Disney cast a net far and wide in the hopes of finding a appropriate and refreshing newcomers to lead its live-action Aladdin, but that’s turning out to be easier said than done. Guy Ritchie signed on to helm the latest in a string of live-action adaptations for the Mouse House last year, with the intent to make a fully fledged musical. With filming set to begin this summer, Ritchie and Co. launched a global casting call in March, aiming to cast a twenty something Aladdin and Jasmine of Middle Eastern or Indian descent with singing and possibly dancing ability. Moreover, they hoped to cast unknowns in the roles and fill out parts like Genie and Jafar with movie stars.
But THR reports that after 2,000 actors and actresses have read for the roles, with casting agents working in London, Egypt, Abu Dhabi, and India, they still have not found their Aladdin. Filming was supposed to begin in July, but that’s been pushed back as the film has brought on La La Land producer Marc Platt and Chris Montan—executive music producer of Disney’s Hercules and Frozen—to consult on the project.
The studio showed interest in Dev Patel and Riz Ahmed for the titular role, but they’re expected to go with a newcomer. They’ve zeroed in on Power Rangers actress Naomi Scott (an English actress of Indian descent) or Indian actress Tara Sutaria for the part of Jasmine, but they’re not making a final decision until they’ve found their Aladdin since the chemistry between the two actors is key.
THR says that in the most recent rounds of testing, actors like Achraf Koutet, Mena Massoud, and George Kosturos were still in the running for Aladdin, but when the last round of testing didn’t go too well, the producers went back and dug through the tapes they’d amassed since March.
All’s well that ends well, and filming has now been pushed back to begin in August, but that’s gonna be a real trial by fire for whoever nabs this part—especially if he’s a newcomer in need of singing, dancing, and acting lessons. Ritchie is a particular filmmaker so no doubt he’s looking for a very specific type, and while it’s frustrating that it’s gone on this long with no results, it’s nice to know that Disney is committed to not just whitewashing this whole thing.
Will Smith is now apparently locked to play Genie, and THR notes that Disney is keen on casting a big name for the villain role of Jafar. After the massive success of Beauty and the Beast earlier this year, Disney no doubt feels bolstered to move into these 90s adaptations full-speed ahead, and indeed they’re juggling multiple plates at the moment. Mulan is currently undergoing its own casting search for its title character, with Disney holding casting calls in China to find the right actress there. And Jon Favreau continues knocking it out of the park in casting his “live-action” The Lion King with Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Seth Rogen, and Billy Eichner set to star and John Oliver most recently joining the cast as Zazu.
Disney’s on one hell of a roll so far, so there’s no reason to doubt them now. But hopefully the casting for Aladdin comes together soon.