AMMAN, Jordan — Hollywood star and Philadelphia native Will Smith says that Disney's live-action remake of "Aladdin" was "one of, if not the best experience" of his accomplished 30-year career.
Speaking to reporters in Amman, Jordan, on Monday at the regional premiere, Smith, who plays Genie, said the musical movie "called upon every talent I cultivated" throughout decades as an actor, rapper and media personality.
Smith, who vaulted to fame with the 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," suggested that his provocative performance involves singing, comedy bits, action sequences and even Bollywood-style dance numbers — "everything short of boxing."
The film pays homage to the Academy Award-winning original 1992 animated film starring the late Robin Williams, who played the memorable voice of Genie. Smith said Williams' performance in the original film "revolutionized what actors thought we could do in these kinds of movies."
When first asked to take on the role of Genie, Smith said he demurred, intimidated by the big shoes to fill.
But he said his son Jaden convinced him not to pass up the opportunity.
"He was the first person that really saw the excitement around the idea of what I might do with it," Smith said.
Inspired by Williams' performance, which Smith said "didn't leave too much room for improvement," he tried to capture a similar sort of nostalgia, inflecting the human Genie with 1990s "hip hop energy."
The adaption was mostly shot in the vast Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum, famous in the West as the backdrop for 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia," with its immense rock formations and rolling sand dunes.
Smith said the film aimed to "be a love letter to the region," and encourage young viewers to visit the Middle East.
Production designer Gemma Jackson, acclaimed for her work on the HBO series "Game of Thrones," constructed the fictional country of Agrabah as a composite of Arabian and South Asian landscapes, intended to conjure lavish oriental fantasies.
"Aladdin," directed by Guy Ritchie, premieres in the United States on May 24, and a day earlier in the Middle East.