In the days leading up to the D23 Expo 2017 there had been a rumor that casting for Guy Ritchie‘s Aladdin was going through some difficulty. One of the biggest ones was finding the right actor who could act and sing to play the leads. Of course, all those problems seemed to resolve themselves when Egypt-born, Canada-raised Mena Massoud, and Power Rangers‘ Naomi Scott were cast as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. And to top it all off, Will Smith has finally been confirmed as Genie. More on the story below.
The casting was finally confirmed at the D23 Expo 2017 last weekend during Disney’s live-action adaptation portion of the presentation. Though no one was available at the time to talk about what to expect from the film, this was the first time we had heard anything about it since its announcement last year.
Massoud isn’t exactly an unknown, but he isn’t a household name yet either. That could change after the release of Aladdin – depending on if it is a hit or not, of course. But the actor’s credits include Teen Nick’s Open Heart, The CW’s Nikita, and the Canadian series Saving Hope.
Scott is a little bit of a bigger name of the two. While she doesn’t have as many roles as Massoud, having appeared in Fox Television’s short-lived series Terra Nova and Disney Channel’s Lemonade Mouth, she did appear as Kimberly in this year’s reimagining of Power Rangers. She is half-Indian and half-British.
Now I bring up ethnicity because Disney has made a conscious effort to get the casting right, so not whitewashing or race-bending. Considering the backlash that Doctor Strange got for casting a Caucasian as the Ancient One, making sure the actor ethnically reflected the source material was a huge priority for the studio. After already seeing early reactions to a draft of the upcoming Mulan, it’s no surprise they would want to avoid any kind of negativity.
As for Smith, well he has some rather huge shoes to fill. While we know he can be funny, he takes over a role that was once voiced by the late Robin Williams. But much like Smith’s earlier work, he can be animated, and if he can channel a little bit of that into the role, he should be fine. During the presentation, Disney’s president of live-action production Sean Bailey said that Ritchie’s film would combine both the elements from the animated film and 1001 Arabian Nights.
Though King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword was a huge misfire for the director, Ritchie has more than an excellent filmography to prove that he is capable of handling a big budget Disney live-action family film. We’ll just have to keep you posted on the development of the film as more news about it comes in.