With a whole new world of live-action adaptations in the works, including The Lion King and Mulan, Disney just recently added Aladdin to the list. Facing a public outcry against the whitewashing of Mulan, hopefully Disney execs pay attention and take action with Aladdin. When it comes to casting, we know that whitewashing is a failed experiment, and with re-telling a story like Aladdin for the silver screen, one would think that they have to change their mindset. Disney also faced controversy with Aladdin on Broadway for that reason.
Heading in an ambitious and nontraditional direction, the new live action version will retell the story of Aladdin and his three wishes. With director Guy Ritchie at the helm, the prospect of a modern, action-packed version of the tale is thrilling. Ritchie was the creative mastermind behind Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and the more recent adaptations of Sherlock Holmes featuring Robert Downey Jr. While we’re certainly not advocating for Jason Statham for the role, Twitter killed the internet with an amusing first draft of Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin.
Earlier this year, we listed Rami Malek as one of our top picks to play Aladdin, and we’d like to expand to our list. Here are 15 Actors Who Could Play Disney’s Live-Action Aladdin.
15. Dev Patel
Dev Patel burst onto the scene in 2008, with his breakout performance as Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire garnering tons of buzz. His performance landed him a handful of awards, including a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Critic’s Choice Award, along with a nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Soon after, he joined M. Night Shyamalan’s lukewarm live-action version of The Last Airbender as Prince Zuko. Since then, he’s had his fair share of dramedies with The Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Road Within opposite of Zoë Kravitz.
Last year, he landed two leading roles, in the sci-fi action flick Chappie and The Man Who Knew Infinity. The biopic follows the life of Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, and focuses on his relationship with his mentor, Professor G.H. Hardy. Patel just wrapped up a possible Oscar-contending drama called Lion and is set to shoot Hotel Mumbai for 2017. What’s next for Dev? It looks like he’s not very active on social media, preferring to keep things low key, which we understand.
If Patel were to head to Agrabah, he wouldn’t have to worry about any impressive stunt work. According to his Facebook bio, he holds a black belt in Taekwondo, and he was a former bronze medalist at the 2004 AIMAA World Championships in Dublin. With Guy Ritchie at the helm, it’s highly possible that he could be cast in the live-action iteration of this tale.
14. Deniz Akdeniz
Fans of the NBC series Once Upon A Time will recognize Akdeniz for his work as Aladdin in the recent episodes of season six. The actor already proved that he has frequent flier miles with his magic carpet, so it’s a safe bet that he’s capable of reprising the role for Disney’s live-action version. Growing up in Australia, the 26-year-old actor has a Turkish background and plenty of experience with Aussie films and TV work. Deniz first kicked things off with Disney on a TV series called As the Bell Rings. Akdeniz made his film debut with Tomorrow, When The War Began in 2010, directed by Stuart Beattie. Deniz later joined Beattie again, joining the cast for the action-packed fantasy flick I, Frankenstein in 2014.
His previous work with action flicks makes him a good matchup for a fast-paced, live-action Aladdin. Since then, Deniz has worked on various television series, including Graceland, South Beach, and Rush Hour, but perhaps his big break can be with Disney’s upcoming Alladin.
13. Shahid Kapoor
From New Delhi, Shahid Kapoor has over a decade of film credits in the Bollywood industry, where he’s worked on a range of roles from romantic comedies, thrillers, and dramas. In his early career, he worked as a background dancer for films, music videos, and television commercials, but later made his film debut in 2003 with Ishq Vishk. Kapoor’s boyish charm, charisma, and carefree attitude landed him a Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut. Afterwards, Kapoor was nominated again for his work in the mega-hit Jab We Met, directed by Imtiaz Ali in 2007, and for playing the twin brothers in the thriller Kaminey in 2009. Kapoor has a slew of other credits, but his more well-known films include the jam-packed action film R… Rajkumar in 2013 and the critically acclaimed drama Haider. Kapoor’s work as Hamlet in Haider landed him the Best Actor Filmfare Award. In the past year, he’s worked on a crime drama called Udta Punjab directed by Abhishek Chaubey.
