Will Smith, Naomi Scott Talk Empowering Princess Jasmine in New 'Aladdin'
Bringing the iconic fantasy story to life was not the only departure from the animated original in Disney's live-action reboot of Aladdin. Perhaps the biggest change is in Princess Jasmine, who takes on a much more empowered role in this updated version, the cast revealed at the world premiere on Tuesday evening at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.
In the 1992 original, the Princess of Agrabah's primary fight is to marry Aladdin, despite the fact that he is poor and not of royal birth. 2019's Jasmine, on the other hand, has dreams of becoming the Sultan herself and taking over the kingdom from her father, despite the fact that she is a woman and only men have been allowed to rule.
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Naomi Scott, who stars as Jasmine, said that decision to expand on the character's arc was a logical step in modernizing the story for today.
"It was just about a natural progression — it was just about the animation and what was so great about that and her being outspoken but just pushing those things, making her even more ambitious," Scott told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. "In the original she is fighting for the choice to marry who she wants to marry, and in our movie, she is not just fighting for her own rights, she's fighting for everyone. She cares about her kingdom, she wants to be political, she's a leader, and I think that's something that's really important and just makes perfect sense."
Will Smith, who takes over for Robin Williams as the blue Genie, told reporters that the additions to Jasmine are what he's most proud of in the film.
"The idea [is] that her character wants to rule, that her father doesn't have any sons and she doesn't understand why she can't be the next in line to rule the kingdom," Smith said. "This is just a time when women aren't allowed to rule in this world and that added such a new flavor to interactions between Jasmine and Aladdin."
The star also called out new song "Speechless," sung by Scott and written by The Greatest Showman lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, as "the greatest accomplishment of this movie" for its focus on empowerment and strength.
The premiere also welcomed director Guy Ritchie and stars Marwan Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad, Navid Negahban and Numan Acar. Of course, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) himself was also in attendance and spoke about the importance of revisiting this story 27 years later.
"I think we're finally getting to represent a lot of diverse cultures and people of color," Massoud told THR. "In this film we're not just representing one group or one culture, but we're really expanding and trying to represent the world at large, so I think it's the perfect time to do that and see these people come together in harmony and unity."
Plenty of star guests showed their support on the purple carpet, including Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and children Willow and Jaden Smith, as well as former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star Alfonso Ribeiro. Helen Mirren and Terry Crews were also guests at the premiere.
Aladdin hits theaters Friday.
by Graeme McMillan
by Richard Newby