To say that we live in a very fragile political climate would be an understatement. In our increasingly globalized world, there is a pressure to try and represent the diversity that many Americans see day in and day out. Without getting too political, it’s been difficult for Hollywood to embrace this idea. The fact is they like money, and up until recently, it’s largely been white actors who have become the big Hollywood A-listers, and in a continued effort to keep the gravy train going, studios have often clung to those familiar faces, assuming they would result in better box office receipts.
Of course, with those decisions come backlashes. We’ve seen it in films like Exodus: Gods and Kings, Gods of Egypt, Ghost in the Shell, and of course, The Prince of Persia face all sorts of criticism for their choice in leads.
So what does this mean for some of Disney’s upcoming live-action films? Up until now, the studio has kept to some pretty European-centric stories with Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and the upcoming Beauty and the Beast, so having an appropriate cast was never really a problem (Jungle Book only had to cast one live-action lead, which is why I didn’t mention it here). So what’s the deal with Aladdin? Are they planning on casting according to race, or can we expect another Prince of Persia?
Speaking with Collider, producer Dan Lin addressed this very question:
“Look at me. (Laughs) I mean I’m not a typical guy. Listen I’m very fortunate working in Hollywood; I am diverse. So when I came in to make the movie, I wanted to make a diverse version of the movie. Luckily for me [the film's director] Guy Ritchie has the same vision and Disney has the same vision, so we’re not here to make Prince of Persia. We want to make a movie that’s authentic to that world, and we’re gonna be discovering new people because it’s a real challenge, because not only does an actor have to act, but they really have to have singing chops.”
In his quote, you’ll notice he used the word “diverse.” Not to split hairs (okay, fine, I'm splitting them), but I do have to wonder what that means. In this context, does “diverse” simply mean non-white, or does “diverse” legitimately mean diverse — in that it will have people of many colors in it? That remains to be seen, but regardless of how it all shakes out, you can be sure that somebody is going to complain about it.
Of course coming from a Latino perspective, I personally tend to lean towards casting based on the character, meaning if it’s a black character, you probably want to cast a black actor. That being said, Broadway has a tradition of casting all kinds of different races, ages, and sexes for the same characters, and if Disney wanted to take that more theatrical approach of spreading the love, I wouldn’t necessarily be against it myself. It all kind of depends on the style and context.
What do you think of Lin’s comments? What do you think he meant by “diverse”? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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