At 35, one might think he’s a bit too old to star as Aladdin, but Dan Stevens, who plays Beast in the upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast, is 34. Depending on the release date, they could even consider thirteen-year-old actor Neel Sethi, who played Mowgli in the recent version of The Jungle Book, as a possible contender.
12. Sidharth Malhotra
A former model, Sidharth Malhotra is a rising star who’s wrapped a mere seven films to date. Malhotra first got started with his film debut in Student of the Year, a Karan Johar film from 2012. Sidharth showed off a little of his boyish charm while playing Abhimanyu Singh in the romantic comedy, opposite of Alia Bhatt. In 2014, he continued his rom-com streak with the Bollywood flick Hasee Toh Phasee, but his work as Guru in Ek Villain that might prove a solid match up to director Guy Ritchie’s action-paced style. Directed by Mohit Suri, the film follows Malhotra’s character, Guru, who is hell bent on revenge after the love of his life is the victim of a serial killer. This year, he’s starred in more romantic comedies, including Kapoor & Sons and Baar Baar Dekho.
With over 3 million followers on Twitter and 2.7 million on Instagram, it looks like Malhotra’s fan base is pretty solid. Malhotra is currently filming an action flick called Reloaded, set for next year, so does this leave an opening in his schedule for Aladdin? We’ll have to see what’s next on the horizon.
11. Rahul Kohli
Known for his role as Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti in the TV series iZombie, Rahul Kohli is originally from London. After completing his studies at drama school, he started working in popular television series like Holby City and EastEnders. Kohli also has stage experience under his belt from working at the Royal National Theater with director Howard Davies. Later on, Kohli moved to Los Angeles where he joined the cast for the series iZombie. The show originally premiered on March 17, 2015, and it was just recently announced that it’s set for a third season of 13 new episodes. The show was nominated for the Breakout Show (2015) and Sci-Fi/Fantasy (2016) at the Teen Choice Awards.
Kohli is a self-professed nerd and shares his love of video games, comics and Star Wars on his Twitter. Recently, Rahul sent out an amusing tweet to Disney saying, “We’re on the same page innit?” featuring a pair of bearded Aladdin pictures. The tweet was liked over 700 times by fans, so we’re sure that there’s definitely some interest to see Rahul in Agrabah.
10. Manish Dayal
Born and raised in South Carolina, his parents are originally from Gujarat, India. Dayal studied acting at The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts and got his start filming shorts in 2005. Since then, he’s appeared in television series along the lines of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Outsourced, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Dayal also has some unique voice-over experience with minor roles for Star Wars: The Old Republic and Grand Theft Auto. Some of his more major roles include Mason ‘Hal’ Klugman for Rubicon, Raj Kher in 90210 from 2011-2012 and as the romantic lead of The Hundred-Foot Journey. Dayal’s most recent work is with the acclaimed drama series Halt and Catch Fire.
In an interview with Vulture, Dayal mentioned that roles written specifically for Indian-American men are few and far between. “You can always hope that producers and writers become open-minded in the development process and include South Asian people and South Asian actors,” Dayal told Vulture. Perhaps the casting team over at Disney might start listening with future live-action prospects.
9. Karan Soni
Many might remember Soni from his role as Dopinder opposite of Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. In a memorable scene, Dopinder takes advice from Deadpool regarding the love of his life and kidnaps his arch nemesis. “My romantic rival, Bandhu. He’s tied up in the trunk. I’m doing as you said, DP. I plan to gut him like a polluted fish, then dump his carcass on Gita’s doorstep,” is one of the more amusing lines from Dopinder in the film. Soni definitely brings the charisma and presence with his laugh-out-loud delivery.
Soni also appeared in the most recent adaptation of Goosebumps as Mr. Rooney and this year’s Ghostbusters as Bennie. With Deadpool 2 in development for 2018, it’s possible Soni might return for a quick cameo or reprisal of his role as Dopinder. Karan has a series of comedy roles lined up for the rest of the year, like B-Roll and Office Christmas Party with Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Munn, and Jason Bateman. We’re excited to find out what’s next on his list, especially if it includes a shot at Aladdin.
