As Disney announced the cast of the live-action Aladdin remake, fans breathed a sigh of relief. Its main cast included Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, and Will Smith, dispelling some fears that Disney and director Guy Ritchie would whitewash a tale about people of color. But its latest casting move is already creating plenty of controversy, with Disney creating a new character in Aladdin that will be played by a white guy.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed Tuesday that Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods, Bridge of Spies) would join the cast of Aladdin as Prince Anders, a role created for the live-action movie. He wouldn’t be the first actor playing a new character; Saturday Night Live alum Nasim Pedrad is playing Mara, “a handmaiden and friend to Jasmine” who didn’t appear in the original 1992 animated movie.
However, while adding Mara to Aladdin is an attempt to fix the gender disparity of the original cast—Jasmine was the only notable female character in the entire movie—Magnussen’s casting is not getting as warm of a reception. Disney might not have whitewashed an existing character yet, but his addition to a story starring characters of color is already being seen as a blatant attempt to insert a white character in a story where there are none.
So millions of people have seen the Aladdin cartoon.They couldn't trust the live action to work enough without creating this?! https://t.co/ZeX9XDLGo2
— ✨#1WonderWoman✨ (@bgirl65) September 6, 2017
they did not just rewrite Aladdin?? Just to add a white person into it?? Right in front of my salad?? https://t.co/bmoTX8gaT2
— zendaya’s PR manager (@STRKINDUSTRlES) September 6, 2017
— geejayeff (@geejayeff) September 5, 2017
— booklover☕️📚 (@booklover_ny) September 6, 2017
Magnussen’s role might be a minor one. Although we only know his character’s name, he could be playing one of Jasmine’s many unsuccessful suitors who are vying for her hand and who get humiliated in the process. But on the surface at least, it doesn’t disguise the fact that in a famous story about characters of color—a very successful one, by the way—Disney still felt the need to insert a white actor into it.
H/T the Hollywood Reporter