While the “Men in Black” star says while it was “terrifying” stepping into the 1992 role that Robin Williams made iconic, he’s confident he could give the Genie his own flair by tapping into past roles. One executive even described Smith’s Genie as “part Fresh Prince, part Hitch.”
“I think it’ll stand out as unique even in the Disney world,” Smith says. “There hasn’t been a lot of that hip-hop flavor in Disney history.”
For the Genie’s new look, director Guy Ritchie says he wanted Smith to have an imposing, but not overly buff appearance.
“I wanted a muscular 1970s dad,” he says. “He was big enough to feel like a force — not so muscular that he looked like he was counting his calories, but formidable enough to look like you knew when he was in the room.”
The director, known for crime thrillers like “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” also says that Smith’s updated Genie is more self-aware, while having a bit of an ego. He teased that in the film, when Smith first appears out of the lamp and sees a stunned Aladdin, he asks, “You really don’t know who I am? Genie…wishes…lamp? None of that ringing a bell? Wow, that’s a first.”
Massoud says to prepare for his role, he had to learn how to sing, dance, and perform stunts like riding a camel and scuba diving, for a scene when Aladdin gets thrown off a cliff. Ritchie also says Scott’s Jasmine will be revamped with new ideals to make her “a more rounded character and maybe not being such a stereotype of the time.” Jasmine also gets her own song, which is among the new tracks with lyrics from the “La La Land” songwriters to accompany the original numbers.
And besides her pet tiger Rajah, Jasmine’s partner-in-crime will be Dalia, a newly created character portrayed by “Saturday Night Live” alum Nasim Pedrad. Dalia’s presence also reflects the different values the updated Jasmine has from the original role.
“Jasmine is so resilient and independent in this version, she’s focused on things other than which boy she’s going to end up with,” Pedrad says. “She really wants to be a leader, and Dalia really supports that but at the same time wants to make sure she doesn’t get in trouble.”
The first looks have divided some fans, with many criticizing Smith and Massoud’s appearance.
“What could Will Smith possibly have done to deserve this? Jada is gonna have to do a whole episode of ‘Read [sic] Table Talk’ about this hair piece,” BuzzFeed News’ Saeed Jones wrote, referencing Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and her Facebook Watch talk series.
Another said “they did Aladdin dirty” by straightening Massoud’s naturally curly hair.
However, Smith took to Instagram to calm fans’ worries and clarified that while he’s not blue on the cover, he would be in the film. “This is how the Genie is in Human / Disguise Form,” Smith wrote. “My character will be CGI most of the movie.”
Smith also celebrated Ritchie’s modernized, offbeat take on the classic animated picture.
“When you think timeless Disney classic, you’re not really thinking Guy Ritchie,” Smith tells EW. “But he brings a beautiful edge to the look and feel and imagining of Aladdin.”
“Aladdin,” also starring Marwan Kenzari as Jafar and Billy Magnussen in a freshly created role, flies into theaters May 24, 2019.