8. Arjun Gupta
Arjun’s most recent work can be found on the television series The Magicians, where he plays William ‘Penny’ Adiyodi. The SyFy Channel series is an adaptation of Lev Grossman’s book trilogy of the same name. Gupta’s character experienced struggle firsthand, living in and out of foster care homes and barely making ends meet, but also has dormant powers. Sound familiar?
His film debut came in 2009 where he starred in Motherhood, which was led by Uma Thurman. Gupta was awarded the Maverick Movie Award for 2014 indie drama, Bridge and Tunnel, and also an ensemble Screen Actors Guild award for his work as Sam with Nurse Jackie. Aside from acting, Gupta hosts a podcast called “American Desis” which focuses on issues related to second generation South Asian Americans.
But what would being cast as Aladdin mean for him? Fans have already taken to Twitter, voicing their support for #ArjunAsAladdin and creating memes to prove their point. To add even more hype, @LyninBlack wrote, “He’s got the vest game down so…. #ArjunisAladdin #ArjunGupta4Aladdin”. Gupta retweeted the message, specifically calling Disney and Guy Ritchie’s attention. “…not for nothing, they have a point. Just saying :) #vestgame,” he added on. Bloggers over at the Arjun Gupta Fan Page already started making their voices heard. Now it just depends on the casting team with Disney.
7. Ritesh Rajan
Rajan has made appearances in major television series along the lines of Law & Order, All My Children, and Baby Daddy. Ritesh also crossed paths with Dev Patel in The Last Airbender from 2010, where he stood alongside Prince Zuko as a Fire Nation soldier. Some of his other work includes voice acting, where he lent his voice for Far Cry 4 in 2014 and is credited for the Zumba Fitness World Party video game. Most recently, Ritesh been spotted in Stitchers, a TV series that originally aired in 2015. The series blends crime and investigation with sci-fi elements, and Rajan has a role as Linus Ahluwalia.
If he still looks familiar but you can’t quite remember how, here’s another place you’ve spotted him. In Jon Favreau’s smash hit of the year, The Jungle Book, he appeared in a flashback sequence as Mowgli’s father. Although it was a short scene, it wasn’t any less poignant, depicting a man who died to protect his son from the deadly Shere Khan. The fact that he’s worked on a live-action Disney film before could bring him one step closer to landing a bigger role in a title like Aladdin. Plus, he’s got some serious Bhangra skills that could come in handy if there’s an epic dance sequence.
6. Jesse Rath
Born in Montreal, Quebec, Jesse Rath has a mixed background, including Goan Indian, British, and Austrian Jewish descent. His film debut was The Greatest Game Ever Played, an independent film shot in 2005. Some of his other work included Prom Wars: Love is a Battlefield and The Trotsky. One of his major breaks included his work in the mini-series for Assassin’s Creed: Lineage, where he played Federico Auditore. He amassed more television credits with Aaron Stone, 18 to Life and Mudpit, and later joined the crew of Being Human as Robbie Malik and Defiance as Alak Tarr.
We’ve also spotted him as Owen in the television series 19-2 and most recently as Timothy in No Tomorrow. If you need a recap, check out our No Tomorrow Series Premiere Review: Bring On The Apocalypse. There’s no word yet on his personal feelings about playing Aladdin, but he recently professed his dream to star as Judas in a live-action version of Jesus Christ Superstar.
5. Mahesh Jadu
Born in Carlton, Melbourne, Australia, Mahesh Jadu is most well known for his work on Marco Polo as Ahmad. Although his family is originally from Mauritius, and he shares Indian heritage from both Gorakhpur and Kashmir, he was raised in Perth in Australia. One of his first on-screen roles was Dr. Doug Harris on the television series Neighbours from 2010-2011. After a few more brief television stints, he joined one of our earlier picks, Deniz Akendiz, in the cast of I, Frankenstein with his role of Ophir.
Jadu will make an appearance in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales set for next year. The first trailer just recently dropped. Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom will reprise their original roles and take on long rival Captain Salazar, played by Javier Bardem. Jadu is currently filming a comedy called Three Summers, set for an August 2017 release in Australia, but after that, it’s unclear. With a slew of action-themed credits under his belt, it would make sense to have Jadu join the crew for Ritchie’s version of Aladdin.
