Mowgli From The Live Action Jungle Book Is Unrecognizable Now

In 2016, the live-action adaptation of "The Jungle Book" took the cinematic world by storm, boasting a stellar cast that included Idris Elba, Bill Murray, and Ben Kingsley as voice actors. Amidst these renowned names, the main character, Mowgli, was brought to life by a relatively unknown talent; the young Neel Sethi, for whom "The Jungle Book" was a feature film debut. In 2023, like many child stars, the young actor, who was 10 when the movie was filmed, is completely unrecognizable.

"The Jungle Book" was immensely successful, grossing a staggering $966 million in global box office revenue off of a $175 million budget according to Global Indian, and marking it as the 40th highest-grossing film ever when it came out in 2016. This type of commercial success is a remarkable feat for a 10-year-old Hollywood beginner. Since his breakout role as Mowgli, Sethi has ventured into various projects, navigating both the world of acting and higher education. The once cherubic face of Mowgli has given way to a new chapter in Sethi's life, marking a captivating journey from a young Hollywood newcomer to a successful actor looking to make his mark on the industry.

Who is Neel Sethi?

Born in New York in 2003 to Indian parents with roots in Gujarat, Neel Sethi is a rising star in the world of acting. The actor made his debut in the 2013 short film "Diwali," a poignant narrative exploring the journey of a young Indian-American boy and themes of identity — an experience that resonates closely with Sethi's background.

Sethi's parents are both dentists, which the actor mentioned in an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live. In addition to his mother and father, Sethi has an older sister whom he looks up to and shares the same taste in music and movies — they're both fans of Chance the Rapper and "Captain America," which Sethi mentioned in an interview with Build Series. Sethi's breakthrough came when he was cast as Mowgli in the live-action adaptation of "The Jungle Book." In interviews, Sethi expressed that he felt he was the perfect fit to play Mowgli because they are the same person. "We're both free-spirited, confident, and stubborn," he told People (via Romper). As Sethi continues to carve his path in the entertainment industry, his early roles and personal attributes set the stage for a promising career, marked by authenticity and a deep connection to his cultural roots.

How Neel Sethi was cast for The Jungle Book

Neel Sethi was chosen from thousands of children for the role of Mowgli, from a search that extended across the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and New Zealand. According to casting director Sarah Finn, Sethi had "the heart, humor, and daring of the character" (via Variety). Finn said that the youngster had "intelligence well beyond his years." Sethi never really thought about acting before this role; it was his dance teacher who recommended that he audition.

Director Jon Favreau, whose son Max Favreau was also in the movie, and Finn were immediately taken by Sethi's confident nature. Favreau commented on how Sethi, not actively pursuing acting, approached the audition with a carefree attitude, unconcerned about failure. In fact, as Sethi told Build Series, he almost missed his first audition because he wanted to keep playing in the park. Sethi's spunky attitude was clear when he started doing martial arts after his audition. "I showed a karate move and I said, 'I don't need no stunt double,'" the child star told ABC News. "And they really, they started laughing."

While Sethi impressed the team with his confidence and karate skills, it was actually his older sister that sealed the deal. According to Favreau, Sethi's whole family came to the auditions. Of his older sister, Favreau said to My Crazy Good Life, "I thought, 'if they raised this one, they're good parents and as he grows up, they'll be able to handle that.'"

How The Jungle Book made Neel Sethi into the actor he is today

As a 10-year-old actor filming his first feature film, "The Jungle Book" must have been an extremely daunting task for Neel Sethi. Sethi was the only live actor in the movie as all of the other characters were CGI-generated and voiced by actors from a sound booth. This proved to be a wonderful challenge for Sethi, however, who learned an immense amount about the acting world. Of Jon Favreau, the director, Sethi told CBC, "I didn't know acting. He taught me everything I know now. He taught me not to overact, to be very subtle."

Sethi had to act against a blue screen most of the time. To help him interact with what would be CGI animals in the final version, Sethi acted with puppets created by the Jim Henson Creature Shop. According to Sethi, however, the most challenging part of filming had nothing to do with the CGI. Describing the discomfort of working with mud, of all things, Sethi recounted, "When it was on me, it had to dry there because of continuity, and then they would spritz it so it gets all wet, with cold water. It was just really itchy," he told People (via Romper). In preparation for his role as Mowgli, Sethi also underwent intensive physical training, including martial arts and parkour. These skills were crucial for managing the demands of the character.

