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Disney responds to U.K. press scrutiny over casting in Aladdin remake

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Jan 9, 2018, 6:24 PM EST (Updated)

Disney is addressing British media reports centering on its supposed casting and handling of a number of extras for its live-action remake of Aladdin, saying that it's making a firm effort to put forward "one of the largest most diverse casts" for its lavish recreation of the iconic 1992 animated film.

Among a reported cast of extras that number around 500, media in the U.K. locked its attention on Disney’s alleged handling of the 100 or so who are white, citing one of the film’s principal stand-ins who claimed to see fair-skinned extras purportedly waiting in line outside a makeup tent to have their skin tone darkened.

In a statement, per Deadline, Disney stressed its commitment to diversity, and said that only in a "handful of instances" pertaining to "safety" were crew made to blend in on the Guy Ritchie-directed movie.

“Great care was taken to put together one of the largest, most diverse casts ever seen on screen,” said a Disney spokesperson. “Diversity of our cast and background performers was a requirement, and only in a handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety, and control (special effects rigs, stunt performers, and handling of animals) were crew made up to blend in.”

SYFY WIRE has reached out to Disney for comment.

This isn’t the first time the Aladdin remake has been the focus of attention for its casting. Before tapping Naomi Scott (Jasmine) and Mena Massoud (Aladdin) to star alongside Will Smith (who’s playing the Genie), Disney had expressed its determination to cast a wide net in an effort to land actors of Middle Eastern descent.

But Disney was suposedly forced to step up its efforts when, according to industry reports, 2,000 auditions didn't adequately winnow the field of actors to a handful with a mix of background and performance skills that checked all the production’s requisite boxes.

Meanwhile, filming continues at Longcross Studios on the outskirts of London. Aladdin is slated to arrive on May 24, 2019.