For Ejiofor, who voices Scar, the overlooked and undervalued brother to King Mufasa in “The Lion King,” joining the voice cast of this animated masterpiece was something he couldn’t turn down. “Scar is such a complicated malevolent character, therefore kind of fun to play,” shares the BAFTA Award–winning actor.
In the classic Disney tale, Scar has long believed that he is the rightful ruler of the Pride Lands— if only his painfully noble brother would simply step aside. When Simba is born, Scar’s dreams fall further from his reach, so the unhappy uncle hatches a plan to dispose of both Mufasa and the new cub with help from his hyena minions.
“There’s nothing mundane about him,” continues Ejiofor. “He wants power. He wants it all. And there’s nothing that he won’t do to get it. He’ll push all of the boundaries and do absolutely anything and everything to get what he wants. And he’s written with slyness, a little twinkle. And that is incredibly interesting and fun to step into.”
With an all-star lineup that includes stars from film, television, theater and music, “The Lion King” stars Donald Glover as future king Simba, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Simba’s friend-turned-love-interest Nala, Alfre Woodard as Simba’s no-nonsense mother Sarabi, Florence Kasumba as Shenzi and James Earl Jones, who as Mufasa reprises his iconic performance from Disney’s 1994 animated classic as Simba’s wise and loving father.
“All of the characters have great arcs,” adds Ejiofor. “There are great heroes, great villains. It’s an amazing story with a real sense of social consciousness at its heart, and these characters actually take you on an extraordinary, complex and emotional journey.”
Directed by Jon Favreau, research took several forms and the filmmakers watched documentaries that captured the migration of animals in Africa with Favreau embarking on a safari in Africa on a two-week safari to scout throughout Kenya and observe the natural environment and animals.
Masai Mara, Kenya, inspired the Pride Lands and filmmakers photographed grasslands, lions, leopards, cheetah, wildebeest, cape buffalos, zebras and antelopes. Chyulu Hills, a mountain range located in southeast Kenya and Challenge Beach was also referenced as well as the geothermals of Dallol, Ethiopia and the Sossusvlei in Namibia’s Namib Desert.
Just as it had 25 years ago, the plot revolves around the misgivings of the royal lion family.
Check out pictures from the premiere attended by the stars from the film including Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, Shahadi Wright Joseph and celebrities Yvette Nicole Brown, Tiffany Haddish, Tracy Morgan, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland.
“The Lion King” roars into theaters July 19.
By Samantha Ofole-Prince