Academy Award-nominee Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”) breathes life to Baloo, a free-spirited bear who meets Mowgli (Neel Sethi) after the man-cub has been banished from the jungle, in Disney’s new family adventure “The Jungle Book,” based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film.
“Baloo is a huge bear, bigger than life,” says director Jon Favreau. “He’s that teacher that you have in high school that encourages you to read the books that maybe you weren’t allowed to read, and opens your eyes to what the world is really all about. He’s a subversive thinker. He is not a guy who exactly fits into jungle society. He plays by his own rules and he encourages Mowgli to do the same.”
According to the director, Baloo is more complex than meets the eye. “The trick with Baloo is to capture that avuncular nature that he had in the 1967 film. He was lazy, he liked to eat. But he wasn’t a big, cuddly bear. He growled and roared. He knew how to fight and he knew how to protect himself. And still he bonds with this kid—he grows to care about him. Bill Murray was able to preserve those qualities while still bringing his iconic voice to the role.”
Favreau wanted the Oscar®-nominated actor to voice Baloo from the project’s inception. “He’s perfect,” says the director. “Bill just exudes all the charm and humor that you need and expect from Baloo. He has a certain dryness and a rebellious quality.
“I have always wanted to work with Bill Murray,” continues Favreau. “I’m a huge fan. But he’s not the easiest guy to get ahold of. Getting Bill Murray to agree to do your movie is like catching a unicorn. You have to stalk him.”
Fortunately for Favreau, the director caught his unicorn. “It turns out, Bill loves the character,” he says. “Once he came aboard, he was incredibly passionate. He has a very high standard.”
“I just couldn’t say no to playing Baloo,” says Murray. “Jon [Favreau] is a terrific storyteller and I’m such a huge fan of the original stories. Kipling wrote a lot of amazing stuff. I read that book when I was about 22 and I’ve always thought that it was just extraordinary writing.”
“The Jungle Book” is an all-new, live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a man-cub raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (Bill Murray). Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire.
The wild adventure swings into Philippine theaters in 3D on Thursday, April 07. “The Jungle Book” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through Columbia Pictures. Follow the official social media accounts of Disney in the Philippines, namely, (FB) WaltDisneyStudiosPH, (Twitter) @disneystudiosph and (Instagram) @waltdisneystudiosph and use the hashtag #JungleBookPH.