Disney has found itself at the center of “whitewashing” accusations after the company created an original character, who will be played by a white actor, for its upcoming live-action remake of Aladdin.
Actor Billy Magnussen (Bridge of Spies, Black Mirror) was reported Wednesday to have been cast as Prince Anders, a character that did not originally appear in the 1992 animated film. According to the Hollywood Reporter, which first broke the news of the casting, no other details about the new character were immediately available.
But that did little to quell the outrage from some social media users over the casting, especially after the Guy Ritchie-directed project already came in for criticism due to its casting of actress Naomi Scott (Power Rangers) to play Princess Jasmine.
Magnussen, who will next be seen in the upcoming Jason Bateman comedy Game Night, previously played a prince in the 2014 Disney film Into the Woods.
Accusations of “whitewashing,” or casting a white actor in a role originally meant for an actor of color, have increased recently as several major studio releases have come under fire for the practice. In the case of Aladdin, much of the criticism centered on the creation of a white character, and not on the changing of an existing character’s ethnicity.
Last week, actor Ed Skrein exited the reboot of the Hellboy film franchise over backlash about his casting. The British actor had been cast to play Major Ben Daimio — a character of Asian heritage in the original graphic novels — in the third entry in the film series, before dropping out in response to the controversy.
“It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people, and that to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the Arts,” Skrein wrote in an Instagram post explaining his resignation. “I feel it is important to honour and respect that.”
Other recent films that have been targeted for whitewashing include last year’s superhero film Doctor Strange, in which actress Tilda Swinton was cast as a character originally written as an Asian man in the comic series, and the sci-fi film Ghost in the Shell, in which Scarlett Johansson was cast to play a character originally of Asian heritage in the source material.
Disney’s live-action Aladdin remake — starring Will Smith as the Genie and Marwan Kenzari as Jafar — is currently in pre-production.