4. Suraj Sharma
Born and raised in New Delhi, India, Suraj was chosen out of thousands of auditions for the lead role of Pi in Life of Pi. Director Ang Lee said that Sharma had, “…the will, the expressive eyes and physicality required for the role.” In the critically acclaimed film, Pi Patel struggles to survive after a devastating shipwreck and certainly has a puzzling, ambiguous ending. Could he also match up for the street rat role needed for Aladdin? It’s a definite possibility, especially after working on other projects with Disney like Million Dollar Arm in 2014.
Since then, Sharma joined the cast of Homeland as Aayan Ibrahim from 2014 to 2015, and this year he’s set to appear in an adventure flick called Burn Your Maps, slated for December 2016. Sharma also took on a leading role for Pashmina, a drama about the conflict in Kashmir, set for a May 2017 release, along with a romantic comedy called Phillauri, also set for next year. With a wide array of experience to draw from, Suraj definitely shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to casting for Aladdin.
3. Rami Malek
Born Rami Said Malek in Los Angeles, the 35-year-old Egyptian American actor has been generating tons of buzz. Malek’s recent work with Mr. Robot landed him a Primetime Emmy, a Critics Choice Television Award and a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Upon receiving his Emmy award, Rami eloquently touched on defying stereotypes in Hollywood. “For me to stand here as not the typical leading man and to have come home with this (Emmy) speaks a lot about where we’re headed as a country. I think we can keep going a lot further in that direction, not just in entertainment, but socially and politically, and strive to be as progressive as possible.”
But first, let’s rewind a little bit. Malek made his film debut with Night at the Museum (and later the sequel, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb) where he brought some Egyptian flavor on screen with his role as Ahkmenrah. Since then, Rami’s worked on major television series like The War at Home, 24, and the HBO mini-series The Pacific. He’s also proved he can handle voiceover work with his role as Tahno for The Legend of Korra and with games like Halo 2 and Until Dawn. Rami is currently filming a remake of the 1973 film Papillon, but after that, there’s a strong possibility of seeing him as Aladdin. Hollywood Reporter noted that the studio intends on making the live-action version incorporate non-linear storytelling, and Malek has proved that he’s capable of taking the lead.
2. Riz Ahmed
Star Wars fans have heard of Riz already, who will play Bodhi Rook in the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, out on December 16th. Ahmed’s character was featured pretty prominently in the third and final trailer, uttering the words, “It’s Rogue. Rogue One.” over a comm and eliciting tons of excited reactions from fans.
Born in London, England, Ahmed is of Pakistani descent. He graduated with a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford University and later studied at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. You’ve spotted him before as rising mogul Aaron Kalloor in the recent summer blockbuster, Jason Bourne, along with his lead role in HBO’s mini series, The Night Of. Ahmed recently starred opposite of Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn, in a drama called Una.
Aside from acting, he also rocks the mic as Riz MC with the hip-hop group Swet Shop Boys. Their debut album, Cashmere, just recently was released. It’s a deeply personal project which explores identity, exploitation, and artistic expression. “If you really mine the specificity of your own experience, it resonates beyond where you think it might,” Riz told NPR. In the music video for “T5”, Riz tackles racial profiling, saying it was a positive release to make something creative about his unpleasant experiences.
1. Avan Jogia
Jogia is the ultimate forerunner for Aladdin by fans, with people literally tweeting about him being the real-life version of Prince Ali for years. With dark locks past his shoulders, they won’t have to worry about anything in the wig department. Born and raised in Vancouver, Avan’s ethnic background includes Gujarati, English, Welsh, and German descent. The 24-year-old first got his start with minor appearances in television movies, but later landed the role of Beck Oliver on the television series Victorious. Soon after, Jogia also joined the cast of Twisted, where he took on the role of Danny Desai. In the television mini series, Tut, Jogia played King Tutankhamun and started generating even more buzz.
He’s slated to appear in several more dramas and comedies by the end of this year, including The Year of Spectacular Men, The Outskirts, and a rework of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although other fancasts might choose Zayn Malik as a close second, it seems like Avan Jogia is the number one pick for the live-action version of the tale.
We’ll keep you updated on Aladdin as development continues.