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Benedict Cumberbatch Joins 'Jungle Book' for Warner Bros. (Exclusive)

The actor will earn his stripes with a villainous lead role

Benedict Cumberbatch Comic Con - H 2014
AP Images/Invision

Warner Bros.’ adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book has landed its first voice lead, and it’s elementary.

Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan, the man-eating tiger who is the villain of the classic tale of a boy named Mowgli who is raised by jungle animals.

Andy Serkis, the motion capture king after pioneering motion capture with such roles as Gollum and Caesar, is making his directorial debut with the movie,

Jungle Book is based on the more-dark-than-you-think short stories written by Kipling and centers on Mowgli, an orphaned boy raised by wolves who befriends Baloo the bear and Bagheera the black panther. The tiger Shere Khan is a lifelong enemy of Mowgli’s, with each vowing to slay the other.

Callie Kloves wrote the script. Her father, Steve Kloves of Harry Potter fame, is producing.

Warners’ Jungle Book is competing against Disney’s adaptation, which is fully cast with Jon Favreau directing. Idris Elba is voicing Shere Kahn in that version.

Cumberbatch, who is up for an Emmy next week for his work on Sherlock, appeared with Serkis in The Hobbit movies. Serkis directed second unit for Peter Jackson’s trilogy adaptation and also appeared as Gollum while Cumberbatch did voice and motion capture work as the dastardly dragon Smaug.

Cumberbatch next portrays code breaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, the period drama that will unspool at next month’s Toronto International Film Festival.

He is repped by UTA and UK’s Conway van Gelder Grant.