Playing Simba brings Donald Glover full circle
Donald Glover says The Lion King helped him remember his late father and connect with his son
The first time Donald Glover saw the original 1994 Disney animated masterpiece The Lion King was with his late dad, when he was 10 years old.
The 35-year-old US actor-musician, who voices the lion cub-turned-king Simba in the photorealistic remake, recalled it was "a big deal" for him then.
He said at our interview at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel: "I think especially that while we were making this, I lost my father, so I feel like it was really helpful for me to go through this from the other side of it."
Glover also confessed to crying after watching The Lion King at the Los Angeles premiere last week.
"I think the more you understand what's happening as you get older, you become more okay with letting it go."
The movie opens here tomorrow. It revolves around Simba, heir to his father Mufasa's (James Earl Jones) throne.
Tricked by his wicked uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) into thinking he caused Mufasa's death, Simba goes into exile and realises only as an adult - and after reuniting with his childhood friend-turned-love interest Nala (Beyonce) - the importance of his identity and the need to reclaim his rightful place.
Glover equates the famous Circle Of Life song to taking his own three-year-old son to watch the new version. He has another boy, aged one.
SURPRISE FOR SON
"He already knew Beyonce was in the movie, but he didn't know I was in the movie. I just let him watch it and then I came out and started singing and he was realising it and it was awesome."
The death of Glover's father last December makes him appreciate fatherhood more.
"The older I get, I realise there's a love there I can never really match because it's longer and bigger than me. I'm trying to catch up. And my son, if I do the right thing, it's the same thing. So it was just a beautiful moment. I felt very blessed just to have shared it that way."
Director Jon Favreau offered Glover the role when the two met at a Hollywood function.
He said: "I immediately felt like it was a yes because he did such a good job on The Jungle Book, which is one of my favourites. It didn't feel like he was remaking it for the remake's sake. It felt like this was a story that needed to be told."
He continued: "I think the story is such a beautiful way of showing how permanence is not the point. The point is to be here and to be responsible for and love each other.
"Traumatic things will happen. The point is not to allow that to consume your entire life. You can grow and learn from that experience."
Elton John and Tim Rice's original music is featured again in The Lion King, while Hans Zimmer redid his original score.
Glover was working on last year's Solo: A Star Wars Story in London when he recorded his songs with Beyonce at the famed Abbey Road Studios.
"It was awesome, it was the highlight. She was getting ready for Coachella, so we couldn't really get together. It was a lot more organic than usually what it is. Most of the time in music when you're collaborating, it's just, here's her verse and here's my verse and boom, that's it.
"I recorded it multiple times. I recorded some at Abbey's, sometimes I went to my studio, tried some with Hans at his studio. So it was just a back and forth, but we didn't actually get to be in the same room because we were so busy."
The first time Glover met Beyonce was backstage at her US rapper-husband Jay-Z's concert. "We hadn't done anything yet but we had just got (The Lion King gig) and we were talking about it. She was really sweet. The energy just changes whenever she's in the room," he said.
"I think once you get that big you kind of have control over that kind of feeling. I felt very at home but also very regal. She's really cool."
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.