Sofia Coppola almost directed a live-action movie of The Little Mermaid

Eight years before Disney’s live-action adaptation of its groundbreaking animated musical The little mermaid hit movies, Sofia Coppola had big ambitions for another live-action version of the classic fairy tale. In 2014, Universal Pictures confirmed the Oscar-winning screenwriter and director Lost in translation And The Suicides of the Virgin would guide an interpretation of The little mermaid which followed the original (and was much darker) Hans Christian Andersen Action. In Coppola’s project, which delighted, there would be neither catchy songs nor dancing sea creatures Chloe Grace Moretz for Ariel alongside trans model Andreja Pejic as one of Ariel’s sisters.

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Back then, Coppola’s melancholic aesthetic, applied to the story of a wistful teenage mermaid, seemed like fate incarnate. Among the (too few) famous women directors actively working in Hollywood, who could be a better fit? As fate would have it, Coppola withdrew from the project a little over a year later. Although other directors’ names have circulated in the years to come (no pun intended), this particular live-action is The little mermaid I never crossed the finish line – or even shot a roll of film. What caused Coppola’s version to fall into the black hole of unmade films?

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What were Sofia Coppola’s plans for The Little Mermaid?

Ariel and Flounder smile and swim while gazing at the sky in 1989's The Little Mermaid
Image via Disney

Sofia Coppola’s attempt The little mermaid started strong. At first, the director was fascinated by the potential of adapting a fairy tale. “I thought it would be fun to do a fairy tale.” she revealed during an event in 2017 at the New York Film Society of Lincoln Center entitled An evening with Sofia Coppola. “I’ve always loved fairy tales, so I was curious to do that.”

Since folklore and fairy tales are technically part of the fantasy genre, there were certainly plenty of things in the original material for the imaginative Coppola to play with. As she explained during the Lincoln Center event, her initial goal was to film everything underwater, a commendably avant-garde move. However, as she experimented with the logistics, it turned out that the idea was too big a challenge. In Coppola’s words: “[It] would have been a nightmare.

After this initial setback, as pre-production progressed, Coppola and studio management found themselves at odds over their respective approaches to the film. A filmmaker on a budget from her debut to the bling ring, the last film she finished before getting involved The little mermaid, Coppola wanted to focus her adaptation squarely on the indie world. Her vision prioritized the creation of art; She didn’t think about how many millions of dollars the film could bring in. Studio bosses, meanwhile, planned to turn it into a potential blockbuster – no doubt hoping to capitalize on the worldwide fame Disney brought to this particular fairy tale.

When Coppola resigned, she referred to the often heard “creative differences”. The phrase that aptly sums up every creative split actually seems applicable to this situation. “When a film has such a big budget,” Coppola said during the 2017 Lincoln Center event, “it’s just more about the business, or the business becomes a bigger element than the art.” An examination of her work shows that Coppola was never a creator whose ultimate goal was to break box office records.

Your version of giving up The little mermaid, was, however, the “most agonizing career decision” of the director’s life. In a conversation with Variety, Coppola repeated her disappointment about the missed opportunity after a year of hard work, stating that she wasn’t “the right person” to support Universal’s final game.

Sofia Coppola’s style suited a fairy tale well

Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst backstage at Marie Antoinette
Image via Sony

Even without Coppola and leading lady Moretz, who left shortly after the director’s departure, Universal continued with the film. Several directors’ names have been suffixed over the years, including Joe Wrightthe man behind swooning romantic epics like atonement And pride and prejudice. But as we know, a live action The little mermaid The influence of sans Mickey Mouse never materialized. And with the new Halle BaileyIt seems that the film, with its leading man, is winning the hearts of the audience in droves The Funny or Die parodysimply titled “Sofia Coppola’s Little Mermaid,” is all the world can appreciate in that regard.

On a purely visual level, Coppola’s intensely pensive atmosphere lends itself perfectly to a dark fairy tale. Her films already have an aura of folklore: critics dubbed her bold color palettes, blue-toned scenes, and slow-paced shots “dreamy” by default. While that’s not the overall worth of her films, it’s not an inaccurate description — just an overused description that tends to stem from sexist denial.

And despite the frustration that Coppola is emphasizing white upper-class women and excluding actresses of color (see: The seduced), her meditations on loneliness and adolescent expulsion are undeniably effective. In the original fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, a curious, kind, daydreaming mermaid swaps her voice for legs so she can visit the human world, romance a human, and win a soul. Trading comes with high, cruel costs. Before the little mermaid and the sea witch complete their bargain, the sea witch warns: “[with] Every step will feel like stepping on sharp knives.

The mermaid’s survival depends on winning the love of the prince; Only in this way can she win a human soul. Mermaids may have longer lifespans than humans, but when they die, they disappear into sea foam. There is no life after death for sea creatures. However, man has a soul that gives him access to heaven. If the prince falls in love with someone else, the mermaid will die of grief and vanish into thin air as if she never existed.

Unlike Disney’s beautiful romance, Andersen’s prince enjoys the company of the little mermaid but falls in love with a human woman. Her hopes and heart are shattered, the mermaid turns to foam and the story seems to end in tragedy: then celestial beings intervene and save the mermaid from death. Her selflessness has not gone unnoticed. Your good deeds will eventually be rewarded with a place in heaven.

Coppola’s storytelling and The Little Mermaid are similar

A still of Marie Antoinette showing Kirsten Dunst lying on a sofa with a bundle of pastries next to her
Image via Sony Pictures

Sofia Coppola’s films address many things: isolation, grief, the longing to love and be loved, and the horrific emotional exertion required to survive in a world that relishes in harming women. Like female characters Marie Antoinette and the Lisbon Sisters of The Suicides of the Virgin One learns far too young that despite all efforts to master life in the “right” way, men still want it, use it and then give it up. They spend their lives locked up in pretty glass cages, and nothing they do will ever qualify as “good enough.” Even in her fleeting moments of joy, a fierce, lost pain always follows. Recited as speaker The Suicides Of The Virgin, “We felt the bondage of being a girl.”

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, on the other hand, longs for the human world, but constantly suffers from the mere hope of unrequited love. For a chance at the new, stimulating life she longs for, she doesn’t hesitate to dance for the prince’s approval, though every move is shuddering agony. But her efforts to win his affections do not elevate her in his eyes. At best, she’s a friend and at worst, a fun diversion.

Since Anderson The little mermaid When impending tragedy turns to bittersweet hope at the last minute, it is often interpreted as a metaphor for the transition from adolescence to adulthood. And in a beautiful twist for the period, the mermaid earns a human soul through her own deeds, not through a man’s love. As painful and often cruel as Andersen’s story is, it can still be argued that hope triumphs over misfortune. As she crosses the threshold into mature adulthood, she is greeted with pain and heartbreak; but her suffering grants her a blessing. Many of Coppola’s films walk a fine line between pathetic tragedy and withdrawn people clinging to brief glimpses of hope. Her established style and story motifs might have perfectly layered with an adolescent mermaid suffering in the name of love. It’s a shame Coppola’s vision goes undiscovered, as there’s more than enough room under the sea for differing interpretations of Ariel’s legacy.

The little mermaid with Hall Bailey is currently causing a sensation in the cinemas.

Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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