So there was kind of a big story the other day that there was some difficulty in casting Guy Ritchie‘s live-action adaptation of Aladdin. The difficulty was that Disney was having a hard time finding a young man and woman of Middle Eastern or Indian descent to play the lead roles, even after a worldwide casting search of some 2,000 potentials. Remember that? Well, forget it! As revealed at D23 today, Disney and Ritchie have found their Aladdin and Jasmine.
Canadian actor Mena Massoud, who’s appeared on Canadian television in shows like Combat Hospital, Saving Hope, and King, will play the titular role of the street tough that tries to romance and Arab princess through three wishes from a magical genie, and as the princess will be Naomi Scott, who is perhaps best known as the Pink Ranger in the recently released reboot of Power Rangers. Ritchie, who was in attendance at D23, confirmed that Will Smith will play the Genie in the film. Production is expected to start sometime later this summer, although no release date has been set.
Publicly, this is a fairly big turnaround from Tuesday when it was reported that the production had sought out help to find actors for the roles, especially Aladdin, which was giving producers the most difficulty. One agent told The Hollywood Reporter that “The test process was a mess,” as filmmakers went from “London to Egypt to Abu Dhabi and India” to find their Aladdin. Dev Patel or Riz Ahmed were among the name actors being considered while Scott and Tara Sutaria were the frontrunners for Jasmine. It would seem weird that Disney would leak they’re having problems with casting just days before announcing a cast, so who knows what’s going on behind the scenes…
In the meantime, the next big piece of casting for the movie is Jafar, the royal advisor and villain who was voiced by Jonathan Freeman in the original 1992 animated movie.