In the past year, Marwan Kenzari has gone from being a relatively unknown Dutch actor to being affectionately dubbed "hot Jafar" by the internet as a breakout star of Disney's live-action "Aladdin" film, which opened Friday.
Kenzari, 36, is starring alongside A-list celebrity Will Smith in the blockbuster movie that is expected to make as much as $85 million at the box office over Memorial Day weekend, according to Variety. Kenzari plays the film's villain, an adviser to the sultan of the fictional Agrabah.
As a teenager, though, Kenzari had no plans to even pursue an acting career — but he did have a girlfriend he wanted to impress.
Kenzari, who was born in the Netherlands to Tunisian immigrant parents, told Variety in 2014 that he grew up in a poor neighborhood of the Hague. As a teen, Kenzari's girlfriend signed up the both of them to audition for a local production of the classic musical "Chicago."
Kenzari ended up getting a part in the play, and while his teenage romance eventually fizzled, that musical changed his life. He got the acting bug, he says.
Kenzari then spent several years studying theater in the Netherlands, including at the Maastricht Academy of Dramatic Arts. But he wanted to be "the new Al Pacino" with a career as a major film star, he told Saskia Mees of the Hague's Alba Theater, who he worked with at age 20 in 2016.
After scoring a breakout role with the 2013 Dutch action film "Wolf," which resulted in Variety naming him an "International Star You Should Know" and won him awards, Kenzari went on to land small, but notable parts in major Hollywood films. In 2017, he starred in "The Mummy" opposite Tom Cruise, as well as "Murder on the Orient Express" alongside Kenneth Branagh and Daisy Ridley.
But it wasn't until news broke in August 2017 that Kenzari would be playing the villain Jafar in Disney's new "Aladdin" adaptation that Kenzari's profile with movie fans exploded. While the movie also stars celebrities like Smith, as well as young actors Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott (who play lead characters Aladdin and Jasmine, respectively), Kenzari's casting seemed to inspire the most breathless takes online from fans reacting to his, well, physique.
Kenzari on the cover of Vogue Netherlands Man in 2016
For his part, Kenzari says it's "flattering" to have so many fans drooling over his appearance in the new Disney movie. "I'm very appreciative. It's special when people are so kind about what you do or what they see, you can only be appreciative," Kenzari told Entertainment Tonight at the Los Angeles premiere of the movie on Wednesday.
He's also made it clear how excited he is to star in the movie, as he's been a fan of the original "Aladdin" animated film since it was released in 1992.
"I've been always fascinated by ['Aladdin'], you wanted to be Aladdin, you wanted to fall in love with Jasmine, you hated Jafar. So that has been present in my life since 1992," Kenzari said in a recent red carpet interview at the European premiere of the new Disney film.
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