It’s been 27 years since Williams laid down one of the great tour de force performances on screen, simply with the power of his voice. How could anyone try and match that? Why would they even try? Smith compared taking on the role to playing the lead in a Godfather remake when he told a press conference in London just how terrifying it was. He explained what he tried to bring to the new live-action version but a huge Disney legend jas said there is no comparison.
Smith said: “I was terrified. It’s like, ‘Hey, we’re thinking of redoing the Godfather and we’re thinking of you for the Al Pacino role.’ You don’t want to go anywhere near those kinds of roles. Robin didn’t leave much room for improvement in the genie.”
Smith was joined on stage by director Guy Ritchie, young stars Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott – who play Aladdin and Jasmine – and Alan Menken.
Menken has won eight Oscars – including two for Aladdin, which he worked on with Robin Williams – so he knows what he is talking about.
The Disney legend did not mince his words when he addressed the ongoing comparisons between Smith and Williams.
Menken said: “Robin in animation went into the studio and he would do one take and one take and one take – and then they cut them together. You had to go in and do it in real time. You filled those shoes and then some.”
It is a powerful point. There is no denying the genius of Williams’ extraordinary performance but Smith has to fill the screen as well as the vocal booth with less opportunity for edits and endless retakes when an entire cast and crew are waiting to do their jobs.
Humble as ever, Smith was clearly touched by the tribute bit revealed it made the whole experience no less terrifying.
Smith added: “It didn’t make it any easier. It didn’t make it less scary.
“They captured something for generation, marking people’s childhoods. I wanted to create an hommage to Robin and to the performance with the songs and everything that people could still connect to – but then add that hip hop flavour.”
Audiences can make up their own minds as the film opens worldwide this weekend.
ALADDIN IS OUT NOW IN CINEMAS