Why Barry Jenkins decided to direct ‘The Lion King 2’

Gregory Wakeman
·Contributor
·2 min read
Barry Jenkins on directing The Lion King 2 (Credit: Disney)
Barry Jenkins on directing The Lion King 2 (Credit: Disney)

There was a lot of shock amongst film fans when it was announced that Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins was going to direct the prequel to The Lion King.

Having previously written and directed Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, which landed four Academy Awards and seven nominations between them, as well as the critically acclaimed 2008 indie drama Medicine For Melancholy, no-one expected Jenkins would work with the biggest studio in Hollywood, Disney.

Watch: Barry Jenkins to direct live-action Lion King movie

During a recent interview with Variety, Jenkins admitted that even he didn’t think he’d agree to direct The Lion King 2 when his agent sent him the script. “I was very skeptical,” said Jenkins, who found himself asking, “Who am I to make a Lion King movie?”

Read More: 'The Lion King' to get a sequel from 'Moonlight' director Barry Jenkins

But around 40 pages into the screenplay, Jenkins turned to his partner, fellow filmmaker Lulu Wang, and told her, “Holy ****, this is good.” The further he read, the more he stopped thinking, “A filmmaker like you doesn’t make a film like this.” Instead he began to appreciate the story and the characters.

Barry Jenkins arrives at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Britain, February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Barry Jenkins arrives at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Britain, February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Jenkins then sat down with James Laxton, the director of photography who has shot all of his films, to discuss The Lion King 2, who pointed out that there was “something really interesting in this mode of filmmaking.” Something that they haven’t been able to do before, and that many filmmakers never actually get a chance to do, too.

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This convinced Jenkins to go to Disney and say, “I would love to do this, but I’ve got to be able to do what I do.” Disney quickly agreed, while he also pointed out that Chloe Zhao following up the critically acclaimed The Rider with the upcoming Marvel movie The Eternals was further proof he could follow this trajectory, too.