Beverly Hills, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — The pressure was on for young actors Shahadi Wright Joseph and JD McCrary when they got word that they'd been cast as the voices of young Nala and young Simba in "The Lion King." Not only was it an ambitious remake of an iconic film, but it was their first major Hollywood project.
Then they found out that their characters adult voices would be done by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Donald Glover, and it took "just waiting to be king" to a whole new level.
But director Jon Favreau was confident that they could fill the "big shoes" of their adult voices for the film, which opens nationwide Thursday evening. Fourteen-year-old Shahadi, for one, had a pretty big advantage: At age 8, she played young Nala in the Broadway production. In fact, casting director Sarah Finn submitted only her name to be considered. Favreau was on board.
"She understood the role, she understood the music and she's got an incredibly powerful Broadway voice," Favreau said. "She's just this very unique talent."
JD, 11, was less of an obvious choice. He didn't have much of a resume in film work. Finn, who had helped find Neel Sethi for "The Jungle Book" years ago, had to cast a wide net to find her young Simba, from seasoned veterans to open call unknowns. Favreau said JD broke through as the front-runner when he saw YouTube videos of him singing.
"He definitely had the right voice and a lot of personality as well," Favreau said. "He was somebody who was really interpreting songs and putting a lot of personality into it."
Then, as the filmmakers were getting ready to make the then-8-year-old JD an offer, they learned that he'd just collaborated with Glover on the Childish Gambino song "Terrified."
"Donald definitely vouched for JD and said he was great," Favreau said. "I felt there was something pre-ordained about (it)."
JD said getting that call was, "One of the biggest moments of my life."
The two young actors had the benefit of being able to record together in the studio, which doesn't often happen for animated films. It allowed them to riff and play off of one another's personalities.
"I feel like if I didn't work with JD we wouldn't have that chemistry on the screen," Shahadi said. "It would have been mindless actors just saying the lines and not actually feeling them."
She found it particularly liberating to be able to mess up and improvise in the studio. It was a stark contrast to performing for a live audience on Broadway, where she said you "cannot make a mistake."
Favreau also made sure that the young actors had a sense of the world they were inhabiting through a Virtual Reality demo that allowed them to see Pride Rock and the rest of the settings.
"The VR was really cool," McCrary said. "It was like your first sneak peek, but you were in it, you could feel it."
It's been three years since Shahadi and JD were cast, which for kids at that age can feel like a lifetime of waiting. But they've been busy. Both worked in other films released this year. Shahadi played the daughter of Lupita Nyong'o in Jordan Peele's "Us," and JD appeared in "Little" alongside Marsai Martin.
On the day after the world premiere in Los Angeles, both were riding high from finally seeing the movie on screen with a receptive audience, many of whom could be heard crying at key parts.
"I made a lot of people cry," JD said proudly.
And then of course there is the fun of being in proximity to so many stars.
"It was awesome! So cool!" JD said, nearly jumping out of his seat with excitement. "I was backstage with Chance the Rapper, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Blue Ivy, Donald Glover, everybody!"
Shahadi said she was still recovering from meeting Beyoncé for the first time.
As for what's next, both are looking forward to more acting roles, and they even have a suggestion for the next one.
"I want to re-do 'The Wiz,'" JD said. He'd play the Scarecrow and Shahadi would be Dorothy.
"That would be dope," he said.
Beijing, July 16 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Disney's live-action remake of its classic animated film "The Lion King" continued to lead the Chinese mainland box office for a forth day after hitting the big screen Friday, according to China Movie Data Information Network Tuesday.
The ambitious blockbuster filled with computer-generated imagery (CGI) spectacles grossed 48.95 million yuan (7.12 million U.S. dollars) on Monday, with its total box office income adding up to 421 million yuan.
"The White Storm 2: Drug Lords," sequel to the 2013 crime action film "The White Storm," took second place with a daily box office revenue of 41.39 million yuan, with its total box office drawing closer to 1 billion yuan.
Coming in third is domestic film "Looking Up," which grossed about 17.56 million yuan in presale.
Dhaka, July 15 (UNB)- Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame is closer than ever to beating Avatar at the worldwide box office. According to Variety, it is now just 7.16 million dollars behind the James Cameron film, reports The Indian Express.
While Endgame has earned 2.780 billion dollars worldwide, Avatar ended its box office run at 2.788 billion dollars.
Avengers: Endgame was recently re-released to promote Spider-Man: Far From Home. Marvel Studios bundled six minutes worth of new content to lure moviegoers to theaters.
Endgame wrapped up the 22-film Infinity Saga within the Marvel Cinematic Universe that began with Iron Man in 2008. The film also teased the future of MCU towards the end.
Avengers: Endgame received highly positive reviews. It earned a 94 per cent score at Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus reads, “Exciting, entertaining, and emotionally impactful, Avengers: Endgame does whatever it takes to deliver a satisfying finale to Marvel’s epic Infinity Saga.”
The Indian Express film critic Shalini Langer gave the film four-and-a-half stars. Shalini wrote, “Starting with Downey Jr and Evans, the actors put their heart and soul into the goings-on, even when the film gets incredulous over its 3-hour-plus length and sags, like in Infinity War, in the real bang-for-the-buck bits. However, the clear winner hands down is Hemsworth as Thor, now with straggly hair and a paunch, who has let himself go in the years following Thanos’s destruction of the world, wallowing in self-pity and beer.”
