Disney's upcoming live-action Aladdin movie has been riddled with controversy since its announcement in 2016, and this latest update isn't helping the cause.
It is currently being filmed by director Guy Ritchie at Longcross studios in Surrey, which is 30 miles from London. And according to the Sunday Times, Disney called upon 100 white actors to fill in the background roles as they couldn't fill positions for stunt men, dancers and "camel handlers." But the issue that British outlets have latched onto is the fact that these actors are being made up to look darker than they actually are. Kaushal Odedra, who was was a stand in for one of the leads, told the Times he saw up 20 "very fair skinned" actors in line outside of make-up tents "waiting to have their skin darkened."
"Disney are sending out a message that your skin colour, your identity, your life experiences amount to nothing that can be powered on and washed off,” Odedra stated. “On one set, two palace guards came in and I recognized one as a Caucasian actor, but he was now a darkly tanned Arab,” he continued. "I moved inside the marquee where there were 10 extras and two were Caucasian, but they had been heavily tanned to look Middle Eastern."
Disney is claiming that 400 of the 500 background performers are Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean and Asian, but that definitely does not make up for this alleged claim of darkening the skin colors of those other 100 extras. BAFTA-nominated director Riaz Meer also called out the reports, saying it is "an insult to the whole industry." “Failing to hire on-screen talent of the right ethnic identity to meet the clear needs of this production is just plain wrong. We expect better from all filmmakers," he added.
The live-action version of Aladdin will star Mena Massoud in the lead role, Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Will Smith taking on Robin Williams' iconic role as the Genie. It is scheduled to premiere on May 24, 2019.