Neel Sethi's most memorable moments from working with an all-star cast

Neel Sethi's journey from a novice to a Hollywood star in "The Jungle Book" exposed him to a wide network of acclaimed actors. Starring alongside Hollywood luminaries like Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Sir Ben Kingsley, and Lupita Nyong'o, there were ample opportunities for impressionable moments. To Sethi, who admitted to Jimmy Kimmel that he knew the faces, but not the names, of stars like Bill Murray, the filming of "The Jungle Book" was an exciting journey of discovery.

One particular experience etched in his memory was a trip to Martha's Vineyard with Bill Murray and director Jon Favreau. Flying on a private jet with Favreau, Sethi recounted the surreal journey where Favreau, a maestro in both filmmaking and culinary arts, spent 14 hours smoking a brisket, including carrying it with him on the airplane. As Sethi explained in an interview with Build Series, the adventure continued when he played football with Murray on Martha's Vineyard while Favreau tended to the brisket. The next day, they all enjoyed lobster rolls, and, as Sethi said in his interview, "Then we record[ed] all the lines — after all that fun." For a young actor who embarked on an unexpected and thrilling ride, these moments with "The Jungle Book" cast became more than just scenes on-screen — they transformed into cherished memories, creating a bond that extended beyond the magic of the movie.

Neel Sethi never thought about acting before The Jungle Book

Neel Sethi had never considered pursuing a career in acting before his somewhat sudden journey to the big screen. In a candid interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Sethi disclosed that the thought of acting had never crossed his mind until "The Jungle Book" opportunity presented itself. Despite his initial lack of interest in the craft, Sethi's experience on set evidently ignited a newfound passion for acting. Expressing his enthusiasm to Kimmel, Sethi revealed that he now aspires to continue acting as he grows older, emphasizing the sheer enjoyment he derives from the craft. Interestingly, before delving into the world of entertainment, Sethi harbored aspirations of following in his parents' footsteps by becoming a dentist.

In 2023, Sethi expanded his acting portfolio with a role in the horror-comedy film "All You Need Is Blood." Moreover, the young actor has expressed his intention to reprise the iconic role of Mowgli in the sequel to "The Jungle Book," a project currently in development at Disney. Sethi's journey from a pre-movie career aspiration of dentistry to embracing the allure of acting showcases the unpredictability and excitement inherent in the entertainment industry.

How The Jungle Book changed Neel Sethi's life

"The Jungle Book" catapulted Neel Sethi from a typical school-going kid to a globetrotting actor living a life far removed from the ordinary. In a candid reflection on his pre-movie life, Sethi expressed how simple things were. "Normal life was going to school, playing with friends," the actor told the Independent. "Sometimes going to the dentist's office where my parents work. Doing homework. I was just a normal kid."

After "The Jungle Book," his life transformed dramatically, leaving behind the familiarity of school corridors and local playdates. Instead, the young actor found himself navigating a whirlwind of premieres, international travel, and encounters with celebrities. Sethi humorously lamented missing visits to his parents' dental office, emphasizing the sacrifices that accompany his newfound stardom. "My life is crazy different now. I'm not in school ... I don't get to see my friends. But I'm in a movie. I'm flying across the world ... So it all balances itself out" (via the Independent).

Through his Instagram posts, Sethi shares his celebrity encounters, revealing a genuine excitement for the opportunities his acting career has unfolded. Selfies with stars like Zendaya, DJ Khaled, and Joe Jonas showcase his enthusiasm for forging new connections. As Sethi revels in the glitz and glamor of premieres and celebrity encounters, his infectious enthusiasm highlights the transformative impact "The Jungle Book" has had on his life, turning it into a thrilling adventure beyond his wildest childhood dreams.

