Replacing the iconic Robin Williams is no easy task, so Will Smith isn't going for a beat-for-beat recreation of the Genie in Disney's upcoming live-action Aladdin. Rather than try to make a similar character, Smith and director Guy Ritchie are looking to build their new Genie from the ground up, infusing as much of the actor's infectious personality into the character as possible.
It's that iconic Will Smith charm that has led one Disney executive to praise the look and feel of this new Genie, calling it "part Fresh Prince, part Hitch."
The first look at Smith's Genie came on Wednesday morning, as Entertainment Weekly revealed plenty of details regarding the new Disney film. In the cover story, Ritchie explained that infusing Smith's personality into Genie was necessary in order to separate him from the dazzling performance Williams gave in the original 1992 classic.
“The great thing about the role of the Genie is that it’s essentially a hyperbole for who that individual actor is, so it’s a wonderful platform and tapestry for an actor to fill his boots on,” Ritchie said.
As for Smith, taking on the role was sort of daunting, but he did it the only way he knew how, which led to the inspiration from his previous roles.
“Whenever you’re doing things that are iconic, it’s always terrifying,” Smith said. “The question is always: Where was there meat left on the bone? Robin didn’t leave a lot of meat on the bone with the character.”
“[He] infused the character with a timeless version of himself. I started to feel confident that I could deliver something that was an homage to Robin Williams but was musically different. Just the flavor of the character would be different enough and unique enough that it would be in a different lane, versus trying to compete.”
“I think it’ll stand out as unique even in the Disney world,” Smith added. “There hasn’t been a lot of that hip-hop flavor in Disney history.”
Ritchie went on to give a brief description of this new Genie, since one photo can only say so much.
“I wanted a muscular 1970s dad,” the director revealed. “He was big enough to feel like a force — not so muscular that he looked like he was counting his calories, but formidable enough to look like you knew when he was in the room.
“I like the fact that our Genie has an ego and is a little bit vain and he cares about how he’s presented because he’s been doing this for a very long time.”
The vanity of Smith's Genie is front and center in the character's first scene on-screen. When Aladdin arrives in the Cave of Wonders, and rubs the lamp for the first time, Genie appears from his captivity only to be surprised when Aladdin doesn't recognize him.
“You really don’t know who I am?" Genie asks. "Genie…wishes…lamp? None of that ringing a bell? Wow, that’s a first.”
How do you feel about the new version of the Genie? Let us know in the comments!
Disney's Aladdin is set to hit theaters on May 24, 2019.