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Guy Ritchie’s Live Action ‘Aladdin’ Specifically Seeking ‘Middle Eastern’ Actors

Disney makes strides toward avoiding whitewashing with its latest casting call.

Hot on the heels of unveiling a gay character in “Beauty and the Beast,” which is ruffling feathers in movie theaters from Alabama to Russia, Disney’s open casting call for Guy Ritchie’s live action “Aladdin” remake specifically states that the characters are Middle Eastern.

While the wording is a bit vague, the first line in the casting announcement states clearly: “These characters are Middle Eastern.”

READ MORE: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Review: Disney’s Animated Classic Gets A Needless Makeover

Hollywood’s penchant for casting white actors in non-white roles has prompted much criticism of late, with little change from the big studios. Whitewashing should have gone the way of the VCR with Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” or Eli Wallach in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” but the missteps just keep coming with Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell,” and Tilda Swinton in “Doctor Strange.”

The 1992 film is loosely based on a folk tale from “Arabian Nights,” and set in the fictional Arab sultanate of Agrabah. It tells the story of a beggar, Aladdin, who discovers a cave full of treasure and a genial Genie inside a lamp. Like 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast,” it features music by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Tim Rice and Howard Ashman.

The animated classic was voiced by all white actors, including Robin Williams as the Genie and Gilbert Gottfried as the evil parrot, Iago. With this casting call, Disney seems intent on finding actors of Middle Eastern descent, or at least non-white actors who can realistically play Middle Eastern. Which prompts the obvious question: Can Riz Ahmed sing?

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