Will Smith was nervous to take on the role of the Genie in Disney’s live-action Aladdin reboot because the late Robin Williams’ animated performance is so “iconic”.
Beloved comedian Robin delighted fans as the wise-cracking magical being in the 1992 original, so when Will was approached to bring the character to life onscreen in director Guy Ritchie’s new project, he knew it would be a daunting task.
“Whenever you’re doing things that are iconic, it’s always terrifying,” he tells Entertainment Weekly. “The question is always, ‘Where was there meat left on the bone?,’ and with the Robin Williams character, Robin didn’t leave a lot of meat on the bone.”
However, instead of trying to mimic the tragic funnyman onscreen, Will decided to inject some of his hip-hop style into his take on the Genie to make it his own.
“For me, the first aspect was it was live action, so that meant it would look and feel really different, so I was encouraged by that,” the actor shares. “And secondarily, after I watched the (animated) movie a few times, I saw where Robin Williams infused the character with a timeless version of himself, so I said to myself, ‘What if I just infuse the character with a timeless version of myself?’ And then that opened up for me… hip-hop, it opened up fashion.
“Because the Genie is timeless, you get to really say and do anything, so I started to feel confident that I could deliver something that was an homage to Robin Williams but was musically different and just the flavour of the character would be different enough and unique enough that it would be in a different lane versus trying to compete.”
And Will believes fans will enjoy his modern interpretation of the wish-granting character, because it speaks to the influence of hip-hop culture in today’s mainstream entertainment.
“The thing that will be the major addition from me playing the Genie is the hip-hop base. I think that’ll be fun for people,” he says. “I think it’ll stand out as unique even in the Disney world. There hasn’t been a lot of that hip-hop flavour in Disney history!”
Aladdin, which also stars Mena Massoud as the titular vagrant-turned-prince, and Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, opens in May (19).
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