Hollywood star Will Smith believes Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin is “one of, if not the best experience” of his accomplished 30-year career.
The actor, who plays Genie in the adaptation of the 1992 animated classic, spoke to reporters in Amman, Jordan, at the regional premiere of the Guy Ritchie-directed film.
He said the role needed singing, comedy bits, action sequences and even Bollywood-style dance numbers – “everything short of boxing”.
Smith said the musical movie “called upon every talent I cultivated” throughout decades as an actor, rapper and media personality.
He said he was initially intimidated to follow Robin Williams’ iconic performance in the original film.
Smith said his predecessor’s performance in the original film “revolutionised what actors thought we could do in these kinds of movies”.
When first asked to take on the role of the Genie, Smith said he demurred, intimidated by the big shoes to fill.
But he said his son Jaden convinced him not to pass up the opportunity.
“He was the first person that really saw the excitement around the idea of what I might do with it,” Smith said.
Inspired by Williams’s performance, which Smith said “didn’t leave too much room for improvement,” he tried to capture a similar sort of nostalgia, inflecting the human Genie with 1990s “hip hop energy”.
The adaptation was mostly shot in the vast Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum, famous as the backdrop for 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia, with its immense rock formations and rolling sand dunes.
Smith said the film aimed to “be a love letter to the region” and encourage young viewers to visit the Middle East.
Production designer Gemma Jackson, acclaimed for her work on Game of Thrones, constructed the fictional country of Agrabah as a composite of Arabian and South Asian landscapes, intended to conjure lavish oriental fantasies.