Movies

Will Smith says son inspired him to pick Aladdin genie role

Will Smith puts his own hip-hop spin on Genie in remake of Disney classic

AMMAN, JORDANHollywood heavyweight Will Smith said his son Jaden inspired him to take the role of Genie in the live-action remake of Disney classic Aladdin, which opens here tomorrow.

The 50-year-old US actor recalled that he had been reading scripts and struggling to decide which role to accept.

"I had three or four movies that I was considering, and I was having a hard time making a decision," he said at a recent news conference in Jordan, where some scenes were shot in 2017 in the desert valley Wadi Rum, which was also featured in the 1962 classic Lawrence Of Arabia.

His 20-year-old son Jaden, Smith's co-star in the 2013 film After Earth, had walked into the room and asked about the films.

Smith pitched him each of the plot lines and asked for his opinion, adding: "He looked down at the screenplays and grabbed the other ones and just threw them on the floor and said, 'Duh, the genie? You have the chance to play the genie?' He was blown away."

STORY

The film's plot is drawn from a centuries-old Middle Eastern folk tale that features in the Arabian Nights and was retold in a 1992 Disney cartoon.

It is the story of a street urchin who finds a magic lantern containing a genie and falls in love with a rebellious princess, Jasmine.

Directed by Guy Ritchie, the 2019 remake stars English actress Naomi Scott, 26, as Jasmine and Canadian-Egyptian newcomer Mena Massoud, 27, as Aladdin.

Smith was reluctant at first to play the energetic blue genie who emerges from a lamp as it meant following in the big footsteps of late comedian Robin Williams, who voiced the character in the animated original.

So he added a personal touch - and some hip-hop.

At Aladdin's premiere in London earlier this month, he said his first reaction about taking on the role was: "Hell no, no way."

"Robin Williams didn't leave much room to improve on Genie... So I looked at it and the first thing for me was that it was going to be live action.

"I thought it could be a little different," said Smith, who shot to fame in the 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.

"Robin Williams essentially took his stand-up persona and infused his stand-up persona into Genie...

"I was like, I could just use the extreme version of my Fresh Prince persona (and) infuse that into this wild character. I felt I'd be able to capture the nostalgia while at the same time be able to make something new."

Ritchie also felt the story "needed updating".

DIFFERENCE

"We are half an hour longer and there is just a difference between an animated film and live action," he said.

"Somehow you can take broader strokes in animated movies that you can't afford in live action. Jasmine was the principal character that needed evolving and developing."

Scott, who appeared in movies like The 33 and Power Rangers and will star in the upcoming Charlie's Angels reboot, said: "(Jasmine) finds her voice and she goes through a journey to find it... I want little girls to see that."

Animals of all kinds and some 1,000 extras were involved in making the musical spectacle, which features original songs from the animated film as well as new tunes. - AFP/REUTERS

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