The cast of Disney’s live-action remake 'Aladdin' made a stop in Jordan to promote the film on May 13 morning, ahead of the its release in the UAE on May 23.
The large-scale production is directed by Guy Ritchie ('Snatch',' Sherlock Holmes') and stars Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud in the titular role of Aladdin, British-Indian actress Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine and Will Smith as the wish-granting Genie, a role famously voiced by Robin Williams in the original animation.
The live-action musical fantasy recreates Disney’s 1992 film, which at time of release was the first animated feature to hit the $500 million mark at the box office. It was also the highest-grossing animated film of all time until 'The Lion King' (1994) released two years later.
The updated film called upon regional consultants to ensure a more inclusive representation of the Middle East and the broader region.
“For me, when I came into it, that was one of things I was concerned about in my first meeting with Guy. It had to be a love letter to the region ... Guy was absolutely of the same mind,” said Smith.
‘Aladdin’ follows a young street urchin and his thieving monkey Abu, who come across a magical grant-wishing lamp. Meanwhile, Aladdin must find a way to win the hand of Princess Jasmine of Agrabah, who can only marry a prince.
Ritchie searched for months to find the principal cast, with much importance placed on finding an actor of Middle Eastern descent to play Aladdin. Lead stars Massoud and Scott’s charisma and chemistry won them the coveted roles.
Massoud, who had previously appeared on shows such as 'Open Heart' and 'Jack Ryan', finds himself for the first time a leading man in a major production.
“Everybody around the world, including little boys in Egypt, grew up watching Will [Smith] — me and the boys would often get together and we’d watch 'Bad Boys' or 'Independence Day'; his films are iconic. Guy, as well, has created some of the biggest action films ever made. So it’s a dream come true,” said the 27-year-old actor, of performing in front of Hollywood royalty.
Scott, meanwhile, spoke of the impact of adding a new woman character to the film for Jasmine to lean on: Dalia, the princess’ handmaiden and confidante, played by Iranian-American actress Nasim Pedrad.
“Growing up watching Princess Jasmine, there’s such a power in seeing yourself in a character, especially when you’re 7 years old,” said 26-year-old singer and actress Scott, who is of British and Gujarati Indian descent.
“I think it’s so important that Jasmine has another female energy to bounce off of. As much as we love Rajah [Jasmine’s protective companion] — guys, Rajah is a tiger, and there’s only so much interaction you can have with a tiger,” she added.
Smith brings his own hip-hop flare and background as a recording artist into the revival of Genie, who he was able to connect with on a personal level.
He called the role a culmination of his 30 years of experience in the industry.
“When I look at what the Genie represents ... it really is the definition of unconditional love ... [But] it hurts really badly when people take the wishes and take the gifts and misuse them. It was such a wonderful energy for me to play with, because that’s what I’m seeking in my life right now. I want to be able to give my gifts, but I hope that they’ll be received well and that they bring love and light into peoples lives,” said Smith.
The film shot partially in Jordan’s desert landscapes, including the iconic Wadi Rum, and studios in England. It was supported by the Royal Film Commission Jordan (RFC) and employed 150 members from the RFC.