After some reported difficulties early on, the casting on Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake of Disney animated favourite ‘Aladdin’ seems to be coming together at last.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marwan Kenzari is in talks to play the villain of the piece, the ambitious and duplicitous sorcerer Jafar. (So we can forget all that talk about Tom Hardy and fears of yet another whitewashing controversy.)
Kenzari will join the previously announced Mena Massoud as the titular street rat-turned-hero Aladdin, Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, and of course the rather better known Will Smith as the all-important Genie, charged with the daunting task of matching the madcap energy the late Robin Williams brought to the role in the original 1992 hit.
34-year old Dutch actor Kenzari has previously appeared in such films as ‘The Promise,’ ‘Ben-Hur’ and this year’s ‘The Mummy.’ (Interestingly, Oded Fehr – a supporting actor in Universal’s earlier ‘The Mummy’ films – played Jafar on TV’s ‘Once Upon a Time.’)
However, Kenzari looks set to really break big later this year with a key role in Kenneth Branagh’s new take on ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ alongside an all-star cast including Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Branagh himself.
Nor is he the only new casting on ‘Aladdin,’ as THR also mention that ‘Saturday Night Live’ comedienne Nasim Pedrad is in talks to appear in an all-new role created specifically for the live-action movie: a comic relief role named Mara, described as a ‘handmaiden and friend to Jasmine.’ So the Princess won’t be delivering half her lines to her pet tiger this time, then.
‘Aladdin’ is just the latest in a long line of live-action takes on Disney’s animated hits following on from the likes of ‘The Jungle Book,’ ‘Cinderella,’ ‘Sleeping Beauty’ reworking ‘Maleficent,’ and this year’s ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ There are plenty more in the pipeline, including Jon Favreau’s ‘The Lion King’ and Tim Burton’s ‘Dumbo.’
Still, ‘Aladdin’ hasn’t gotten off to the best start with rumours of troubles behind the scenes, and widespread criticism of the casting. It probably doesn’t help that director Guy Ritchie comes to the film off the back of the critical and commercial bomb ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.’ Even so, Disney have been doing a pretty good job with their live action remake series thus far, so we can but hope ‘Aladdin’ follows suit.
Produced by Dan Lin with a screenplay by John August, ‘Aladdin’ does not have a confirmed release date at present.