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Actor Will Smith says he ‘infused’ Wadi Rum experience with role in upcoming ‘Aladdin’

Film, shot in Jordan, to be screened in Jordan on May 23

By Muath Freij - May 14,2019 - Last updated at May 14,2019

Left to right: 'Aladdin' director Guy Richie and cast Will Smith, Naomi Scott and Mena Massoud speak during a press conference in Amman, ahead of the commercial release of the film in Jordan, where parts of the picture were shot (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — Just as he walked into Wadi Rum, actor Will Smith envisioned how to infuse his awe-inspiring experience into the character he is playing in Disney’s live action remake of “Aladdin”. 

“For me it was absolutely spectacular,” Smith, who plays the Genie in the 2019 picture, told reporters during a press conference in Amman on Monday, attended by the film’s cast and director.

The film, parts of which were shot in Jordan’s Wadi Rum last year, will be screened in the Kingdom on May 23.

“What happens with actors when [they] travel to locations, [is that] everything changes inside of you. When we landed in Jordan, all of a sudden you begin to embody the feelings of the characters,” the Hollywood star told the press.

Aladdin has been another example that Jordan is “the place” for filming locations, Royal Film Commission Commissioner Mary Nazzal Batayneh said, noting that filming the picture in the Kingdom has contributed to creating some 150 job opportunities for Jordanians. 

“Jordan has really proved itself to be the natural and safe destination for filming. Apart from the diversity of our country, we have skilled crew and services and a comprehensive infrastructure, and we are taking that further with our [tax] incentive package,” Batayneh told reporters. 

“We are so pleased that Aladdin benefited from this incentive package, and we have since doubled the fund available for it, making Jordan even more attractive [as a filming location],” she added.  

She also announced that a sound stage for post production in the Kingdom is currently in the final design stages. 

“You can do everything in Jordan,” she exclaimed.

When asked about how the movie represented the Arabic culture, Smith said that this was a heavily discussed topic on set. 

“It’s a fantasy, and we wanted to be as inclusive of the whole region as possible,” he said.

“For me, that was one of the things that I was concerned about in my first meeting with Guy [film director Guy Ritchie]. It had to be a love letter to the region, [we wanted] kids around the world to see it and say ‘I want to go there’,” the actor said. 

For his part, director and co-writer of “Aladdin” Ritchie said that “Will’s principal concern was making sure he did not disturb the nostalgia and the brilliance of Robin Williams’ performance”, referring to William’s portrayal of the Genie in the 1992 classic animated “Aladdin”. 

“So my job was really to encourage Will to be more Will, which I found was one step to the left or one step to the right of where Robin was, but I mean needless to say I am a big fan of Will, and I was there to encourage more of that,” he added. 

Wadi Rum has been a hub for filming in the last few years, with many major pictures choosing it as a set location, notably 2015’s “the Martian”, and most recently, the ninth instalment of the Star Wars saga “Rise of Skywalker”, which is expected to be released later this year.

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