Disney is apparently no longer having a tough time finding an actor to play Aladdin in its live-action rendition of the story. Variety reports that Mena Massoud, a Canadian actor, will play Aladdin; Naomi Scott, of Power Rangers, will play Jasmine; and Will Smith has signed on to play Genie.
The Guy Ritchie directed film allegedly ran into some trouble casting its lead role. The studio, D23, was interested in Dev Patel and Riz Ahmed for the part, but both actors were not cast to the surprise of many. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “finding a male lead in his 20s who can act and sing” and who is also of Middle Eastern or Indian descent was difficult for the production company.
Of the 2,000 actors and actresses who tried out for Aladdin and Jasmine, the production company still couldn’t pin down either role until this announcement (if you tried out for Aladdin, let us know).
It was quickly pointed out that Disney’s predicament wasn’t much of a predicament at all — and more a failure to, I don’t know, search for actors in one of the countries they had hoped to find a native from (ahem, Bollywood).
Maybe they weren’t actually looking, or maybe they hoped to find someone with a little more star power. Either way, people weren’t pleased with Disney’s “difficulty” considering how many people on this planet are of Middle Eastern or Indian descent, can act, and can sing.
Massoud is the “relative newcomer,” THR’s report suggested might get cast as the role. He was born in Egypt but has lived in Canada for the majority of his life. Scott, who will play Jasmine, has an Indian mother and British father — even her casting caught some heat online as many critics hoped an Arab woman would get the role.
Either way, it’s fairly obvious that Disney didn’t want bad press about its so-called casting “difficulty” to spoil the movie’s bounty. Within just a few weeks of the reported problems, they announced Aladdin’s cast.