Tiger fight: Benedict Cumberbatch’s Shere Khan to battle Idris Elba’s rival cat in Andy Serkis’s Jungle Book
Cumberbatch is to voice the purring baddie in Serkis’s version of The Jungle Book, which competes with Jon Favreau’s alternate take, in which Elba plays Mowgli’s arch-enemy
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice the villainous tiger Shere Khan in Andy Serkis’s version of the Jungle Book, one of two competing takes on the iconic Rudyard Kipling tale being put together in Hollywood.
Serkis is making his directing debut on Warner Bros’s reimagination of Kipling’s 1894 fable, which will arrive in cinemas on 21 October 2016. A separate version from Disney, with Jon Favreau in charge of the cameras and Idris Elba lined up to voice Shere Khan, is due 12 months earlier.
Shere Khan, a nefarious man-eating tiger who views Kipling’s hero Mowgli as his lifelong enemy, was voiced by George Sanders in Disney’s animated 1967 musical version of The Jungle Book, thus far the most famous incarnation. Both new films appear to be based largely on the chapter Mowgli and his Brothers in Kipling’s book, which has traditionally been used as the source material for a number of Hollywood adaptations over the years.
Serkis has won plaudits for his second unit direction on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, which included putting together the celebrated barrel sequence in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. He is also noted as a CGI motion capture specialist for his work in front of the cameras on The Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes series.
Warner Bros’ version of The Jungle Book is said to be darker than the Disney take. While Serkis has not yet completed casting, the appointment of Cumberbatch suggests he is ready to bring out the big guns. The British actor also worked with the film-maker as the voice of the titular dragon in The Desolation of Smaug and will return in final Hobbit instalment The Battle of Five Armies this December.
Nevertheless, Warner has some way to go if it wants to match the star quality currently attached to the Disney version. Favreau’s film, which will be a mix of CGI and live action, is due to feature voice talent from Bill Murray as Baloo the bear, Christopher Walken as King Louie the ape, Ben Kingsley as friendly black panther Bagheera, Scarlett Johansson as the hissing, hypnotising python, Kaa, Twelve Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o as mother wolf Raksha and Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito as wolf pack leader Akela.