Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin is currently filming just outside of London and a new report claims that hired Caucasian extras were lining up at a makeup tent to have their skin darkened. The movie, which is directed by Guy Ritchie, is being filmed at Longcross Studios, Surrey, a less than an hour drive from London where 1.1 million people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Arab heritage live. Disney has come under fire for the move, with award winning director Riaz Meer accusing them hurling an "insult to the whole industry." Disney has released a statement regarding the matter.
The Sunday Times were the first to report that Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin, which stars Will Smith, had hired Caucasian extras and had their skin darkened to fit the part. The story quotes extra Kaushal Odedra, described as a stand in for one of the leads, as seeing as many as 20 "very fair skinned" actors in line outside make-up tents "waiting to have their skin darkened." Odedra went on to say.
"On one set, two palace guards came in and I recognized one as a Caucasian actor, but he was now a darkly tanned Arab. I moved inside the marquee where there were 10 extras and two were Caucasian, but they had been heavily tanned to look Middle Eastern."
However, Disney said the new version of Aladdin is the most diversely cast production in their long history. The studio said that 400 of the 500 background performers were Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean, and Asian.
Several people have spoken out about the article and Disney's decisions made on the set of Aladdin and one of the loudest voices speaking out is Bafta-nominated director Riaz Meer. Meer, along with others, believe that it's an unacceptable practice to hire Caucasian extras when there are plenty of extras that fit the look in the vicinity. It has been reported that there are over 1 million people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Arab heritage living in London, which is only 30 miles away from the set of Aladdin. He had this to say.
"The talent exists and is accessible and there's no way that Asian extras could not have been hired to meet the needs of the film. Failing to hire on-screen talent of the right ethnic identity to meet the clear needs of this production is just plain wrong. We expect better from all filmmakers."
This isn't the first time that Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin has come under fire for racial issues. Back in September, it was announced that Disney was including a new Caucasian character in the movie that was not included in the original story, leading to criticisms of "whitewashing" the movie. In addition, there were claims that Disney "whitewashed" the live-action remake by choosing to cast Naomi Scott, a non-Arab actor, as Princess Jasmine in July.
This is not the first Hollywood production that has come under fire of fans and campaigners for being too white. Ridley Scott found himself in controversy after casting host of white stars as Egyptians in his 2014 movie Exodus: Gods and Kings. Oscar-nominated Ridley cast Christian Bale as Moses and Australian Joel Edgerton as Ramses, while there were also roles for Sigourney Weaver, and Aaron Paul. Critics said it was "offensive" and "unacceptable" that white actors are playing the roles of Egyptians. The live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell and the upcoming Hellboy remake have also recently come under fire for the same practices. You can read more about the "browning up" of the live-action remake of Aladdin via The Sunday Times.