She added, “Hemsworth has time and again proved that he is the actor with the best comic touch here (forgive us thou Chris Pratt fans), and it is to him that the best line of the film is devoted — when Thor, top undressed and trousers hanging below his bulging stomach, demands to know what is wrong with how he looks, Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) says, “You look like melted ice-cream.”
Dhaka, July 15 (UNB) - The Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno says he cannot take Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of Marvel superhero the Hulk “seriously”, reports The Indian Express,
Ferrigno portrayed the green-skinned alter-ego of Dr David Banner (Bill Bixby) in 1978 CBS television series The Incredible Hulk.
He said Ruffalo is great actor but his version of Bruce Banner in Marvel Cinematic Universe is not his favourite, reported Comicbook.com.
“Mark is a wonderful actor. But we’ve had three different actors. We’ve had Eric Bana, Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo. I like Bill Bixby the best, I like Edward Norton. But Ruffalo I think he’s a wonderful actor, he blends in with the Marvel aspect of the Avengers but I can’t take him seriously enough,” Ferrigno said at Montreal Comiccon.
“Bill has that intensity, and you knew that when he was in danger, you could feel that intensity. But because of Marvel and Disney, they’ve taken a different direction. You can’t take it as seriously as the original series,” he added.
Ruffalo, who first essayed the part in The Avengers (2012), has reprised the role in Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame.
Los Angeles, July 15 (AP/UNB) — "Spider-Man: Far From Home" is celebrating another weekend at No. 1, but non-franchise fare continues to struggle at the box office. Fresh studio-released counterprograming such as the horror movie "Crawl" and the action-comedy "Stuber" barely made a dent in the web-slinger's earnings, although there is a glimmer of hope in the independent world.
The "Spider-Man" sequel added $45.3 million in its second weekend, down only 51% according to studio estimates Sunday, bringing its domestic total to $274.5 million. Globally, Sony Pictures' "Far From Home" has already grossed $847 million.
Disney and Pixar's "Toy Story 4" landed in second place with $20.7 million in its fourth weekend in theaters. It's now earned $346.4 million from North American theaters.
But while the well-reviewed franchises are thriving, original newcomers are facing an uphill battle in wide-release.
"Crawl," a thriller from Paramount Pictures, debuted in third with an estimated $12 million against a reported $13.5 million budget. Directed by Alexandre Aja, "Crawl" stars Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario as a father and daughter trapped in their home with a bunch of angry alligators during a hurricane. The R-rated pic has been was not screened for critics in advance, which usually signals a dud, but it has been surprisingly well-received by critics since opening. It's currently 88% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Uber comedy "Stuber" got off to a bumpier start with an estimated $8 million from over 3,000 North American locations. The R-rated Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista film cost a reported $16 million to produce and has not inspired the best reviews (it's resting at a rotten 46. It's the latest Fox film to be released by Disney.
"People always complain about the lack of original offerings from the studios especially during the summer but this summer in particular it seems like audiences are turning their backs on these films," observed Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "It's a real head-scratcher in a way as to why some of these films aren't doing well."
Universal's Beatles-themed rom-com "Yesterday" rounded out the top five in weekend three with $6.8 million.
Dergarabedian said that it's never a good thing for the box office when week after week the top movies are holdovers.
"That means newcomers are not making inroads," he said. "You want audiences every weekend to be excited about a new film."
That lack of enthusiasm is showing in the overall industry numbers. The weekend is down nearly 26% and the year is still around 9%, although Disney's blockbuster-in-the-making "The Lion King" is on the horizon. The photorealistic remake of Disney's animated classic opened this weekend in China ahead of its North American debut and made an estimated $54.7 million.
Although the big new releases failed to light the box office on fire, the independent film scene was thriving with myriad of options.
Among the most notable is Lulu Wang's family drama "The Farewell," which currently has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Awkwafina-led film opened in four locations to $351,330 for a massive $87,833 per theater average. It's expanding to more cities in the coming weeks.
The dark Jesse Eisenberg comedy "The Art of Self Defense" opened in seven locations to $121,080, and the Marc Maron-led "Sword of Trust" debuted in two locations with $22,512. Documentaries, such as "Maiden," ''Pavarotti" and "Echo in the Canyon" also continue to find audiences in limited release.
"If you're an independent movie fan, this is your weekend," Dergarabedian said. "The diversity of films is just staggering."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1."Spider-Man: Far From Home," $45.3 million ($100 million international).
2."Toy Story 4," $20.7 million ($48.1 million international).
3."Crawl," $12 million ($4.8 million international).
4."Stuber," $8 million ($3 million international).
5."Yesterday," $6.8 million ($7.8 million international).
6."Aladdin," $5.9 million ($14.6 million international).
7."Annabelle Comes Home," $5.6 million ($18.1 million international).
8."Midsommar," $3.6 million ($766,000 international).
9."The Secret Life of Pets 2," $3.1 million ($14.6 million).
10."Men in Black: International," $2.2 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:
1. "Spider-Man: Far From Home," $100 million.
2. "The Lion King," $54.7 million.
3. "Toy Story 4," $48.1 million.
4. "White Storm 2: The Drug Lords," $33.6 million.
5. "Annabelle Comes Home," $18.1 million.
6. "Aladdin" and "The Secret Life of Pets 2," $14.6 million.
7. "Yesterday," $7.8 million.
8. "Crawl," $4.8 million.
9. "Fate/Stay Night: Heaven's Feel - II. Lost Butterfly," $3.5 million.
10. "Stuber," $3 million.