James Earl Jones Won’t Voice Mufasa in ‘The Lion King’ Prequel, Role Recast

Disney’s The Lion King prequel movie will have a new voice coming from Mufasa. The Underground Railroad star Aaron Pierre will voice the character, who was voiced by James Earl Jones in both the original 1994 animated classic and the 2019 remake. The new movie will be directed by Barry Jenkins, the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk.

Production is already underway on the new film, reports Deadline. Kelvin Harrison Jr., who starred in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Waves, will play Taka, the given name of Mufasa’s evil brother Scar. Additional casting is still underway. The movie will be made in the same photorealistic style as the 2019 Jon Favreau film, with a script from Jeff Nathanson. Hans Zimmer is returning to work on the musical score, alongside Pharrell Williams and Succession’s Nicholas Britell. Jenkins’ producing partners Adele Romanski and Mark Ceryak joined as producers.

Aaron Pierre. (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Pierre worked with Jenkins on The Underground Railroad, the director’s acclaimed Amazon Prime miniseries adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s novel. The actor gave one of the many great performances in the 10-episode series, playing Caesar. The British-born actor also starred in SyFy’s Krypton as Dev-Em and played Antonius in Britannia. He also starred in M. Night Shymalan’s Old. He has starred in stage productions of Othello and King Hedley II in London.

Harrison will next be seen in Cyrano, Joe Wright’s upcoming film adaptation of the 2018 musical based on Cyrano de Bergerac. The movie opens on Christmas Day and stars Peter Dinklage in the title role. Harrison also starred in Mudbound, Waves, The Photograph, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. He had a lead role in the first season of Epix’s Godfather of Harlem series.

The Lion King prequel is a major departure for Jenkins, as this will be his first big franchise movie. In a Variety interview with Chloe Zhao, who also just made her first big-budget movie with Marvel’s Eternals, Jenkins said he was impressed with the script. “I read the script and about 40 pages in I turned to Lulu [Wang] and I said, ‘Holy s—, this is good,'” Jenkins recalled. “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.'”

Jenkins later approached James Laxton, the cinematographer who has worked with Jenkins since 2003, about the project. Even Laxton was excited by the idea of taking the project on. “What really pushed me across the line was James, 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,'” Jenkins told Zhao. “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.'” Disney has not set a release date for the Lion King prequel.

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