J.K. Simmons is going into beast mode in Kung Fu Panda 3.
USA TODAY reveals that Simmons will be voicing the villainous bull Kai in Panda 3 (opening Jan. 29, 2016), as DreamWorks Animation releases its first teaser trailer.
The trailer shows a reunion between Po (Jack Black) and his father, Li (Bryan Cranston). But trouble looms when Kai hits the scene, voiced by the actor who has breathed life into some tough hombres.
That would be Simmons’ Oscar-winning performance as fearsome jazz instructor Fletcher in Whiplash. The even more fearsome Vern Schillinger in Oz. Angry J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man. And so on.
“I’ve played a variety of badasses in my career,” says Simmons, 60. “I do like to mix it up. I like being a character actor playing different kinds of guys. Or, now, different kinds of beasts.”
Kai is the first supernatural villain in the Kung Fu Panda franchise, a paranormal threat to Po and the new set of pandas he has discovered
The baddie also has a serious beef with the kung fu warrior trainer Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and the Furious Five warriors: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Crane (David Cross) and Viper (Lucy Liu).
“Let’s just say Kai has been away. Now that’s he’s back, he’s not happy about life in general,” Simmons says. “One thing he finds when he returns is that pandas make him particularly unhappy.”
Kai has supernaturally strange horns and leather armor, and he uses two jade swords attached to long chains as his unusual but deadly weapon of choice. Simmons is still in the recording studio working with the evolving character.
“You have to find the nature of the beast that Kai is,” Simmons says. “There’s a lot of vocal stuff I’m throwing out there that’s somewhere between dialogue and animal growls when Kai snorts.”