Will Smith knew he had big shoes to fill when taking on Aladdin.
The 50-year-old actor stopped by Good Morning America on Monday where he talked about having only a weekend to decide whether he would take the role of Genie in Disney’s live-action adaptation of Aladdin. The animated movie first captured hearts when it hit theaters in 1992, with the late comedian Robin Williams stealing the show as the wise-cracking Genie.
“That was a really tough weekend because Robin Williams smashed this thing so hard. When you take a role like this, you want to find where there’s some meat left on the bone. What would you do differently?” he said. “I watched the original, and Robin just destroyed that thing.”
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“It was so intimidating,” Smith admitted. “The one thing I latched on to was the idea that it was gonna be live-action, I knew that left a little bit of room. What I saw that he did is he revolutionized what you could do in these types of films. So for me, the hip-hop angle was the angle that I saw that would be my in.”
Smith previously opened up about taking on the iconic role in Entertainment Weekly‘s first look cover story back in December, where he also admitted he felt trepidation.
“Whenever you’re doing things that are iconic, it’s always terrifying,” Smith told EW. “The question is always: Where was there meat left on the bone? Robin didn’t leave a lot of meat on the bone with the character.”
Instead of trying to recreate the original Genie, Smith drew from his previous roles like Independence Day, Bad Boys and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to find his version of the blue wish-granter who is trapped in a lamp before Aladdin frees him.
“I started to feel confident that I could deliver something that was an homage to Robin Williams but was musically different,” he said. “Just the flavor of the character would be different enough and unique enough that it would be in a different lane, versus trying to compete.”
He continues, “I think it’ll stand out as unique even in the Disney world. There hasn’t been a lot of that hip-hop flavor in Disney history.”
Aladdin hits theaters May 24.
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