Mena Massoud, a relatively new but upcoming actor, has been cast as Aladdin in the live-action remake of the Disney classic.
Disney was originally having trouble casting the lead roles in Aladdin, but the studio has now also announced that British actress Naomi Scott was cast as Princess Jasmine, and Will Smith will play the Genie. Guy Ritchie will direct.
The casting decisions were announced July 15 at the D23 Expo, reported Daily Variety. Already, the casting of Scott is drawing some criticism online between she is of mixed Indian and white heritage.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Massoud Was Born in Egypt But Raised in Canada
According to The New York Daily News, Massoud is a Canadian-bred actor. He was born in Egypt, Daily News reported.
He’s sometimes seen in glasses.
Aladdin is based on the well-known Arabic folk tale about a young man who receives three wishes from a genie. Daily Variety reports that Aladdin was 1992’s highest-grossing film.
Social media users had urged the studio to choose an Arabic actor.
2. Massoud Appears in the Jack Ryan Series
Massoud doesn’t have a lot of credits to his name on IMDB, which lists “Jack Ryan (2017), Open Heart (2015) and Saving Hope (2012).”
According to EOnline, Jack Ryan is a series about the iconic Tom Clancy character. Massoud was cast “as Tarek Kassar in the new series, which features John Krasinski as Tom Clancy’s famed Jack Ryan,” reported EOnline.
According to IMDB, Massoud is in six episodes of the show.
In June, Deadline announced that Massoud would appear in Strange but True, directed by Rowan Athale. “He joins Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Nick Robinson, Margaret Qualley and Connor Jessup in the film about a young woman who suddenly finds herself pregnant five years after the death of her boyfriend,” Deadline reported.
3. Disney Originally Pursued Better Known Actors for the Aladdin Role & Massoud’s Shirtless Pictures Are Being Praised
At first Disney wanted a household name in the role of Aladdin. Daily News reports that Dev Patel, of the movie Lion, and Star Wars actor Riz Ahmed were names that emerged earlier on.
Other lesser-known actors whose names surfaced as possible contenders included Dutch actor Achraf Koutet and American actor George Kosturos.
Disney auditioned almost 2,000 people in a global casting call to no avail, so filming was pushed back a month to August, reported The Daily News.
However, there’s already a buzz over Massoud’s casting. Some of it focuses on his shirtless photos on Instagram. He also posts about fitness and eating healthy on social media.
Massoud wrote that he has been intermittently fasting and drastically cutting fat.
Here’s another look:
Judging from reaction to Massoud’s photos and his casting, people will be hearing a lot more about the Canadian actor in the future.
4. The Casting of Naomi Scott Is Causing Some Controversy Online
It’s the casting of Scott as Jasmine that has caused the most controversy online. Her mother is Indian and her father is English. Scott is best known for playing “Pink Ranger” in The Power Rangers.
Some people weren’t happy about the casting decision.
Critics said that Jasmine should be played by a Middle Eastern actress.
Others defended Scott online.
Not everyone was happy, though. One Twitter user wrote, “naomi scott? really? so many beautiful arab girls out there and you choose a girl named NAOMI???”
5. Massoud Says He’s Grateful & Excited to Play Aladdin
Playing Aladdin is a big breakthrough for Massoud, and the actor expressed his excitement on Twitter, saying he was grateful and honored to play the character.
On Instagram, Massoud sometimes posts sayings about love. He wrote in one recent post, “It was in that moment, as he looked into her eyes, that he saw a soul so beautfully captivating that he could not but help remember the vastness of the galaxies above. The stars that shined as bright as her two illuminating eyes. Find your inspiration. Use it to drive your passion. Go out and get it. #passion #drive #focus #poetry.”