With the live-action remake of Aladdin hitting theaters tomorrow, many fans of the original animated version most likely want to see how actor Will Smith pulls off the remake's version of Genie. Originally played by the late Robin Williams, Genie went on to become one of Williams' most iconic roles. According to Smith, he was afraid of playing the character.
At a Disney press conference attended by CBR and other outlets, Smith explained his initial fear of the role and how he overcame it.
"This is my first Disney movie," Smith began. "And there's something that Walt Disney did in the design of these stories that at the core of these stories is something that shocks the inner child within you and forces it to come alive and smile and appreciate the moment. So for me, coming into this, first starting with fear, it definitely started with fear, what Robin Williams did with his character was, 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 like Guy [Ritchie] was saying. This was the most joyful experience of my career."
Smith also revealed which song it was that helped him conquer his fear.
"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 literally 30 minutes in the studio, and starting to play with it and finding that in that 94, 96 BPM range, we were playing around in there thinking ultimately it was a little bit faster than that. But that 94, 96 BPM range is right old school hip hop. So I grabbed the Honey Drippers' 'Impeach the President,' which is a really classic old school hip hop break beat. And I had them throw that break beat under there. And I messed with that and I messed with Eric [PH] Bien Rokems. I know you got sold under ‘Friend Like Me’. And I was like oh my God. I'm home, I'm home. And then I started playing with the hip hop flavor and then the Genie was really born in my mind from the music. And I understood once I played with ‘Friend Like Me’"
With a role as beloved as Genie, it's understandable that Smith would feel pressure when taking it. But from the trailers and commercials, Smith seems to have made the role his own, while also honoring the late Robin Williams.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, Aladdin stars Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Will Smith as Genie, Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, Marwan Kenzari as Jafar, Navid Negahban as the Sultan of Agrabah, Billy Magnussen as new character Prince Anders, and Frank Welker and Alan Tudyk as the voices of Abu and Iago, respectively. The film opens Friday nationwide.