Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter on day 2 of the second edition of the event in Jeddah and the morning after he accepted one of the festival’s main honorary awards, the British director said that, rather than any political considerations, he simply saw himself as a someone interested in the creative world.
“Whatever I can do to encourage creativity, particularly in my world of film, I’m all about that,” he said. “I’m all about encouragement and the collaboration of culture.”
While the festival trip may have been Ritchie’s first time in Saudi Arabia, he said he’d been to the Middle East numerous times before, having visited friends in Bahrain and also shot much of Aladdin in Jordan. “Some degree of the future lies here,” he noted.
Speaking of Aladdin, while Ritchie didn’t comment directly on the infamous Oscars slap earlier this year by Will Smith, who played the genie in Disney’s 2019 live-action box office smash, he did insist that his experience with the star was nothing but a delight.
“I’ve never met a more lovely man, and working with him was one of the most wonderful, great experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “I never saw anything other than the consummate, generous gentleman.”
With Aladdin 2 now in pre-production, would he reconsider casting Smith again? Absolutely not. “I wouldn’t have any issue casting Will Smith in anything, because, as I say, he was just the fucking perfect gentleman,” he said.
Ritchie was at the Red Sea Film Festival having taken a quick three-day break from shooting the small-screen spin-off of his 2020 hit The Gentleman. While there were TV adaptations of both his debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and follow-up Snatch, he said that this project was “the only serious thing I’ve done in TV,” noting that he’d written it and was directing it. “And it’s a lot of fun, more fun than I thought it was going to be.”
Lock, Stock — which propelled Ritchie immediately into Hollywood — came out in 1998, and despite the almost quarter of a century that has passed, he admitted he hadn’t really had a chance to sit back and reflect on his life and career since then. “You blink and it’s as if nothing happened,” he said. “You’re just two stone heavier and a little bit richer.”