Julia Sawalha has revealed she will not be reprising the lead role of Ginger in Chicken Run 2 and claims she was dismissed because her voice sounds “too old”.
Sawalha voiced the lead fowl Ginger in the classic tale of chickens planning their escape from a farm, before they can be slaughtered and turned into pies.
A sequel was recently confirmed by studio Aardman Animations, in partnership with Netflix — 20 years after the first movie was released.
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In a statement posted to social media, Sawalha wrote that she believes she was “unfairly dismissed” from the new movie after having proved her voice has not significantly changed.
The 51-year-old actor released a video comparing her delivery of Ginger’s lines in the original movie from 2000 with newly recorded readings.
— Julia Sawalha (@JuliaSawalha1) July 9, 2020
Sawalha claimed she was informed “out of the blue” by her agent that she would not be asked back and that she later received a letter from one of the creatives involved in the project, confirming their plans to recast the role.
She wrote: “To say I am devastated and furious would be an understatement.
“I feel totally powerless, something in all of this doesn’t quite ring true. I trust my instincts and they are waving red flags.
“I am saddened that I have lost the chance to work with Nick Park and Peter Lord from whom I learnt so much. The three of us, together, created Ginger.”
The Absolutely Fabulous star concluded by wishing those involved “the best of luck and the greatest success” with the movie.
It has already been revealed that Sawalha’s co-lead Mel Gibson is unlikely to reprise his voice role as free-spirited rooster Rocky.
Sawalha said age was given as the reason for Gibson’s recasting too and she believes she was “fobbed off with the same excuse”.
At this point, it’s not clear whether other original cast members including Imelda Staunton, Jane Horrocks and Timothy Spall will be asked back for the sequel.
A sequel to Chicken Run has been top of many people’s wish lists for years and the original film was a hit, bringing in $225m (£180m) worldwide from a modest $45m (£36m) budget.
The new movie has been teased as a riff on Mission: Impossible, following on from the first film’s homage to The Great Escape.
This time around, the gang are “breaking in” as they put their human-free existence at risk in response to a threat to other chickens.
Director Sam Fell told Variety: “I tell you it will be fun and games seeing these chickens back in action.
“All the gadgets, the kit, we’re kind of moving towards an almost-tribute to Mission: Impossible with elements of heist and how they’re going to pull off this amazing break-in.”
Production on Chicken Run 2 is expected to begin in 2021, with no release date announced thus far.
Aardman Animations has been approached for comment.