Will Smith: Genie in ‘Aladdin’ Was Not Actually Will Smith

Making Will Smith Genie gave the live-action Aladdin a blockbuster movie star. Even though he’s big and blue, there’s no mistaking Smith in the role. He also appears in a more recognizable human form as Aladdin (Mena Massoud)’s consort. It’s a good thing he got some additional screen time, because Smith said his Genie form isn’t even him.

Will Smith Genie in Aladdin
L-R: Mena Massoud and Will Smith | Disney

The Will Smith Genie in ‘Aladdin’ is a total creation

The animated Genie from 1992’s Aladdin took on some of Robin Williams’ features and adapted as he did impressions. The live-action Genie from the 2019 film looks like Smith in blue, and he also transforms with his magic. However, Smith said it took more than blue paint to create his Genie.

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“A lot of people don’t even recognize this, but the Genie is 100% CGI,” Smith said at a 2019 press conference for Aladdin. “People look at it and they think it’s my face blue and it’s my body. The Genie is 100% CGI. There is none of me in the Genie, right? So it’s like the work was so good that they don’t even get credit for it.”

He still played Genie on the set

The on-screen form of Genie may have been a total computer creation, but Smith was still acting during Genie’s scenes. You just don’t see the real Smith in the final cut because they replaced him with the CGI Genie. 

Will Smith Genie and Mena Massoud as Aladdin
L-R: Mena Massoud and Will Smith | Daniel Smith/Disney

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“What happened that was great for that, for me, I would just be on set,” Smith said. “We would run the scenes and everything, and I could do it on set. So I would improv on set because I knew it wouldn’t be necessarily in the movie. Then we would do the first round of the CGI work. And then we could go again, and we could work it.”

Animators revised the Will Smith Genie based on his acting 

Creating the Genie entirely in CGI actually helped the animators reflect Smith’s performance even more. Smith said he did some reshoots, and they did further animation based on the first round of scenes.

Aladdin: Will Smith and Nasim Pedrad
Nasim Pedrad and Will Smith | Daniel Smith/Disney

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“[Director] Guy [Ritchie] watched the whole movie,” Smith said. “Then I had another chance to go back, and we could play with lines and make adjustments because they were going to create it anyway. So for me, there was tons of improv, and we got to the point where Guy was open. Anybody could throw something in, and we were throwing it in. It would become a fun thing on set to try to find that No. 1 answer.”