Ben Kingsley joins all-star cast in upcoming film adaptation of 'The Jungle Book'

Oscar winner Ben Kingsley will provide the voice of panther Bagheera in a potentially controversial live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's novel.

By , Contributor

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    Sir Ben Kingsley arrives at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s 2014 Los Angeles Dinner "What You Do Matters" to honor Sir Ben Kingsley on Thursday, March 6, 2014 in Beverly Hills, CA.
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Ben Kingsley will join the already star-studded voice cast of the Disney live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book."

The actor will provide the voice for the CGI panther Bagheera, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Kingsley won an Oscar for best actor for his starring role in "Gandhi" (1982), and is known for his work in a wide variety of films, including "Schindler's List" (1993), "Shutter Island" (2010), "Hugo" (2011), and "Iron Man 3." The actor has also won a Grammy, a BAFTA, and two Golden Globes. He joins a remarkably illustrious cast of similarly award-winning actors to voice other animals in the upcoming movie.

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"The Jungle Book" is mostly remembered for 1967 animated Disney film of the same name. Unfortunately for Disney, both the book and the film have become controversial in recent decades.

Rudyard Kipling wrote the original story collection from a 19th-century British colonial perspective, and it contains a few racially insensitive themes that could make the live adaptation ill-suited to the 21st century. In addition to problematic source material, the 1967 animated musical has received harsh criticism for employing racist stereotypes of African-Americans, particularly in the character of King Louie, as the Monitor pointed out in an earlier article.

The character of King Louie did not appear in the Kipling's original work, and it is unlikely that he will appear in the upcoming film.

So far, however, controversy has not prevented Warner Bros. from beginning production on their own adaptation of "The Jungle Book." Since Kipling's book is in the public domain, they can produce their own live-action version of the story, even as Disney continues casting its film based on the same source material. Andy Serkis (Gollum from Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings") is set to direct the Warner Bros. film, for which a release date has not been set, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In spite of recent controversy and a rival project in the works, Disney seems confident of the appeal of their upcoming film, if their high-profile cast is anything to go by. Kingsley's voice joins Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, and Lupita Nyong’o as various animals. The film will be directed by Jon Favreau. Non-CGI characters have yet to be cast.

Disney's "The Jungle Book" is set to be released in 2015.

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