Cape Town – Disney has become embroiled in another racism row over allegedly ‘browning up’ white actors for Aladdin after it couldn’t find enough darker skinned actors and extras for roles in the live-action Aladdin film remake.
London’s The Sunday Times on Sunday first reported, under a story headlined Genie, brown up some extras for Aladdin, that several white actors were brought in to fill extra and background roles, stunt positions, dancers and camel handlers, and were “browned up” since Disney didn’t hire a diverse cast and crew.
The live action remake of Aladdin is currently being filmed at Longcross Studios in Surrey outside London in the United Kingdom starring Will Smith, after the Disney film was in the news in July 2017 over the Guy Ritchie’s alleged casting “struggle” to find a lead actor to play the role of Aladdin.
On-set extras have spoken to the UK’s The Sunday Times, relating in detail how they’ve seen tens of white actors standing in lines outside make-up tents “waiting to have their skin darkened” before filming of scenes.
The Walt Disney Company in a statement published on Deadline says “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.”
One extra, Kaushal Odedra, who has been on-set as a stand-in for the main character and was also a background extra, told The Sunday Times that “Disney are sending out a message that your skin colour, your identity, your life experiences amount to nothing that can’t be powdered on and washed off. I asked a Saudi cast member what he made of having these extras being tanned so heavily 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 almost entirely white crew seemed somewhat intimidating”.
Besides having their skin darkened for a Middle Eastern look, extras are also alleging that the Disney film production made white actors to look Asian for crowd scenes: “On one set, two palace guards came in and I recognised one as a Caucasian actor, but he was now a darkly tanned Arab.”
“‘I moved inside the marquee where there were ten extras and two were Caucasian, but they had been heavily tanned to look Middle Eastern”.