Via Hollywood Reporter: Trying not to whitewash as they typically do in most Hollywood films, Disney has hit a bit of turbulence in finding stars for its live-action adaption of Aladdin. Finding a “male lead in his 20s who can act and sing has proven difficult.” Especially since the studio wants someone of Middle-Eastern or Indian descent. They launched a global casting call in March and it’s reported that around 2,000 actors and actresses have read for the lead roles of Jasmine and Aladdin.
It was reported that the studio had shown interest in Dev Patel, 27, and Riz Ahmed, 34, for the lead, but preferred it to be a newcomer. Sources say the studio is “eyeing Power Rangers actress Naomi Scott, 24, or Indian actress Tara Sutaria, 21, to play Jasmine, but can’t lock the deal until the male lead has been selected since chemistry is so important to the story.” The Hollywood Reporter already disclosed that Will Smith had signed on to play the Genie, and there has been no word on who will play the role of the villain Jafar.
When there is an entire film industry filled with skilled performers/actors that specializes in singing & dancing, Bollywood; Disney has no excuse for not finding someone to play Jasmine and Aladdin. Many have viewed the news as just a way for Disney to cast non-ethnic actors for the role. In 2010, Disney cast Jake Gyllenhaal to play Dastan in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Datsan in the Prince of Persia video game franchise is of Persian decent.
Aladdin is based on the hit 1992 animated film of the same name, about a street kid who teams with a genie to woo the princess Jasmine. Aladdin was the most successful film of 1992, earning over $217 million in revenue in the United States, and over $504 million worldwide. For many Aladdin is best remembered for Robin Williams portrayal as the wise-cracking Genie.
Disney has found success with adapting it’s animated classics into live-action films over the last few years; Cinderella (2015)), Maleficent (2014) and Beauty and the Beast(2017). As is the case with Aladdin, Disney is also committed to finding culturally appropriate leads for its other live-action feature, Mulan, focusing its casting search in mainland China.
[Updated] It was reported on Saturday (July 15th) that Disney has casted relative newcomer Mena Massoud in the role of Aladdin and Naomi Scott has Jasmine. The announcement came at D23 on Saturday. Scott is best known for playing the role of Kimberly Hart / Pink Ranger in 2017’s Saban’s Power Rangers. Massoud is known by most for playing Tarek Kassar in Amazon TV series Jack Ryan. Aladdin is set to begin shooting in August in London. Disney is currently on the hunt for villain Jafar.