The internet collectively bowed down when, in November 2017, Disney confirmed that Beyoncé Knowles-Carter had joined the cast of Jon Favreau’s photo-real virtual-production remake of The Lion King. The music icon plays Nala, the childhood friend of Simba (Donald Glover) who re-encounters the exiled prince in adulthood, now as a fully-grown, powerful, unquestionably indomitable lioness.
So, how did Favreau convince a queen to get in formation with this King?
“I’ve got the Beyhive in my house,” chuckles the director, who wasn’t specifically aware that the singer was in play for the role until he reached out to her on a casting whim. “I’ve seen her live and she’s a unique talent, to say the least,” he says. “And when I finally spoke to her after reaching out, although her persona onstage is bigger than life, she’s very down to earth and is very much dedicated to her family and having a life that is human-scale.”
That, Favreau reasons, helps to explain why Knowles-Carter (as she’s being officially credited in the film) agreed to play Nala, which marks her first feature film role since 2013’s animated Epic (and prior to that, 2009’s Obsessed). “I think that part of it is that she’s got young kids, part of it is that it’s a story that feels good for this phase of her life and her career — it’s a very positive story, it’s a classic that a lot of people feel very emotionally invested in — and I think she just really likes the original very much,” says Favreau. “At the end of the day, she’s also an actor and it’s a great bunch of people to work with and a project that I think she felt was going to be special. And then of course, there are these wonderful musical numbers that she can be involved with, and my God… she really lives up to her reputation as far as the beauty of her voice and her talent.”