Back in March, Disney posted the global casting call for the upcoming live-action remake of Aladdin. The studio was looking for its two leads in the musical, based on the 1992 animated movie. The notice called for actors aged 18-25, with the ability to sing (dance experience a plus), to play the Middle Eastern characters (thought it did not specify that the actors had to be Middle Eastern). According to a new report from The Hollywood Reporter, it's been a much harder process than anyone imagined. Four months later, they still haven't found their stars, and filming has been pushed from July to August.
THR writes that Disney, director Guy Ritchie, and the casting directors have been scouring the globe (including India, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, and London) for the right man and woman — auditioning about 2,000 different actors for the co-leads. The search for Aladdin has been especially challenging. As THR says, "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."
Among the contenders for Aladdin are two big names: Lion star Dev Patel, 27, and The Night Of's Riz Ahmed, 34. Personally, I think they'd both be fabulous. But apparently the studio wants a fresh face for the role, which explains the wide and thorough search for the right guy. They reportedly have their eyes on several newcomers.
And until they cast Aladdin, they can't cast Jasmine, as the co-stars must have onscreen chemistry together. Sources tell THR that Indian actress Tara Sutaria, 21, and British actress Naomi Scott, 24 — whose mother is of Indian descent — are in the running. Little Mix's Jade Thirlwall, who is of Yemeni and Egyptian descent, has also reportedly been in talks to sign onto the role.
There are also no official announcements for the other two main characters, The Genie and Jafar. Will Smith's name has come up several times to play The Genie, but nothing's been confirmed. As for Jafar, the internet clapped back at the rumour that white actor Tom Hardy would take on the role of the villain — but it's not clear who else is a contender.
Considering the classic story and blockbuster potential of the new Aladdin, it's not surprising that Disney is taking their time to find just the right stars — and it's encouraging to hear that they're dedicated to finding somebody of Middle-Eastern or Indian descent, as opposed to whitewashing the iconic roles. And as we all know, casting can make or break a film; it's best to get it right the first time.