As the Disney classic Aladdin hits cinemas in film form, WHO caught up with Mena Massoud – the actor who plays the Agrabah thief and ‘street rat’, who becomes smitten with the Sultan’s daughter, Princess Jasmine. The 27-year-old Canadian star reveals how he got his dream role working alongside Hollywood greats such as Will Smith and director Guy Ritchie, and what he hopes his latest project will achieve by telling the story of this childhood favourite. Watch a clip from the film below.
What can fans of the original movie expect? Have you played homage to it?
Yeah, we’ve just done our best to bring this world to life because it’s live-action, and that means real human beings. I think we’ve created this incredibly colourful, three-dimensional world, and the characters are incredibly complex and deep. We’re trying to make it real.
A huge part of the original is the soundtrack and the singing. Is that something that you took on in this movie?
I did, yeah. We had dance choreography rehearsals and vocal rehearsals, and I had about six or seven weeks of prep before we even went to camera to prep for all that stuff. Then I kept on singing for about the next year-and-a-half.
What are some great takeaways that you had from working with the likes of Will Smith and Guy Ritchie?
Guy taught me to be myself and not try to change for anyone, and Will in the same way. These are two incredibly grounded, humble people. There were things that I learned about Guy every day that I had no idea because he kind of just doesn’t talk about them or doesn’t gloat about them. I just had great conversations with Will about his career, and he took me back to when his career took off and when he started doing iconic roles – and that’s the position I’m in right now, and I hope to continue to be in. He just talked me through that and how he dealt with it.
Will Smith is quite motivational on social media. Was he like that on set?
Will plays the genie, who’s lived over 10,000 years and has a lot of wisdom – he’s a character that transcends time. When you meet Will in person, it’s funny because he’s a human that kind of transcends time. He has a lot of knowledge. He’s studied a lot of religions, and he has a lot of information, and he brings that wisdom to not only the role, but I was lucky enough to have him as a mentor as well. You’ll definitely be able to see that in this film.
Are there actors or industry experts that you look up to, beyond Aladdin?
I definitely grew up looking up to Will Smith, and it was great getting to work with him because, like I said, he’s one of the last superstars. Him and Tom Cruise, really. Funnily enough, [the late comedian] Robin Williams, I grew up with – he was an inspiration. He really made me want to be an actor, and I started doing work doing voices because of Robin. Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale – all incredible inspirations to me as well.
For more of our interview with Massoud, check out this week's issue of WHO. Aladdin is in cinemas on Thu., May 23.