Actor Navid Negahban, who plays the Sultan in Disney's upcoming live-action Aladdin re-imagining, is defending the film after the project came under fire for "browning up" white extras to make them appear Middle Eastern.
“It’s not whitewashing,” Negahban told the Huffington Post.
“The thing is that the garden should be filled with flowers of different kinds,” Negahban said. “If not, the garden is going to be very boring. So you’re gonna go and see this beautiful garden with colorful flowers, and I just hope that you enjoy the journey.”
Reports surfaced last week the Guy Ritchie-directed film was artificially darkening the skin of its extras, with one extra, Kaushal Odedra, claiming they saw as many as 20 "very fair skinned" actors in line "waiting to have their skin darkened."
"Great care was taken to put together one of the largest most diverse casts ever seen on screen," a Disney spokesperson said in response.
"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."
"I love Disney so much," Penn wrote on Twitter. "But when a PR person says they decided to put 100 people in Brownface in 2018 because not enough of us are qualified, that's [bullsh—t], someone just didn't want to spend the [money] to do it right."
"Let's all expect more & do better this year," Penn wrote.
Negahban had praise for Ritchie, saying the filmmaker brings "passion" and "commitment" to the production.
“He just found beauty in these scenes…as the filming went on it really became like a family and Guy was just amazing, finding these little nuances to make [the film] so much more intense or powerful," Negahban said.
“You will definitely love the film," Negahban said of the live-action spin on the cherished 1992 animated Disney classic. "It doesn’t matter how old you are, the film has something for you to take away from it.”
Aladdin producer Dan Lin promised in early 2017 the movie would be "diverse" and "authentic."
Like Beauty and the Beast before it, the 2017 mega-hit that grossed over $1 billion worldwide, the Aladdin re-imagining will be a musical.
Aladdin, starring Will Smith as the Genie, Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, Marwan Kenzari as the villainous Jafar, and Mena Massoud as the eponymous street rat, opens May 24, 2019.