The cast of The Lion King prequel is coming together. Deadline reports that Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Waves, The Trial of the Chicago 7) and Aaron Pierre (The Underground Railroad) have just boarded the voice cast in lead roles. Pierre will be voicing a younger Mufasa, taking over the role from longtime voice actor James Earl Jones, while Harrison Jr. is playing Mufasa's brother Taka, aka Scar.
Directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), the The Lion King prequel will serve as an origin story for Mufasa. Though Jon Favreau isn't returning as director, screenwriter Jeff Nathanson is back to write the script. Like the 2019 reboot, the prequel is described by Disney as "live-action," though what that means in this case is using photorealistic animation technology for the animal characters.
Before Aaron Pierre came into the picture, Mufasa has most often been portrayed by legendary actor James Earl Jones, who debuted in the role in 1994's The Lion King. He'd later reprise the role for the sequel The Lion King II: Simba's Pride in 1998. In 2015, Jones returned to the role for the animated TV movie sequel The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, though Gary Anthony Williams took over the role for the animated series spinoff. Jones came back once again to voice the role for the photorealistic reboot in 2019.
Kelvin Harrison won't be the first person to voice Scar, either. Jeremy Irons originally voiced Scar in the first Lion King movie. The character returned briefly in Simba's Pride with Jim Cummings providing his voice, and David Oyelowo voiced the role for the Lion King series The Lion Guard. In the 2019 remake, Chiwetel Ejiofor played the new incarnation of Scar. With Kelvin Harrison Jr. voicing him in the upcoming movie, the prequel will probably feature the character in his most substantial role yet as such a big part of Mufasa's origin story.
It was no surprise at all to see Disney quickly ordering a sequel after The Lion King remake was released in 2019. With a budget of around $250 million, the movie topped $1.6 billion at the box office. Its visual effects also earned the movie nominations at the Academy Awards and it was also up for Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes. What's interesting is the approach in going with a prequel focusing on Mufasa rather than continuing the story in the future with Simba.
"I read the script and about 40 pages in, I turned to Lulu [Wang] and I said, 'Holy sh*t, this is good,'" director Barry Jenkins told Variety last year. "And as I kept reading, I got further away from the side of my brain that said, 'Oh, a filmmaker like you doesn't make a film like this,' and allowed myself to get to the place where these characters, this story, is amazing. What really pushed me across the line was James [Laxton], my DP, said, 'You know what? There's something really interesting in this mode of filmmaking that we haven't done and that not many people have done.'"
He added: "That was when I went back to the powers that be and said, 'I would love to do this, but I've got to be able to do what I do.' And they said yes!...And knowing that Chloe Zhao [(Eternals)] had gone from one of the most beautiful films of the century with The Rider to making a Marvel movie, I was like, 'Oh, sh*t. If she can do it, I can do it.'"
The voice cast of the 2019 movie included James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Donald Glover as Simba, Alfre Woodard as Sarabi, Billy Eichner as Timon, John Kani as Rafiki, John Oliver as Zazu, and Beyonce as Nala. As Mufasa and Scar have been recast for the prequel, it doesn't appear that any of the other voice actors will return. Additional casting announcements for The Lion King prequel are reportedly coming soon. It's not yet clear when this new movie will be released. This news comes to us from Deadline.