Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Remake Is Facing Backlash for Casting a Non-Arab Actress as Jasmine
To find the cast for its upcoming live-action reboot of the 1992 animated classic Aladdin, Disney and director Guy Ritchie reportedly undertook a months-long, worldwide search with an estimated 2,000 actors reading for the lead roles of Jasmine and Aladdin.
And after all that buildup, fans are still finding fault in the studio’s picks. Disney is catching some blowback for casting a non-Arab actress to play Jasmine.
Naomi Scott, who starred in this year’s Power Rangers film, landed the role alongside Mena Massoud as Aladdin, and Will Smith as Genie. Scott is of British and Indian heritage and some critics of the decision see it as a suggestion by Disney that women of Indian and Middle Eastern heritage look the same. Massoud is of Egyptian descent.
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To be clear, Aladdin—the story of a rough-and-tumble kid from the streets who enlists a genie to win the love of Princess Jasmine—is set in fictional Agrabah, but it’s largely seen as representing a Middle Eastern city.
One critic of the decision said it was one more instance of Hollywood believing that “brown [people] are interchangeable,” while another said fans are “upset that their representation was taken away, and rightly so.”
Disney did not return Fortune‘s request for comment for this story.
The stakes for the casting—and film overall—are high as the live-action adaptation of beloved animated films has become a key strategy for Disney. Its remake of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson as Belle, for instance, was a booming success, breaking records with a $170 million debut earlier this year and garnering $1.3 billion worldwide.
Now that its Aladdin cast is locked in, anticipation is building for whom Disney will select as leads for another upcoming live-action feature, Mulan. Its casting search for that movie is focused on mainland China.