Guy Ritchie's live-action Aladdin film under fire for ''browning up'' extras

Lawrence Kim
January 8, 2018

According to the Sunday Times story, the Will Smith-starring film, now being directed by Guy Ritchie at Longcross studios in Surrey, 30 miles from London, Disney said it brought in white actors to help fill the many background roles, stunt positions, dancers and "camel handlers" needed. Given that London alone is home to more than a million people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Arab heritage, this "excuse" did not go over well. Kaushal Odedra, who is an extra on Aladdin, had recognized one of the actors who played a palace guard (who is Caucasian) was tanned so that his skin tone looked darker than it was.

"I asked a Saudi cast member what he made of having these extras being tanned so heavily", he continued, "and he said it's unfortunate, but this is how the industry works, and there's no point complaining about it since it isn't going to change".

'Also, if I'd wanted to discuss it, speaking to the nearly entirely white crew seemed somewhat intimidating'.

However, bosses said the new version of Aladdin is the most diversely cast production in Disney's history.

Personally, I do at least understand Disney casting some extras of multiple races.

With this statement, the studio justifies "tanning" white cast members to "blend in", because it was apparently not possible to find a sufficient number of available special effects rig runners, stunt performers, and animal handlers - in the United Kingdom - who were also of Asian, Middle-Eastern, African, or Mediterranean descent. Agrabah as a predominantly Arab city, but with enough wealth to have drawn some people from all over, makes sense.

The 32-year-old tells us he recognised several white actors on set: "Aladdin was the flawless time to show diversity but also be accurate", he added, "they're being out of touch with what's going on around them".

It admitted that it was browning up white artists and using them as extras.

It seems that, in trying to quash a potential movie-damaging public relations nightmare before the film is even finished, Disney has made a bad situation worse by essentially suggesting that - outside of the main cast - people of colour have been hired to fill the background of scenes, but white people were needed to make up the numbers for the really skilled, technical jobs. Coming back now and suggesting that even the extras are too hard to cast is ... truly something else. The film is expected to hit theaters on May 24, 2019.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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