Live-Action Little Mermaid Was Supposed To Appeal To Creepy Old Dudes?

By Charlene Badasie | Published

Filmmaker Sophia Coppola says she exited the live-action Little Mermaid movie when a Universal Studios executive said the project should appeal to older men. Speaking to Rolling Stone, she revealed that the comment was her breaking point. “I was in a boardroom, and some development guy said, ‘What’s gonna get the 35-year-old man in the audience?’ And I just didn’t know what to say.”

Sophia Coppola Stepped Away From The Little Mermaid Because She Was Asked To Make The Movie Appeal To Older Men

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“I just was not in my element,” Coppola continued. “I feel like I was naive, and then I felt a lot like the character in the story, trying to do something out of my element, and it was a funny parallel of the story for me,” she said of her short time on The Little Mermaid. Coppola also explained that her take on the story would have been a closer adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

Her Version Of The Tale Would’ve Been Shot Underwater Like Avatar 2

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Coppola also wanted her version of The Little Mermaid to be filmed underwater, like James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water. However, underwater shoots create a unique set of technical challenges that become very costly. As such, the director clashed with Universal over the budget, fueling her decision to leave the film.

Coppola’s film style is characterized by an ethereal quality that permeates her work. If she had directed The Little Mermaid, it’s safe to assume she would have created a dreamy underwater world. Using her strong visual style and love for character studies, Coppola would have likely delved into the intricacies of Ariel’s desire for a new world and the struggles she faces in pursuit of love.

Despite Mixed Reviews, The Little Mermaid Was A Box Office Hit

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Disney’s live-action Little Mermaid movie was eventually directed by Rob Marshall from a screenplay by David Magee. The story follows Princess Ariel (Halle Bailey), who is fascinated with the human world. After saving Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) from a shipwreck, she makes a deal with the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to walk on land.

The Little Mermaid received mixed reviews upon its release. Critics praised the cast and musical sequences but slammed the visual effects. Still, the film earned $569 million at the global box office against a total production budget of $297 million. It eventually became the ninth-highest-grossing film of 2023 and the seventh-highest-earning Disney remake.

Halle Bailey Becomes Ariel

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The Little Mermaid remake was announced in May 2016, and in December 2017, it was reported that Disney was courting Marshall to direct the project. The cast of Bailey, Hauer-King, McCarthy, Bardem, Diggs, Tremblay, and Awkwafina was confirmed between July and November 2019. Production was set to start in London in March 2020 but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Filming resumed between January and July 2021 at the Pinewood studios in England and on the Italian island of Sardinia. Songwriter Alan Menken joined the cast to compose new songs, working alongside Lin-Miguel Miranda, who co-produces alongside Marc Platt and John DeLuca. The Little Mermaid honors the memory of Howard Ashman, co-producer and co-writer of the original film’s songs.

The Beloved Tale Dates Back To 1837

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The Little Mermaid began as a fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. It tells the story of a young mermaid who falls in love with a human prince and longs to become human, too. Despite warnings from her undersea friends and family, she makes a deal with a sea witch to exchange her voice for legs and sets out to win the prince’s heart.

However, things don’t go according to plan, and the little mermaid must face the consequences of her choices. The story has been adapted into numerous films, including the Disney live-action movie and stage productions, and remains a beloved classic around the world.