Julia Sawalha furious after being told she is ‘too old’
Julia Sawalha has said she has been “plucked, stuffed and roasted” after being told that she would not be cast in the forthcoming sequel to the hit Aardman Animation film Chicken Run as her voice sounded “too old”.
In the original film, released in 2000, Sawalha voiced the lead role of Ginger, the plucky hen who inspires her fellow egg-layers to escape from a farm when they are threatened with being turned into pies. News of the development of a sequel first emerged in 2018, and Netflix’s involvement was announced in June. It is due to be directed by Sam Fell (ParaNorman) and start production in 2021.
Sawalha posted a statement on social media saying she was told a week ago that she was not wanted for the sequel. “The reason they gave is that my voice now sounds ‘too old’ and they want a younger actress to reprise the role.”
She added: “Usually in these circumstances, an actress would be given the chance to do a voice test in order to determine the suitability of their pitch and tone, I however was not given this opportunity. I am passionate about my work and I don’t go down without a fight, so I did my own voice test at home and sent it to the producers … However, they stated, ‘We will be going ahead to recast the voice of Ginger.’”
Sawalha’s protest follows reports that Mel Gibson, who voiced the character of daredevil rooster Rocky, would not be involved in the sequel. While Rocky is named as a character in the official plot synopsis for Chicken Run 2, the role is due to be recast. Variety magazine reported that Gibson was told that as “the sequel will revolve around younger chickens, therefore casting younger voice actors” was necessary. The report also claimed that Gibson’s history of controversial behaviour, including an accusation of antisemitic comments by actor Winona Ryder, which Gibson denies, played no part in the recasting.
Sawalha added: “I feel I have been fobbed off with the same excuse … To say I am devastated and furious would be an understatement. I feel totally powerless.”
No official announcements have been made for the Chicken Run 2 cast, but original film cast members Jane Horrocks and Lynn Ferguson have been added to the film’s IMDb page.
Aardman has been contacted for a response.