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Will Smith Makes the Genie in Aladdin His Own – Check the Interview!

Will talks about adding his own flavor to the much-loved character.

May 21, 2019

By: Lynn Barker

In the new live-action film of Disney’s Aladdin, famous actor Will Smith morphs into a sometimes blue-skinned, often CGI version of the much-loved Genie made famous by the voice of Robin Williams in the original, animated movie. Adding his own “flavor” to the character wasn’t easy for the popular actor you’ve seen in movies like the Men in Black films and Suicide Squad. This dad to Jaden and Willow took some time off from his international career to examine exactly what his goals should be from now on and decided to do work that inspires more good in the world. Can’t hurt, right? 

Disney’s Aladdin Trailer #2

 

Before acting, Will was a rapper inspired by early hip-hop and tells us that these youthful influences are behind his take on the songs Genie sings in the film. We learned what he took from set and what one of his Genie wishes would be. Pull up a magic carpet and join us!

Will as the Genie in human form with AladdinWill as the Genie in human form with AladdinCourtesy of Disney

Q: Will, what was it like being in your first Disney film?

  • Will: Disney magic is real. This is my first Disney movie and there is something that Walt Disney did in the design of these stories that at the core is something that shocks the inner child within you and forces it to come alive and you smile and appreciate the moment. For me, coming into this, it definitely started with fear. What Robin Williams did with this character, he just didn’t leave a lot of room to add to the Genie so I started off fearful but then when I got with the music, it just started waking up that fun childlike, silly part of me and this was the most joyful experience of my career.

Robin Williams voiced the animated GenieRobin Williams voiced the animated GenieCourtesy of Disney

Q: Very cool! Was there any one particular song that resonated with you?

  • Will: The song that got me over the hump of ‘yes I can play Genie’ was “Friend Like Me”. I went into the studio the first day and I really wanted to play with it to see if I could add something to it and l found that, in the 94, 96 BPM (beats per minute) range, that is old school hip-hop so I grabbed the Honey Drippers “Impeach the President” which was a really classic old school hip-hop break beat, and I had them throw that break beat under there and I messed with “I Know You Got Soul” by Eric B. and Rakim under “Friend Like Me” and I’m like ‘Oh my God, I’m home’. Then I started playing with the hip-hop flavor and the Genie was really born in my mind from the music.

Q: Did you keep anything from set?

  • Will: I always like to keep a little piece of wardrobe. For me, for whatever reason, the wardrobe has a great value so I always… I tucked the turban on the way out.

Will kept his turbanWill kept his turbanCourtesy of Disney

Q: Fun! Did you think it was important that the filmmakers pulled cultural references from the (Middle East) for this film to keep it authentic?

  • Will: I think it is critically important to be able to pull stories and colors and textures and tastes from around the world. I think that, in this particular time in the world that kind of inclusion and diversity will be a critical part in turning our connectivity, because we have more connectivity than ever, but transitioning that into harmony is going to be really critical and I think these kinds of interactions in these types of movies are a powerful global service. I spend a lot of time in the Middle East so this (movie) in particular was critically important in that way.

Will makes shades look cool in Men in BlackWill makes shades look cool in Men in Black

Q: Can you talk about what you look for now in your career? A lot of people are jaded after thirty years in show business but you’re not.

  • Will: I took a couple of years off and I guess I’d sort of hit a ceiling in my life. I had created the things that I can create in my career. I was getting to the end of my wisdom with leading my family. I got to a point where I had just a collapse of my life and creations so I took a couple of years off essentially to study and journey spiritually. Aladdin was sort of my first coming back in and seeing if my heart was even still in this kind of performing. What I’ve discovered is that everything starts with ‘What am I saying to the world? How does this piece contribute to the human family? Can I go around the world with the ideas that the movie represents and can I teach and preach these ideas in good conscience?’ Aladdin checks all of those boxes.

Will as Deadshot in Suicide SquadWill as Deadshot in Suicide SquadCourtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Q: What did you particularly like about the Genie? Could you relate to him?

  • Will: I love the idea of Genie and one of the things I related to in Genie is that he has shackles. The genie has these spectacular powers but he is shackled. He is a prisoner of his spiritual fate. That is sort of how I felt with Will Smith. I was shackled by Will Smith and in just these last couple of years I’ve started finding my freedom, getting free of Will Smith and I’m getting more comfortable being me. So, Aladdin was that first step back.

Some of Will's Genie performance is CGISome of Will's Genie performance is CGICourtesy of Disney

Q: You have another Sci-Fi movie coming out soon too?

  • Will: Yeah. In terms of Gemini Man (upcoming film with Ang Lee directing), we’re not going to talk about that yet but just the ideas of that. There are some deep concepts under that. Really, it’s just about my beliefs. I’m going out into the world and have a big voice and people look and listen. I just want to make sure I’m saying things that improve and contribute to people’s lives and growth and joy and evolution.

Genie explains the wishes to AladdinGenie explains the wishes to AladdinCourtesy of Disney

Q: Talk about how the production design on this film helped you as an actor.

  • Will: The ultimate compliment from the actor’s point of view is that we were transported to the time and place. That’s what happened when we walked on that set. When you walk through.. woooo, it was in the textures of the walls and all that and the stairs were real. You could go up and out onto the rooftop. It was a powerful way to transport the actors into the emotions and smells of the time and place.

Genie Advises Aladdin on how to be a princeGenie Advises Aladdin on how to be a princeCourtesy of Disney

Q: If you had the three wishes from the movie what would they be?

  • Will: I would have one wish and my one wish would be divine understanding and that is the thing I’ve been finding. I learned that lack of understanding, confusion is the mother of fear and violence so, for me, I would absolutely wish for divine understanding to be shared with all. I think that understanding is the seed of peace.

Q: Very true.

See Will in Aladdin starting Friday, May 24th!

Courtesy of Disney
What Do You Think?

Do you remember the animated Aladdin? How do you feel about Disney re-making many of their classic animated films with live-action actors? Have you seen Will Smith in some of his many films? Let everyone know with a comment here and/or on your Kidzworld profile page.