John Oliver, the host of HBO's popular weekly series Last Week Tonight, has become the latest to join the talented voice cast for Disney's live-action Lion King reboot. The actor will be lending his voice to Zazu, the colorful bird who serves as an adviser to King Mufasa (James Earl Jones). In the original 1994 animated classic, Zazu was voiced by Mr. Bean star Rowan Atkinson, with Jeff Bennett voicing the character in the new animated series The Lion Guard.
The Wrap broke the news of this casting, which comes just a few months after Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner signed on to voice Pumbaa and Timon, respectively. Director Jon Favreau will utilize the same type of technology that brought the photo-realistic animals to life in the filmmaker's 2016 blockbuster The Jungle Book. John Oliver also joins Donald Glover as Simba and the iconic James Earl Jones, reprising his voice role as Mufasa from the original animated movie.
There are still a number of iconic characters yet to be cast in this new Lion King remake, with reports surfacing in late March that claimed Disney was eyeing pop icon Beyonce to lend her voice to Nala, Simba's best friend, but it was never confirmed if she was even interested in the role or not. Other characters that have yet to be cast include Scar, Mufasa's nefarious brother voiced by Jeremy Irons in the original, Sarabi, Mufasa's wife and Simba's mother, voiced by Madge Sinclair in the original, and Rafiki, a wise old mandrill voiced by Robert Guillaume in the original. There were also three hyenas who served under Scar, who were voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings. Jon Favreau has also teased using Lion King virtual reality for this movie, but that has yet to be confirmed.
Jon Favreau is directing from a script by Jeff Nathanson, based on characters created by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton. The Lion King was a box office juggernaut when it hit theaters in 1994, earning $312.8 million in its initial domestic theatrical run, with a $422.7 million domestic total after re-releases, and $968.4 million worldwide, from just a $40 million budget. It still holds the practically-unbreakable record of the highest per-screen average in box office history, earning $1.586 million from just two theaters, for an incredible $793,377 per-screen average. The top seven movies all time in this category are all Disney animated films, with the closest competitor being 1995's Pocahontas, which took in $2.689 million from six theaters, for a $448,285 per-screen average.
While John Oliver has been keeping busy with his HBO weekly talk show Last Week Tonight lately, he is certainly no stranger to animation. He voiced Vanity Smurf in The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2, and he has also lent his voice to animated shows such as Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja, The Simpsons, Robot Chicken, Danger Mouse, Bob's Burgers, Rick & Morty and Gravity Falls. He will also lend his voice to the upcoming animated feature Amusement Park, joining a voice cast that includes Mila Kunis, Jennifer Garner, Jeffrey Tambor, Ken Jeong, Kenan Thompson and original The Lion King voice actor Matthew Broderick.