The upcoming live-action remake of Disney’s Aladdin has been accused of “browning up” Caucasian actors to play extras.
The allegations come from Kaushal Odedra, a stand-in for one of the characters in the film. He claims to have seen about twenty “very fair-skinned” actors in line outside of a make-up tent in order to be made darker before filming, according to Dateline.
Disney issued a response about the issue, saying “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 statement also noted that they have somewhere between 400 and 500 background characters and specialists who were specially recruited from Middle Eastern, Indian, African, Mediterranean or Asian locations, while about 100 were recruited from around Surrey and London, where the movie is currently being filmed.
The film is a remake of the 1992 animated version. It stars Aladdin, a kindhearted street rat and thief, who gains three wishes from a wacky genie. He tries to use these to win the hand of Jasmine, a rebellious princess who is only allowed to marry a prince.
This is not the first racial controversy that has erupted over the film. While the title character is going to be played by Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud (Open Heart), some have protested to the casting of Naomi Scott as Jasmine. The actress, perhaps best known for her role as Kimberly the Pink Ranger in 2017’s Power Rangers film, is of mixed Caucasian and Indian heritage.
The film will also include a Norwegian prince named Anders, whom some believe will be a whitewashed version of Achmed, a minor antagonist from the original.
The 1992 film received its share of criticism. The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee objected to the fact that Aladdin and Jasmine had Caucasian facial features and voice actors while other characters looked and sounded more stereotypically Middle Eastern. They also objected to a line in its song (“they’ll cut off your ear if they don’t like your face”), which was changed in home releases.