Will Smith says son inspired him to pick Aladdin role

(L to R) Director Guy Ritchie and cast members Will Smith, Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud of Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” attend a press conference in Jordan’s capital Amman on May 13, 2019. (Photo by Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)

AMMAN: Hollywood heavyweight Will Smith, who stars as the Genie in the live-action remake of Disney’s ‘Aladdin’, says that his son Jaden inspired him to take the role of the Genie whilst speaking at a news conference in Amman on Monday.

Smith said 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.

His son Jaden, Smith’s co-star in the 2006 film ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’, had walked into the room and asked about the films.

‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ star pitched him each of the plotlines and asked for his opinion.

‘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,’ Smith said.

The film’s plot is drawn from a centuries-old Middle Eastern folk tale from the One Thousand and One Nights omnibus and was retold in a 1992 Disney animated film that featured the late Robin Williams’s voice as the Genie.

It is the story of a street urchin who finds a magic lamp containing a genie and falls in love with a rebellious princess, Jasmine. Director Guy Ritchie of ‘Snatch’ and ‘Sherlock Holmes’ fame said the story ‘needed updating.’

‘Aladdin’ is the latest live-action remake from Disney, which has revisited old animated films like ‘The Jungle Book’ as well as ‘Dumbo’ and will put out a new version of box-office hit ‘The Lion King’ this summer.

In addition to Smith, the 2019 remake also features English actress Naomi Scott as Jasmine and Canadian-Egyptian Mena Massoud as Aladdin.

The press conference was hosted by Jordan’s Royal Film Commission to mark the Middle East premiere of the film.

Some scenes were shot in 2017 in Wadi Rum, a desert valley in south Jordan that also featured in the 1962 classic ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

Smith also stressed with Ritchie in their first meeting that the film ‘had to be a love letter to the region’ and that he hoped children would be inspired to visit the area after seeing the film.

‘There is such a peace out in the middle of the desert,’ Massoud said. ‘There’s nothing like it.’