After a deeply troubled casting process, Guy Ritchie‘s remake of the 1992 Disney classic Aladdin has finally cast its three leads.
Mena Massoud, a relative unknown of Egyptian descent whose work prior to this has been in TV roles and short films, will play Aladdin. He tweeted that he was “honoured and grateful” to be cast in the film…
…to which Twitter has archly pointed out that the role is a blessed change from those he has been cast in over the last six years.
Playing opposite Massoud as Jasmine is Naomi Scott, recently seen in the reboot of Power Rangers. Scott is half-British and half-Gujarati Indian.
Aladdin‘s casting has been steeped in controversy. The story it is based on has long been associated with the Middle East, although the 1992 cartoon included elements from China, such as Jasmine’s tiger, Rajah. During their presentation at the D23 Expo in Los Angeles this weekend, Disney confirmed that their latest take on the city of Agrabah would continue to use elements from around the world, although this has not gone down as fantastically as they might have hoped.
In June, Tom Hardy had to shut down rumours that he was to play the villainous Jafar following accusations of whitewashing and “tone deaf” casting.
Hardy’s reps told Metro that there was “no truth” to the rumours which had gained heat after a source told The Sun that “there have been conversations” regarding Hardy’s casting, which would mean a white actor playing a Middle Eastern character.
“Guy is a huge fan of Tom’s work and securing him would be a major coup,” the source said. “There have been conversations and, although nothing is set in stone and things are subject to change, he’s certainly one of Guy’s favoured choices.”
This report did not go down well on Twitter, where the atmosphere was very much “how is this happening again?”, in the wake of controversies over Tilda Swinton playing a Tibetan character in Doctor Strange, and Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese character in the live-action remake of Ghost In The Shell – especially given that Disney had specifically said they wanted the casting to be diverse.
Earlier this year, Aladdin producer Dan Lin said that he wants the remake to be “diverse,” and “to make a movie that’s authentic to that world”.
“We’re not here to make Prince of Persia,” he said – a film which cast Jake Gyllenhaal as the Middle Eastern lead.
The film director Lexi Alexander tweeted a link to a story about Ritchie’s apparent plans, and added: “Just for the record, I knew those Aladdin auditions were fake.
“I know a lot of MENA/Asian actors who auditioned for Aladdin. Many I sent myself. I need you to know: it’s not you, it’s white supremacy.”
Lee Madjoub, an actor on Supernatural and Prison Break, tweeted to Alexander that he hadn’t auditioned because producers were “adamant” that auditionees had singing and dancing experience, which Hardy does not.
In 2014, he told reporters that he was struggling with the singing while working on a biopic of Elton John called Rocketman.
Casting rumours for the film, which begins shooting in the UK this summer, had also turned towards Little Mix, with Jade Thirlwall – who is of Yemeni and Egyptian descent – apparently being involved in auditions.
“Jasmine is Jade’s perfect role, so she’s delighted to have got this far in the process. The talks have been going on for some time now,” an insider has said.
Hey ho, maybe another Disney remake’s on the cards Jade.
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