Disney has admitted to not hiring enough “brown” actors to play extras during filming of the live-action remake of Aladdin. Instead, they “browned up” white actors.
According to one extra, Kaushal Odedra, there were up to 20 “very fair skinned” actors standing in a line outside make-up tents “to have their skin darkened.” The 32 -year old, who was a stand-in actor for one of the lead roles, said, “Disney [is] sending out a message that your skin color, your identity, your life experiences amount to nothing that can be powered on and washed off,” according to the Sunday Times of London.
Part of the movie is being filmed in the United Kingdom, at Longcross Studios near London, and Disney has admitted that while there, they were forced to use white actors to play background roles, such as stunt performers, “camel handlers,” and dancers. Still, they maintained that the Aladdin remake is the “most diversely cast” production in the company’s history.
“Great care was taken to put together one of the largest, most diverse casts ever seen on screen,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
Disney said they hired 400 to 500 background actors of Indian, African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Asian descent, and only used white actors covered in brown makeup to fill about 100 roles.
The film, starring Will Smith as the Genie, is a live-action version of Aladdin, the 1992 animated Disney classic set in the Middle East and partially based on the Arabic folktale “One Thousand and One Nights.” British-Indian actress Naomi Scott stars as Jasmine, Egyptian-born Canadian Mena Massoud plays Aladdin, and Tunisian-Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari was cast as Jafar.
Will Smith has posted pictures of the cast and crew during filming to his Facebook account (see below).
The film is expected to be released in May.