This weekend Jon Favreau sent nostalgia levels soaring by tweeting the casting news of his final pick for both Mufasa and Simba in his impending CGI’d take on The Lion King. Not satisfied with obtaining a universal thumbs up with the choice of Donald Glover as Simba, Favreau also accepted what every die hard fan of the original has; that only James Earl Jones’ legendary voice box could take the role of Simba’s ill-fated father, Mufasa and recast him for this version, as well. The King has returned, ladies and gentlemen – but what’s interesting is who he’s going to bring with him.
Now that the two biggest casting challenges have been sorted out, the question is who else is going to put their name down on the dotted line to relive Disney’s Shakespeare in the serengeti-like tale? Well, should Mr. Favreau be having trouble, then hakuna matata – here’s a few wild ideas that might be the perfect choices.
Scar – Tom Hardy
Seeing as Favreau is open to the idea of some of the original cast members reprising the roles they brought to life 23 years ago, there’s no reason that Jeremy Irons – the man behind Scar – jump back in a sound booth as well. That being said, there’s something awfully exciting about seeing a sneaking, sadistic traitor have the voice of none other than Tom Hardy for Favreau’s new effort. No offence, Tom.
Sure he might be better known for grunting his way through a number of performances (his turn in Taboo has even resulted in a YouTube supercut) but we know from past experience he’s a master of vocal manipulation. Often imitated but never equalled as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and giving a two for the price of one in Legend, Hardy has proven time and again that he can work with anything and that could include a microphone and his own rendition of ‘Be Prepared’.
Nala – Tessa Thompson
If Favreau’s wonderfully adapted take on The Jungle Book is anything to go by, chances are this Lion King will only roar out a song when absolutely necessary. That suggests there’s a bit more time to bring the drama to the Pride Lands and flesh out the characters that didn’t have much to do in the original. Simba’s love interest Nala could be just such a character. She’s feisty, she’s fearless and she’s crucial to the real king returning to the throne in the original. Tessa Thompson could take on that challenge and then some.
Already breezing through bringing strong characters to the screen with Dear White People and Creed, she’ll have already caught the eye of Disney thanks to her upcoming appearance in the MCU as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok. Who says they can’t cut another great deal and see her bring another perfectly suited character to life as well?
Zazu – Martin Freeman
Originally the devoted steward, assistant and pouncing practise dummy, Zazu, was voiced wonderfully by Rowan Atkinson in the 1994 classic. Keeping in line with that prim, proper and perfectly hilarious British attitude one ideal choice to bring the hoighty-toighty hornbill to life would be by way of Martin Freeman.
That’s not to say that the Sherlock star and former ring-bearer fits that checklist – but he could if he really wanted to. More often than not, Freeman is the voice of reason, rationality and appointed eye-roller when things have gone sideways. He’d have no trouble in sending that through his voice should he ever get the call. How he handles ‘Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ is yet to be confirmed.
Sarabi – Olivia Wilde
We may have overlooked it in my younger years, but in retrospect Simba’s mum, Sarabi, seems very calm upon Simba’s return and mission to take his father’s place. Where’s the drama? The (pardon the pun) uproar? Perhaps Favreau may make an effort to cast some attention on Mufasa’s widow as she deals with the passing of her husband and the supposed death of her only son. Could he actually bring a new dimension to a previously overlooked character? If so, then someone get Viola Davis on the phone. Now.
The three-time Oscar nominee who calms courtrooms on a weekly basis in How To Get Away With Murder has a voice you can easily pick out from a crowd – that’s something a queen needs. Also, if Favreau focuses on this the way the wolf pack got attention in The Jungle Book, it’s going to need a strong lioness whilst the true king is absent. Davis is easily the perfect pick.
Rafiki – Michael K. Williams
Wise, stoic and sick with a bowstaff. No, we’re not referring to Napoleon Dynamite but instead respected advisor to the king, Rafiki. That wise mandrill who made short work of a band of hyenas in the films finale might not necessarily wield crazy kung-fu skills in Favreau’s take but he’s going to need something extra special to bring Simba back home and Michael K. Williams has just the talent to do so.
A mandrill must have a code and who better to provide it than the man who has dominated television screens since The Wire also ruled a kingdom of his own in The Night Of almost stealing the show from Riz Ahmed. It’s that wise reserved presence that would work so wonderfully as Simba’s mentor.
Shenzi, Banzai & Ed – Jillian Bell, Adam DeVine and Blake Anderson
Originally, Scar’s scatterbrained sidekicks Shenzi, Banzai and Ed were brought to life by Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings respectively. This trio of devious, dumb and dumber bunch of baddies, were pretty funny – you know, right up until they turned on their leader and devoured Scar in a fiery nightmarish attack. Clearly they were just worn down employees who couldn’t take anymore from their boss – which is why casting some Workaholics would be just a brilliant option.
For the new Shenzi, Banzai and idiotically erratic Ed we really need look no further than Jillian Bell, Adam DeVine and Blake Anderson. Leave Bell to handle the stubborn and mildly intelligent Shenzi from DeVine and the worryingly stupid Ed that Anderson could deliver and the comedy gold would just keep pouring out. We already know that this trio have a great chemistry with Workaholics so the results would be perfect. Heck, even having a bit of improv in the recording booth would pay off. What’s an extra couple of pennies for some unplanned CGI work to Disney, really? It’s gotta be fresh, after all.
Timon & Pumbaa – James Franco & Seth Rogen
Save the best for last is always a winning rule and it can’t really get better than this ideal solution to everyone’s favourite warthog and meerkat pairing. Originally voiced by Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella (wonderfully so, might I add) Timon and Pumbaa are easily the most popular characters from the original film. Allies to our hero, insect eating connaisseurs and teachers of the most important lesson any self-respecting Disney fan can take on board, if you’re worried who could possibly take over then hakuna matata, James Franco and Seth Rogen are the men for the job.
Do we even need to give a reason? One besides the never-ending bromance that has appeared in the likes of Pineapple Express and The Interview that would work so wonderfully here? More than Franco’s undeniable ability to talk his way out of situations to an idiotic degree that could be compressed into meerkat form? Or that Rogen’s laugh escaping from a CGI warthog is worth the ticket price alone? No, we didn’t think so, either. If there’s any casting choice that miraculously comes true thanks to the powers that be, pray that it’s this one.