Neel Sethi is proud of his cultural heritage

Neel Sethi, a rising star in Hollywood, proudly embraces his cultural heritage rooted in Indian traditions. Born to Indian parents with ancestral ties to Gujarat, Sethi's connection to his cultural roots is evident in both his personal life and acting career. Despite being a New York native, Sethi's parents instilled a deep appreciation for their Indian heritage. The young actor participated in Indian dance lessons during his childhood. In a Build Series interview, Sethi said that his mother "forced" him to go, but also admitted that the lessons became a source of genuine enjoyment.

His initial foray into acting with the short film "Diwali" reflected the importance of family, tradition, and cultural identity. The film portrayed the experiences of a young Indian-American boy, mirroring Sethi's life journey. Born in 2003, he proudly calls New York City his natural habitat, according to Global Indian. Sethi's acting roles, which center around and celebrate his Indian heritage, mark an important departure in Hollywood from more stereotypical roles for Indian actors.

Neel Sethi is pursuing is higher education

When Neel Sethi was filming "The Jungle Book," he lived the life of a child actor, which meant that he was constantly switching between being on set and going to school. The guidelines for child actors mandated three hours of schooling each day, a process Sethi humorously described as "really annoying" in an interview with Build Series. The young actor recounted how any time he wasn't needed for a scene, he would be whisked off to a room to get at least 20 minutes of learning in.

Despite the challenges of maintaining an on-set education, Sethi's commitment to learning persisted. In a testament to his dedication, he enrolled as a student at Loyola Marymount University. Commencing his academic journey in 2021, Sethi marked the completion of his first semester with a celebratory Instagram post in December 2021, declaring, "Semester 1 is in the books."

As of May 2023, reports from Global Indian indicate that Sethi has successfully obtained his degree in film studies. With this academic milestone behind him, the talented performer is actively exploring new acting opportunities, showcasing a harmonious blend of artistic passion and intellectual pursuits. Sethi's journey exemplifies the possibility of balancing academic endeavors with a flourishing career in the entertainment industry.

Neel Sethi's current and future acting endeavors

Neel Sethi, who seemingly took a hiatus from acting after "The Jungle Book," returned to the silver screen with his latest venture, the 2023 horror-comedy film, "All You Need is Blood." Directed by Grammy-nominated music video director Cooper Robert, the movie follows the intriguing premise of a teen filmmaker crafting a zombie-themed film starring none other than his zombie father.

Sethi has his sights set high; he has repeatedly expressed his desire to act in a superhero movie. With the ambition of joining the ranks of iconic characters like Spiderman, the actor envisions portraying a character that transcends both the DC and Marvel universes, fostering a connection between the two comic book giants. Sethi's passion for superhero roles is not a recent development. Since 2016, he has consistently expressed his admiration for characters like Captain America, the Flash, the Arrow, and Batman, as mentioned in his interview for Build Series. In 2018, Sethi mentioned to Gulf News his dream of starring in a superhero movie, expressing particular interest in working alongside Chris Evans, who recently concluded his iconic run as Captain America. As Sethi aspires to contribute to the superhero cinematic landscape, fans eagerly await the announcement of his next project.

The Jungle Book sequel has been in development for years

Despite the initial enthusiasm and plans for a sequel to the 2016 live-action adaptation of "The Jungle Book," the project has languished in development for years. Neel Sethi, who portrayed Mowgli in the first film, expressed his intentions to return for the sequel back in 2018, revealing to Gulf News, "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."

However, despite the eagerness of the cast and crew, the sequel failed to materialize within the expected timeframe. According to Cinema Blend, Jon Favreau addressed the challenges of working on major projects consecutively, acknowledging the extensive time commitment involved in this work. The director said, "I know having worked on two superhero movies back to back, these take many, many, many years."

The initial fast-track plans for "The Jungle Book 2" encountered a significant detour in 2017 when Favreau shifted his focus to the live-action adaptation of "The Lion King." While details regarding the sequel remain scarce, the project hasn't been abandoned. According to Cinema Blend, screenwriter Justin Marks hinted at potential content, referencing unused material from the original 1967 film. Despite the prolonged delay, all signs suggest that the team remains interested in bringing Mowgli's story to the screen once again. As fans eagerly await further developments, the possibility of "The Jungle Book 2" remains an open-ended cinematic venture.