Downer to direct live-action film

Pathe and the BBC are joining forces to back a $50 million live-action movie based on Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”

Project will be directed by BBC natural-history filmmaker John Downer from a script by Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle. Michelle Fox (“102 Dalmatians”) will produce for Downer’s company.

Downer, whose lion drama-doc “Pride” was nominated for an Emmy in 2004, has pioneered the technique of filming animals in the wild and then using CGI manipulation to make them appear to talk.

He will shoot in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in India and intercut this footage with footage of trained animals shot both on jungle sets in the U.K. and against bluescreens.

Preparation for the film will start in September, with the entire production process taking two years to complete.

Kipling’s “Jungle Books” tell the story of Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves. He’s kidnapped by monkeys and rescued by his animal friends, including Baloo the Bear, Bagheera the panther and Kaa the python. But when it comes to fighting the tiger Sher Khan, Mowgli must do that on his own.

“My ambition is to use pioneering digital and wildlife filming techniques to portray one of the greatest stories of all time just as the author intended — with real live talking animals inhabiting the jungle world of Kipling’s India,” Downer said.

Pathe will distribute the film in the U.K. and France and handle sales in the rest of the world.

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