Even the jungle and all her cruel tricks can’t hold him back.
Teen actor Neel Sethi has been at the Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF) all week with a plan to meet fans at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC) at 4.30pm on Thursday.
The 14-year-old up-and-comer, who played Mowgli in the 2016 Disney film the Jungle Book, told Gulf News tabloid! on Sunday that he’s preparing to film Jungle Book 2 once director Jon Favreau is ready.
“We’re going to start that soon… as soon as the director is ready. He’s in the middle of another film, but when he’s done, we’re going to do that,” said Sethi.
Favreau is currently in post-production of the live-action remake of Disney’s The Lion King.
The young actor, now in his mid-teens, looks nothing like the feisty 10-year-old breakout star from the first fantasy-adventure film. Praised for his charm and confidence, Sethi stole the show as the Jungle Book’s only principal actor among a star-studded voice cast, which included Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray and Lupita Nyong’o.
The film grossed nearly a billion dollars. It was named the 40th highest-grossing movie of all time. A live action take on the 1967 Disney animation of the same name, it was inspired by the 1894 collection of stories by English author Rudyard Kipling,
“This is my first project I’ve ever done or even thought of, so I didn’t really expect anything. I just went along with whatever anyone told me and it just came out the way it did. [It was] great. I loved it,” said Sethi.
Quizzed about the most difficult part of the role, Sethi — like any actor with big-city sensibilities — easily picked out the scene where he got stuck in a massive mudslide.
“I’m from New York, so I don’t like mud at all. It was just really hard and annoying, but I got used to it,” he said.
The Indian-American actor now has his eye on superhero films.
“I think it’d be pretty cool, ‘cause there’s Spider-Man [played by British actor] Tom Holland, who’s 16 or 17. I want to do that,” said Sethi.
22-year-old Holland played the 15-year-old Peter Parker in the 2017 origin film, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
But which superhero would Sethi want to play?
“Probably a new one that is in, like, DC and Marvel and connects both of them,” said Sethi.
Meanwhile, the budding actor would most like to work with Chris Evans, who just wrapped his last film as Captain America.
“I met him, I’ve hung out with him a little bit. [He’s a] great guy, it would just be cool to work with him,” said Sethi.
As for his own childhood, Sethi said he grew up binging Avatar: The Last Airbender.
“I just watched every episode like 20 times. I’m still watching Friends a lot. All the episodes, probably like five or six times now. Everything I watch, I fall in love with. I’m not too picky,” admitted the actor.
Now that his debut feature film, The Jungle Book, has received so much praise, is Sethi worried about living up to the hype in the sequel?
“I haven’t really thought about that,” said Sethi. “Now [that] you’re saying that, maybe yeah, you’re right. Maybe it’s more pressure. We’ll see. I don’t know.”
Until then, he’s happy to meet and greet fans who can still manage to recognise him from the first film.
“Because I look a lot different now, so people don’t really recognise me as much. But they get all crazy and then I get all happy… This is my first movie ever, so it’s exciting,” said Sethi.