Twelve-year-old Neel Sethi plays the lead role in Disney's live-action version of the classic story

By Jessica Fecteau
Updated February 03, 2016 09:40 AM
Advertisement

Out of thousands of hopefuls auditioning for the lead role as Mowgli in Disney’s live-animation adaptation of 1967’s The Jungle Book, 12-year-old Neel Sethi seamlessly claimed the spot.

The New York native told PEOPLE in this week’s issue that he just “went with his gut” in his first audition ever.

“I was just being myself,” Sethi says. “Me and Mowgli are so similar. We’re both free-spirited, confident and stubborn.”

The Jungle Book

reboot, which was directed by Jon Favreau, features familiar stars like Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Ben Kingsley, but as the voices of the animated creatures alongside Sethi.

And fans can get a longer look at The Jungle Book in a special Super Bowl ad airing Sunday.

“I met Bill Murray and Ben Kingsley – that was really fun,” Sethi says. “We played football together. And we had a really awesome experience since it’s my favorite sport. Bill can, like, bomb it [and toss long passes].”

But the hardest part of the film wasn’t shooting scenes with computer-generated imagery by himself.

For Sethi, it was the mud.

For much more on The Jungle Book, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

“I’m not a big mud fan. So when it was on me, it had to dry there because of continuity, and then they would spritz it so it gets all wet, with cold water,” he says. “It was just really itchy. I tried to rub it off.”

The Jungle Book arrives in theaters April 15.