Jon Favreau Reveals Beyoncé Wrote New Song for The Lion King
Fandango: Beyoncé is obviously a big deal for this movie.
Jon Favreau: Yes.
Fandango: I read that you wanted her involved so bad you were willing to work around her schedule. Did you have to coordinate much in that regard?
Jon Favreau: Sure, she's very busy. She's doing a lot. She was directing Homecoming, making Lemonade, her family got larger while we were working together. And between touring and albums, she really has a prolific career in many areas. She's an artist and a singer and a performer and very involved. She has a lot of things going on. But she's incredibly engaged and committed, and so what was wonderful was that when we did get together to work, she was exceptional, as you can imagine in her performance, but also really gives everything a lot of thought. She's very hard-working and puts a lot of thought into things, and would often be so extremely well-prepared that she was clearly working on a lot on this even when we weren't together.
Fandango: Did you lose your mind when you got the call that she was definitely in?
Jon Favreau: I was pretty stoked because I knew my stock was going to rise in my home . Dad got cool for about a week there because my daughters and my wife are huge fans and I was introduced to her music through them, and so it felt exciting. And then, you remember, this was about three years ago, and so really understanding who she is and what she represents to so many people and the fact that she's collaborating with me on this really helps differentiate it from previous productions. It helps give this production its own personality, because she's such an important figure and her musical interpretation is seen as something that people welcome.
Much like in the tradition of the stage production, when you have a new cast to a classic piece, part of the fun is seeing how talented people of each generation reinterpret established material. Hearing her sing "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” was definitely extremely memorable and all of us just listened to it over and over. And she sings the duet with Donald Glover, who is an incredible talent as well, not only comedically, but also musically. So to hear the two of them together singing this classic song with so much personality and emotion, we felt really confident that people are going to be excited when they heard this.
Fandango: Is Nala a bigger character this time as a result?
Jon Favreau: Yeah. In the original film, her role is not as large as in the stage production, and we definitely drew inspiration, and that was one of the areas where we were going to expand this. There's an opportunity to build upon especially the female characters of Sarabi played by Alfre Woodard and Nala played by Beyoncé that the stage play explores further. It has a lot more time to do so than the original film. That was an area that we could build upon the original.
Fandango: Is her new song still the only new song?
Jon Favreau: Yeah, it doesn't replace anything. We have all the original songs, but there's a song that she performed and wrote in the spirit of the production along with working with Lebo M., who's part of it with Hans Zimmer. They were all collaborating with her and helping to bring this new piece of music into a film where there's already a very established musical personality to the piece. So it was nice of them to have them working with her to allow the new song to feel organically a part of the new production.