All eyes are on Disney as the production studio rolls out live-action versions of their beloved animated classics. One of the most closely watched remakes is the upcoming adaptation of Aladdin to be directed by British filmmaker Guy Ritchie. Last month, Disney announced their official cast, which includes newcomers Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, and Hollywood star Will Smith who will be playing the role of the Genie, which was famously brought to life by the late Robin Williams.
The casting choices have drawn mixed reactions so far. It all began amid claims that Ritchie and the studio were having trouble finding Middle Eastern or Indian leads. The rumor mill then began to spiral downhill, with claims that Tom Hardy was considered for Jafar (a role that eventually went to Dutch-Tunisian actor Marwan Kenzari). While the criticisms were all seemingly put to rest, the Aladdin film is once again receiving backlash over a report that Billy Magnussen will join the cast to play a new character, one that was never seen in the 1992 animated version.
Disney Faces Backlash After Casting Billy Magnussen for ‘Aladdin’ Remake
The Hollywood Reporter announced last Tuesday that Nasim Pedrad and Into the Woods star Billy Magnussen were joining the cast of the upcoming Aladdin remake. Pedrad, who is best known for her work on Saturday Night Live, will be playing Mara, a handmaiden and confidante to Princess Jasmine. Pedrad’s character was met with praise, likely because the original film only had one female character with actual lines, so adding another would help increase the diversity. The fact that Pedrad is of Iranian descent is also a plus.
But the same amount of praise was not given to Disney’s decision to include Magnussen in the cast. Social media users and some sites were upset with Disney for creating a new character solely for the purpose of adding a white actor to the cast. The original Aladdin, despite its success, drew criticism during the time of its release. The movie famously created brown characters but had white actors voice them. The remake could have been a chance for the studio to make up for that. Seeing how Disney is perfectly capable of creating a diverse main cast (think Moana and Marvel’s Black Panther), Magnussen’s addition makes it feel like the studio is taking a step back.
Details about Magnussen’s character have been kept under wraps, but IMDb.com lists his character as Prince Anders, a character vying for Jasmine’s hand in marriage. It may be a little early to tell if Disney is taking the right direction with casting Magnussen or not, but one thing remains certain: the press attention is certainly placing a lot of pressure on the studio.