Will Smith will play the Genie in Guy Ritchie's live-action Aladdin remake
Disney just announced the cast of its upcoming Aladdin remake, and Will Smith, previously reported as being in talks for the part, was confirmed as the new Genie, stepping into one of the late, great Robin Williams' signature roles. Princess Jasmine will be played by Naomi Scott, a 24-year-old Brit best known for her turn as the Pink Ranger in March's Power Rangers, and newcomer Mena Massoud will play the title role.
The announcement comes days after a story in The Hollywood Reporter suggested that Disney was struggling to cast its Aladdin, citing the challenge of finding an Indian or Middle Eastern actor who "can act and sing"—a somewhat bizarre assertion given the fact that India alone is the second most populated country on the planet and is home to Bollywood, which manages to cast actors for dozens of musicals every year.
Smith as Genie kind of makes sense—the lovable 4th-wall-winking trickster is something along the lines of a magically-imbued Fresh Prince. Still, Smith will have his work cut out for him if he wants to fill Williams' enormous and much-beloved shoes. Disney's decision to enlist Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels' Guy Ritchie to direct remains just as mystifying as ever.
But arriving on the back of the studio's string of live-action mega-hits like The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, the almost-guaranteed box office success of Aladdin could be just what Ritchie needs. His latest film, this year's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, was a critical bomb that cost Warner Bros. a reputed $150 million.