When director Jon Favreau took on the project to reboot Disney's beloved 1967 animated musical classic The Jungle Book, he not only wanted to film it as a live-action story, he also wanted to highlight the drama.
"I didn't want to make it a musical because I thought that would change the whole tone of the film and I wanted to have it feel like there were high stakes and high adventure here," Favreau said.
Favreau's The Jungle Book, out in U.S. theaters Friday, revives author Rudyard Kipling's classic stories about Mowgli, a young boy raised by wolves in the Indian jungle who befriends a bear and battles a tiger.
The film centers on Mowgli's wolf family, which is attacked by the evil tiger Shere Khan, who is out for revenge against mankind and wants to kill Mowgli.
"I certainly didn't want it to be a G-rated kids movie," said Favreau, who has also directed two Iron Man films.
The cast includes the voices of Bill Murray as singing bear Baloo, Scarlett Johansson as the snake Kaa, Ben Kingsley as the panther Bagheera, Lupita Nyong'o as wolf mother Raksha, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, and newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli.
While the film is not a musical, it still features some fan favorite songs, including Murray's rendition of "The Bare Necessities" and Johansson's "Trust in Me," a collaboration with R&B producer Mark Ronson.
Favreau said Sethi, who was nine years old when filming, was selected out of 2,000 children for his "confidence and charisma."
"He had those qualities that you couldn't teach," Favreau said. "As an experienced director now and a father, I was fairly confident that I could teach a smart kid like Neel the nuts and bolts of film acting."