethi will essentially be carrying the whole film as every other actor involved in the project will be providing the voices of the CGI animals that Mowgli interacts with. Indian-American Sethi is 10 years old and was chosen from among children auditioned from the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada — literally beating out thousands of children for the chance to act alongside big names like Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, and Scarlett Johansson.
People worried that casting someone who, according to IMDB, has only been in short film called Diwali before is a risky gesture should take a moment to remember that at the time of the first Harry Potter movies, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint were all newcomers. In fact, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was Watson and Grint's first acting roles outside of school plays and theater groups.
Besides, The Jungle Book creators don't seem to be worried. According to casting director Sarah Finn, Sethi has got "the heart, humor, and daring of the character. He’s warm and accessible, yet also has an intelligence well beyond his years and impressed us all with his ability to hold his own in any situation. Even though he has no professional acting experience, his natural charisma and instincts jumped out at us."
At 10 years old, that's a huge compliment. Sethi won't have it easy, playing off characters he can't see in front of a green screen, but that vote of confidence makes me more than willing to give him a chance. We'll head to the theater to support Lupita Nyong'o, but with only Sethi visible on screen we won't be able to pay attention to anybody else. If the casting directors believe that Sethi can carry all of that pressure, then there's no doubt that he's about to be launched to the forefront of child acting.
There's not much available about Sethi so far, but hopefully after the movie is filmed and the press tour begins we can get a chance to see some of that charisma of his for ourselves. And, you know, see more of him than just the single picture on his IMDB profile.
Image: IMDB; Tumblr (1)