It’s tough to find the perfect man—just ask Guy Ritchie. Apparently, the director and Disney Studios have been searching for their prince for the upcoming live-action version of Aladdin, but after seeing an estimated 2,000 actors, they have yet to be charmed by anyone.

According to a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter, the film was set to start its six-month shoot in July, “but finding a male lead in his 20s who can act and sing has proven difficult—especially since the studio wants someone of Middle-Eastern or Indian descent.”

Just let that quote sink in for a minute. Yes, the one where they insinuate that finding a Brown actor who can act, sing and dance is basically like searching for a “diamond in the rough” (shout out to The Hollywood Reporter for that reference). This is all despite the fact that with their combined populations, there are billions—yes, that’s with a b—of Middle Eastern and South Asian men, and also that both regions have thriving entertainment industries. It’s almost like the film crew needs a magical genie to make our wish for culturally-appropriate casting come true.

Consider for a minute the numerous barriers for Middle Eastern and South Asian actors to break into the entertainment industry in the first place. Not only is there auntie-perpetuated stigma of going into—gasp—the arts, but there is also the challenge of getting cast for roles beyond cab driver, terrorist or ‘ethnic best friend.’ Even when the characters are drawn, they all fit the same mould. I’m of Indian descent and growing up, the only Disney princess I was “allowed” to be at Halloween was Jasmine (or that random girl from The Jungle Book who legit no one remembers). 

To be fair, in Disney’s global search for the celebrated street rat, the film’s team has joined forces with casting directors from around the world, including Egypt, London, Abu Dhabi and India. And yet, that has only seemed to make their so-called “challenge” even more confusing. 

Perhaps they’re having a hard time finding a young Middle Eastern man who resembles the O.G. Aladdin because the animated character was legit based on Tom Cruise and voiced by Full House’s Scott Weinger. TBH, he was basically a white guy with a tan and parachute pants. 

But in an industry where Jake Gyllenhaal can be The Prince of Persia and Emma Stone is an acceptable choice for a half-Asian character, Aladdin was supposed to be different.

As with its upcoming live-action version of Mulan, Disney told audiences Aladdin would cast culturally-appropriate lead characters for the new version of the classic film. But the latest news has really pulled the flying carpet out from under those who hoped for the best.

The studio reportedly considered go-to Brown boys like Dev Patel and Riz Ahmed, but are now saying they’re likely to cast a newcomer for the film’s title role. Social media users were quick to offer suggestions including super hottie Zayn Malik, Canadian Avan Jogia and a plethora of Bollywood actors.

Some actors even put their own names forward, including The Big Sick‘s Kumail Nanjiani and WWE’s Mustafa Ali.

While Twitter was filled with suggestions, users also pointed out that since Aladdin is set in Agrabah, a fictional Middle Eastern city, it remains unclear why the studio is even looking at South Asian actors.

At present, the only actor attached to the project is Will Smith, who will be filling some seriously big blue shoes as the Genie.

Because of the delay, the film is now tentatively slated to start filming in August. One thing, however, remains crystal clear: It’s been 25 years since the original animated feature came out, and while Hollywood may think it’s “a whole new world,” it’s still battling the same old problems.

Filed under: flare, pop-culture