There are currently two films in production based on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Disney’s version has been progressing quietly; Jon Favreau is directing and the film is slated for October 9, 2015. Warner Brothers has their own adaptation in the works, although it’s received a bit more noise thanks mostly to production hurdles. Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) was initially set to direct but dropped out in January due to scheduling conflicts. However, the director’s chair left empty by Iñárritu is likely to be filled by Ron Howard.
If finalized, Howard’s attachment to the project means a number of things. From an artistic perspective, Howard’s The Jungle Book will undoubtedly look very different from what Iñárritu’s would have – just compare Howard’s Oscar winner A Beautiful Mind and Iñárritu’s Oscar Nominated Biutiful; they are not similar. While both films chart the mental deterioration of their leading men, in A Beautiful Mind and physically in Biutiful, the films paint very different pictures. Even Howard’s darkest projects seem to balance pain with whispers of hope or levity, while Iñárritu chooses to focus unflinchingly at the beauty and horror of pain. While I doubt that The Jungle Book would have been as oppressively sad as Biutiful, it’s safe to say Iñárritu’s version would be a different, er, animal.
While Howard’s involvement may have artistic implications, it definitely changes things on the production front. The Jungle Book is just the latest of a number of projects Howard is attached to. In fact, just earlier this week he attached himself to Mena, a biopic of Barry Seal, a smuggler turned spy for the CIA. With Mena and The Jungle Book, Howard has even more irons in the fire. Among the pictures he’s attached to are the Da Vinci Code sequel Inferno, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel The Graveyard Book, the Will Smith vehicle Colossus, and of course, the long beleaguered Dark Tower. He’s currently working on his historic sea tale, Heart of the Sea, and there’s not a firm word on what his next project will be after that.
Based on Disney’s late 2015 release date, Warner Brothers would have to move quickly to get its version into production in order to compete. But attaching a director with so much on his plate, might suggest WB is taking a different approach, and waiting. If that’s the case, then The Jungle Book will probably not be in theaters until late 2016 or 2017.