“Aladdin”: Mena Massoud posts first cast update, Billy Magnussen casting draws ire

Some quick Aladdin news to report—some of it is good, and some of it is, of course, controversial (as seems to be the case with this particular movie).

First the good—Mena Massoud, who has been tapped to play the titular role, has posted to his Twitter page a picture of himself, Will Smith (tapped to play the Genie), Naomi Scott (Princess Jasmine) and Marwan Kenzari (Jafar).

“Agrabah just got a lot hotter,” said Massoud. “Gonna be keeping you posted on everything Aladdin peeps.”

It’s great to know that Massoud is going to keep the fans up to date on what’s happening, since it’ll probably provide those of us who cover movies and are film fans to read the tea leaves. That’s always fun.

Now the not-so fun stuff: the film is courting controversy yet again with the hiring of Billy Magnussen. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Magnussen is playing a character that has never been a part of the original Aladdin, so for many, this sounds like this is yet another way to shoehorn in a white character in a non-white storyline. Why is this important and aggravating? Because for many, this feels like Disney saying that a non-white storyline can’t exist or be monetarily credible without a white character.

This isn’t the first time the film has been at the center of controversy—Scott’s casting as Jasmine brought ire from folks who felt like the character was being cast with a non-Middle Eastern actress. This also goes to the original root of the casting issue—the fact that Disney asked for both Indian and Middle Eastern actors when the fictional country of Agrabah is considered to be Middle Eastern (Scott, for instance, is of British and Indian background). Even before the announcements of Aladdin and Jasmine being cast, Disney was facing angry fans for insinuating that there weren’t any Middle Eastern actors to cast in the roles.

We’ll see more about this latest controversy as it develops, since there will be more news coming down the pike, I’m sure.

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