Disney’s Aladdin is getting the live action treatment. Director Guy Ritchie is set to direct the adaptation, and it was recently promised that the film will be “diverse” What they mean by that is still unclear. What one can assume is that what influenced the animated Aladdin will reflect the casting. The film was based of a story in One Thousand and One Nights. One Thousand and One Nights is the collection of folk tales from North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. The story of Aladdin originates in China, and was added to the collection of stories in the 18th century. The story originated in China, but the story takes place in Maghreb, which is Northwest Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya). One Thousand and One Nights spans across many countries and has been passed down for centuries. The animated film essentially took several of the cultures depicted in these stories and threw them together to create a fictional Arabian world for this one story. That is problematic because it creates the sense that the Middle East & Asia is this sort of monolithic culture. One Thousand and One Nights brought together all these different stories, from all these different types of cultures. It was a form of celebration of our differences and it was a way to be united as humans.
My hope is that the live action film is more sensitive to this and treads lightly with how it creates the world in which Aladdin in habits.
Now, to the fun part. It was promised that the casting will be diverse, so my fancasting reflects this. I choose actors from different countries across the Middle East and South Asia, but I made one exception.
Mehdi Dehbi as Aladdin.
Dehbi is a Belgian actor of Tunisian descent. Dehbi is an actor very few are familiar with. Aladdin is such an iconic character, an unknown actor would be more suited for the role. Also I want to avoid obvious casting choices, it robs new talent from getting a chance to shine.
Imaan Hammam as Jasmine.
Hammam is a Dutch model of Egyptian and Moroccan descent. Hammam is a model I have become quite fond of. She is a beautiful and she has a fierce, and regal quality to her. There have been many models that have broken into acting, but none have quite the charisma that Hammam possesses.
Amr Waked as Jafar.
Waked is an Egyptian actor. Waked is a working actor that may be familiar to some. He was recently in Luc Besson’s Lucy. Waked is an extremely charismatic actor, who could create a likeable, but still very villainous, Jafar.
Aziz Ansari as Iago.
Ansari is from a Tamil Muslim family from Tamil Nadu, India. Ansari has a unique voice that can teeters on annoying and quite entertaining. Iago is a parrot, by nature annoying, Ansari could provide the kind of voice that gets to that point, but doesn’t drive the audience completely mad.
Alan Tudyk as Abu.
Tudyk is a seasoned character actor, and is also a seasoned voice actor. He voiced K-2SO, (Rogue One), Hei Hei (Moana), Duke Weaselton (Zootopia), Alistair Krei (Big Hero 6), and Duke of Weselton (Frozen). If Abu is CGI, Tudyk must voice him, no if’s or but’s.
***Russell Peters as Genie.
Peters is a Canadian comedian of Anglo-Indian descent. This is an incredibly difficult role to fill. I picked Peters because he is capable of doing the various voice imitations that made Robin Williams famous, but also made the Genie so iconic. The best parts are when the Genie takes own different personas and the corresponding accents that came with it! Peters could definitely take on that challenge.
Marshall Manesh as the Sultan.
Manesh is an Iranian-American actor. The Sultan is an adorable and misguided ruler and I believe Manesh can bring that role to life. Manesh appeared on How I Met Your Mother for many years as Ranjit. He was incredibly hilarious and lovable in the underwritten and poorly conceived character. He is the Sultan.