Academy Award-winning actor Ben Kingsley has been cast as the voice of Bagheera, the black panther in Disney’s upcoming “The Jungle Book.” Directed by Jon Favreau from a script by Justin Marks, “The Jungle Book” combines live action and animated filmmaking. It arrives in theaters in 3D on October 9, 2015.
Jon Favreau has been collecting A-list stars left and right to join the cast of his upcoming adaptation of “The Jungle Book.” The process began back in March when Idris Elba was hired to play the story’s central villain, Shere Kahn the Tiger, but the production has since kept busy by adding both Scarlett Johansson and Lupita Nyong’o as Kaa, the hypnotic python, and Rakcha, the wolf mother who raises Mowgli as her own, respectively.
Now the Walt Disney Company has announced yet another big casting coup for the project, revealing that Academy Award-winner Ben Kingsley has signed on to provide the voice of Bagheera, the friendly black panther.
What makes this casting just a tad bit strange is that the “The Jungle Book” continues to keep plucking players involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Favreau, of course, directed both “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2,” Elba plays the Asgardian Heimdal in the “Thor” movies, Johansson plays S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanov, and Kingsley appeared as The Mandarin in “Iron Man 3.”
Nyong’o is the only actor signed on so far who doesn’t have a contract in place at Marvel Studios. Instead, she’s busy working on another one of the Walt Disney Company’s other big franchises: Star Wars.
Based on the classic story written by Rudyard Kipling and adapted by screenwriter Jason Marks, “The Jungle Book” will tell the story of a young boy named Mowgli, his adventures with various animals in the rainforest, and, presumably, his reintroduction to human society.
Bagheera is classically one of the good guys, having spent years as Mowgli’s protector and ward. Disney’s classic animated version of the story from 1967 featured the character voiced by British performer Sebastian Cabot, also known for being the narrator in 1977’s “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.”