Actor Garry Shandling died just weeks ago on March 24 completely unexpectedly from a heart attack at the age of 66 causing fans to have even higher expectations for his coming posthumous performance in The Jungle Book. Shandling voices porcupine Ikki in The Jungle Book, a small but very memorable part in Jon Favreau‘s live-action film which looks like it will not disappoint.

Favreau was both a friend and a fan of Shandling. They worked together previously in 2010 when Shandling played Senator Stern in Iron Man 2 which Favreau directed. Favreau cited him as both a great talent and a great person.

“He was someone, even when he wasn’t in my movies, who was one of the first people I’d show my work to. He was a genius who knew how to offer advice without bruising you at your most vulnerable moments,” said Favreau to USA Today. “He was just a very generous and thoughtful person.”

And this wasn’t just to Favreau.

“He’s quietly been a mentor to so many people,” explained Favreau. “You’re only seeing it now with the outpouring affection, you’re seeing how many people’s lives he actually touched.”

Favreau also discussed Shandling’s personal connection to the porcupine character which made him want to take this role.

“He tended to want to operate behind the scenes,” said Favreau, “I got him to do this role. I told him it was a porcupine. He thought it implied a certain emotional point-of-view where he was protective, defensive, and scared of hurting others. He brought this really interesting take to this character that wasn’t in the 1967 film, but was actually one of the original characters from Rudyard Kipling.”

Shandling was so invested that he even returned to the studio after he was already finished to really perfect the part. Apparently, he had improvised all the lines initially and then call Favreau again months later.

“[He] says, ‘I’d really like another crack at it,” Favreau told Yahoo Movies. I say, ‘It’s already animated. It’s done. We can’t really change anything at this point.’ In the beginning, I allow for improvisation, overlapping rewrites, and he wrote everything he did. And I say, ‘OK, come on in,’ as a courtesy. He says, ‘I’ll fit in with the lip sync of what’s there. You won’t have to change anything.'”

Ultimately, Favreau is very happy that he agreed to bring Shandling back into the studio.

“He completely plussed up the scene and added more humor. Which is amazing,” said Favreau. “I didn’t know there was that potential.”

This was just weeks before his death. But, Favreau also revealed that Shandling was able to see the completed scenes of the film before he passed. The Jungle Book has been dedicated to him.

The Jungle Book premieres on April 15. As of right now it has a 100% critical rating score on RottenTomatoes.com.

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