Disney approached Kevin Hart about playing the Genie in Guy Ritchie's upcoming Aladdin remake, but have since moved on to other stars. Following from the billion-dollar-scooping success of Beauty and the Beast, Disney's remake enterprise wherein its animated classic are beefed out for live-action continues apace. Development on Mulan, Dumbo and The Lion King is hotting up, although the furthest ahead would appear to be Guy Ritchie's Aladdin, which is currently casting ahead of a Summer 2017 shoot.
It's known that Disney is looking for middle-eastern actors to play the titular diamond in the rough and love-interest Jasmine. The biggest casting question, though, is who fills Robin Williams' gigantic shoes as the Genie. A recent report suggested that Will Smith is presently in talks for the role, although it's now emerged that another actor was at one point being considered.
Variety's Justin Kroll has revealed on Twitter that Kevin Hart was previously in the running to play the Genie before Smith. The reporter was responding to speculation made by Jeff Sneider and Simon Thompson on Meet The Press that Hart would be a good choice for villain Jafar's parrot Iago (played by Gilbert Gottfried in the original).
— Justin Kroll (@krolljvar) April 21, 2017
Hart has experienced a meteoric ride in the past few years. The comic was always a staple of the stand-up scene and has many shouty scene-stealing movie roles to his name, but it was starring turns in box office hits Ride Along and Central Intelligence (where he played off Ice Cube and Dwayne Johnson respectively) that really sent him into the mainstream. His next high-profile release is Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which re-teams him with The Rock.
It's not yet known how Ritchie's film will be tackling the Genie, but playing the character would have likely called upon all of Hart's talents, requiring a wide range of impressions as well as an ability to present physicality through voice alone (something he showed he was capable of in The Secret Life of Pets). Of course, Kroll's tweet makes it clear that while Hart was once the favorite, he's no longer in the running for undisclosed reasons.
While he'd certainly have been very different to Williams, that's not a knock against Hart - there is no way to replicate what the icon brought to Genie, so a fresh take is really the only way forward. Indeed, the fact the studio has since entered discussions Smith shows they're looking for a distinct personality over a specific type of performer.
With Aladdin's July start date moving slowly closer and still no official casting, expect an announcement for not just Genie but the whole movie's line-up in the next couple of months.
Source: Justin Kroll