The only live-action actor among an all-star cast in Disney’s The Jungle Book, child performer Neel Sethi was chosen by director Jon Favreau after considering about 2,000 kids who auditioned for the lead role of Mowgli.
The now 12-year-old Sethi is a natural athlete, enjoys playing all sports—especially basketball and football. He is working towards earning his black belt in Taekwondo and underwent parkour training to help him prepare him for his role in the film.
Mowgli is a human boy who was abandoned in the jungle as an infant. Known in the jungle as the man-cub, he grows up among the animals—some friends, some foes—never doubting for a moment that he belongs.
Mowgli finds himself lost and confused when he’s asked to leave the only home he has ever known.
As the only human character to appear on screen, Sethi was called on not only to portray the beloved Mowgli, but also to summon incredible imagination skills in order to visualize the other elements in each scene.
“Finding the right kid to play Mowgli was imperative,” says Favreau. “We did an exhaustive worldwide search of 2,000 kids before we found Neel. He was one of the last people that I looked at, and right away, I felt that he had the same emotional and physical qualities that Mowgli had in the ’67 animated version. His look was uncanny in how much he evoked what we wanted. He inherently had a good sense of fun and humor.”
A star-studded action-adventure, Sethi shares the movie with the voices of top Hollywood actors, namely Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, and Christopher Walken.
The Jungle Book is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through Columbia Pictures, and opens across the country on April 7.