The circle of life moves us all — including Jon Favreau. The actor-filmmaker, who has directed such massive hits as Elf and Iron Man 2, is currently working on Disney’s live-action remake of the 1994 classic The Lion King. And as he told Scarlett Johansson during a Friday, April 21, Q&A at the Tribeca Film Festival, he’s taking that responsibility very seriously.
“When you’re directing, you have to love [what you’re making]. You have to love it to the point of obsession,” he told Johansson at New York City’s School of Visual Arts Theatre, according to Entertainment Weekly. “I have to live, breathe, sleep it, dream it. If I’m going to do my best work, I need to be completely immersed.”
That’s especially true “with the Disney stuff,” he continued. “With Lion King, people really know [the original], and they grew up with it and it has emotional impact.”
Favreau, who also directed 2016’s live-action version of The Jungle Book, said he thinks about what he remembers of those movies — specific images like the snake’s eyes and Mowgli riding Baloo down the river. “I made a big list, and those are the images we definitely needed,” he explained to Johansson, who has acted in several of Favreau’s films, including Iron Man 2, Chef and The Jungle Book.
“The Jungle Book was 50 years ago, Lion King was 20, and people grew up with it in an age of video where they watched it over and over again,” he added. “So, I have to really examine all of those plot points. Also, the myths are very strong in it, so you’re hitting something even deeper than the movie sometimes. What I’m trying to do is honor what was there… There are certain expectations people have.”
In that way, it’s a little like preparing for a live show as a famous musician. You can perform new songs, but fans want to hear the classics too.
“I think about when Prince played halftime at the Super Bowl,” Favreau told Johansson. “There was more entertainment packed into that because he hit every song you wanted to hear and he did it the way you remember it or better… To me, it’s like you’re doing a big DJ set for the audience. It’s about the audience having the experience they’re hoping they have, and if you can surprise them along the way, they’ll enjoy it even more, but you gotta live up to what [people] want.”
Favreau is working hard to live up to people’s expectations. He previously tweeted that Donald Glover and James Earl Jones would voice Simba and Mufasa, respectively.