AceShowbiz - Disney has been hit with accusation of "browning up" white extras for its upcoming live-action remake of "Aladdin". Multiple reports have emerged alleging the studio of using makeup to darken the skin of 100 actors working as extras.
The Sunday Times article that broke the story on January 7 was titled, "Genie, brown up some extras for Aladdin," while a Daily Mail headline published on the same day read, "Fury as Disney 'browns up' white actors to star in 'Aladdin' despite filming next to one million-strong Asian community."
According to the Sunday Times story, the live-action movie starring Will Smith is currently being directed by Guy Ritchie at Longcross studios in Surrey, 30 miles from London. Disney said it brought in white actors to help fill the many background roles, stunt positions, dancers and "camel handlers" needed.
In response to the story, Disney has issued a statement in which they said that roughly 100 out of 500 background extras are white, with the other 400 being "of Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean, or Asian descent." Reports on set said that in order to maintain an accurate look for the movie, which takes place in Agrabah, a fictional Middle Eastern kingdom serving as a stand-in for Baghdad, makeup was applied to turn white actors brown.
"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," said Kaushal Odedra, a stand-in for Aladdin, who is played by Egyptian-born Canadian Mena Massoud. Odedra also claimed to the Times he saw as many as 20 "very fair skinned" actors in line outside make-up tents "waiting to have their skin darkened."
TV director Riaz Meer said, as cited by Independent, "The talent exists and is accessible and there's no way that Asian extras could not have been hired to meet the needs of the film." The BAFTA nominee went so far as calling the fiasco "an insult to the entire industry," before adding that "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."
Responding to the accusation, Disney said, "Great care was taken to put together one of the largest most diverse casts ever seen on screen." The Mouse House added, "Diversity of our cast and background performers was a requirement and only in a handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control (special effects rigs, stunt performers and handling of animals) were crew made up to blend in."
In addition to Smith, who plays the Genie, and Massoud, "Aladdin" stars British-Indian actress Naomi Scott as Jasmine. The film, written by John August, is scheduled to arrive in theaters across the nation on May 24, 2019.