Allegations of skin-darkening have been raised against Aladdin – the new live-action adaption of the Disney animated classic. The charges were made by Kaushal Odedra, a stand in for one of the lead actors, who claimed to have seen as many as 20 “very fair skinned” actors waiting in line outside make-up tents to have their skin darkened before filming started.
The new Aladdin is being directed by Guy Ritchie, most famous for his work on the Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. The film is slated for a 2019 release and is currently being filmed at Longcross Studios in Surrey, 30 miles from London.
“Great care was taken to put together one of the largest most diverse casts ever seen on screen. 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.”
The response also noted that approximately 400 of the 500 performers brought in to play the many background roles, stunt roles, dancers and “camel handlers” are Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean or Asian. The other 100 were recruited locally from Surrey and London.
The allegations of darkening the skin of the extras is only the latest racial controversy involving the beleaguered production. Complaints were made regarding the casting of Naomi Scott – a light-skinned actress of British and Indian origin, most famous for her role as The Pink Ranger in the 2017 Power Rangers reboot – in the key role of Princess Jasmine, after a reportedly extensive worldwide casting call. Questions were also raised about a new role created specifically for the live-action adaptation, a Norwegian nobleman named Prince Anders, who has draw accusations of being a white-washed version of Prince Achmed – a rival prince who vies for Jasmine’s affections in the original feature.
Disney’s animated Aladdin weathered similar controversy in its day. The 1992 film famously had a lyric from its opening song, Arabian Nights, changed from “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face” to “Where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense” for its release on home video. The change came following complaints from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), who also took the film to task for drawing the characters of Aladdin and Jasmine with Anglo-American features and casting white actors in their roles, while depicting all of the background characters and villains with darker skin, hooked noses, permanent glowers and heavy Arabian accents.
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