Barry Jenkins Reveals What (And Who) Convinced Him to Helm The Lion King Prequel
During an interview with Variety, Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) revealed why he decided to helm Disney’s upcoming The Lion King prequel feature that was announced in September, saying that the script, as well as Eternals director Chloé Zhao, helped convince him to take on the project.
“I read the script and about 40 pages in, I turned to Lulu [Wang] and I said, ‘Holy shit, this is good.’ And as I kept reading, I got further away from the side of my brain that said, ‘Oh, a filmmaker like you doesn’t make a film like this,’ and allowed myself to get to the place where these characters, this story, is amazing. What really pushed me across the line was James [Laxton], my DP, said, ‘You know what? There’s something really interesting in this mode of filmmaking that we haven’t done and that not many people have done.’ That was when I went back to the powers that be and said, ‘I would love to do this, but I’ve got to be able to do what I do.’ And they said yes!…And knowing that Chloé Zhao had gone from one of the most beautiful films of the century with The Rider to making a Marvel movie, I was like, ‘Oh, shit. If she can do it, I can do it,’” said Jenkins.
Jeff Nathanson, the writer of the 2019 Oscar-nominated The Lion King, is returning to pen the prequel. A release date or production start for the prequel has not yet been announced.
The 2019 movie was directed by Emmy nominee Jon Favreau (The Mandalorian) and earned over $1.5 billion at the global box office.
Lions rule the African savanna in 2019’s The Lion King, which welcomes Donald Glover (Atlanta, Solo: A Star Wars Story) as future-king Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (Dreamgirls, “Lemonade” visual album) as Simba’s friend-turned-love interest Nala, and James Earl Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Field of Dreams) as Simba’s wise and loving father, Mufasa, reprising his iconic performance from Disney’s 1994 animated classic.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Twelve Years a Slave, Doctor Strange) was called on to portray Simba’s villainous uncle Scar, and Alfre Woodard (Juanita, Marvel’s Luke Cage) portrays Simba’s no-nonsense mother, Sarabi. JD McCrary (Tyler Perry’s The Paynes, Vital Signs) fills the shoes of Young Simba, a confident cub who can’t wait to be king, and Shahadi Wright Joseph (Hairspray Live, Broadway’s “The Lion King”) brings tough cub Young Nala to life.
Every kingdom comes with a trustworthy advisor or two. John Kani (Coriolanus, Captain America: Civil War) was cast as the wise baboon Rafiki, and John Oliver (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) was tapped as hornbill Zazu, Mufasa’s loyal confidant. When Simba goes into exile, he relies on two newfound friends — Seth Rogen (Sausage Party, Neighbors) lends his comedic chops to naïve warthog Pumbaa, and Billy Eichner (Billy on the Street, American Horror Story) joins the cast as know-it-all meerkat, Timon.
While most of the animals in the kingdom respect the king, the hyenas have other plans. Florence Kasumba (Emerald City, Black Panther) portrays Shenzi, Eric André (The Eric André Show, Man Seeking Woman) is Azizi, and Keegan-Michael Key (Predator, Friends from College) plays Kamari.
(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic via Getty Images)