Disney is currently remaking some of their best-known animated classics as CGI and live-action adaptations and Aladdin is the one that is grabbing the most attention. While the other two Disney adaptations releasing this year – Dumbo and The Lion King – will feature CGI’d animals as main characters, Aladdin’s main cast is all human, making it harder to cast actors who would closely resemble the original animated characters. Nevertheless, Disney has searched far and wide to find the perfect cast to create a more culturally sensitive film than the original.
The main cast is comprised of actors from Arabian, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Southern Asian descents. Aladdin is being played by Mena Massoud who is an Egyptian-Canadian actor. Before this, you may have seen him in the series Jack Ryan as Tarek Kassar. Naomi Scott, a Caucasian-Indian actress, will be portraying Jasmine. She is known for playing the Pink Ranger in the 2017 Power Rangers film and will also be seen in the remake of Charlie’s Angels later this year.
While the lead couple appears to have the same look as the animated film, it’s with the other actors that the filmmakers have decided to experiment. Instead of being an elderly crone like in the original, the villain Jafar is being played by the 36-year-old Dutch-Tunisian actor Marwan Kanzari, who had small roles in The Murder on the Orient Express and The Mummy. Instead of the blue, vaguely-person shaped spirit, Genie now looks more life-like and is being played by Will Smith. From the new special look, it seems like Will Smith won’t be trying to fit into the shoes of Robin Williams who had previously voiced the character. In an interview, director Guy Ritchie mentioned that he was going for a muscular 1970s dad look for Genie and Will Smith confirmed that his Genie will stand out. The actor has taken inspiration for his character from his 1990s roles in Independence Day, Bad Boys, and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Meanwhile, the role of Sultan is being played by an Iranian-American actor Navid Negahban, who has played enigmatic villains in the shows Homeland and Legion. He hasn’t been seen in the trailers yet, but it won’t be a surprise if this Sultan is also quite different from the portly jolly Sultan we know from the animated version.
There is also a new addition – Prince Anders – played by the American actor Billy Magnussen who has previously played a similar role in the musical comedy, Into The Woods. Aladdin’s pet monkey, Abu, is also seen in the new special look trailer and there are rumors that he will be voiced by Frank Welker who had voiced Abu in the animated film. Even Iago is rumored to be voiced by the original voice actor for the character – Gilbert Gottfried – but nothing has been confirmed yet.
Guy Ritchie is known to have a particular style when it comes to directing – thrillers with fast-paced chases, witty humor, and wildly planned heists. With this being a Disney film, it will be interesting to see how his signature style transforms the characters we know. It’s going to be an interesting film but we’ll have to wait and find out whether it’s going to be a blockbuster like the adaptations of The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast.