The article, which featured the headline, "Genie, brown up some extras for Aladdin", included quotes from film extra Kaushal Odedra, who witnessed a string of "very fair skinned" actors "waiting to have their skin darkened" by make-up artists on the set in Surrey, near London.
Disney has admitted to using makeup to help dozens of white extras look Middle Eastern for crowd scenes in its upcoming, live-action remake of "Aladdin", The Sunday Times reports. Disney told the paper this had been done, because it could not find enough Asian camel handlers, stunt people or dancers.
Disney confirmed that while 400 of 500 background performers on the set of Aladdin are of Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean, or Asian descent, about 100 other extras are white.
The issue first emerged when actors working on the set of the live-action remake told United Kingdom media that they spotted several "very fair skinned" actors in line outside make-up tents "waiting to have their skin darkened".
"Also, if I'd wanted to discuss it, speaking to the nearly entirely white crew seemed somewhat intimidating", he went on to say.
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British actress Naomi Scott, who is of Indian heritage, is playing Princess Jasmine while Egyptian-born Canadian Mena Massoud is playing the title role. Coming back now and suggesting that even the extras are too hard to cast is ... truly something else.
The idea that white actors should be hired and "tanned" by the world's biggest movie studio, for a film that is categorically not about white people is especially disturbing, given that the year is 2018 and the movie is being shot in a location that's within easy reach of one of the most diverse cities in the world.
"Great care was taken to put together one of the largest most diverse casts ever seen on screen", a Disney spokesperson said of the situation. The studio maintains that the new version of the hit 1992 animated movie Aladdin is the most diversely cast production in Disney's history. The casting followed an extensive search for stars but didn't come without backlash: The film's decision to cast Billy Magnussen in a new role for the movie as Prince Anders already faced criticism from fans for what they called a "gentrification of Agrabah".
Disney's choice for Aladdin, however, has been warmly received.