In 1989, Disney released the full-color underwater musical phenomenon that is The Little Mermaid. The animated film followed Ariel, the redheaded Disney Princess who longed to be on land and "part of their world." She had two sea creature besties, and an evil villain for the ages. Her story, of course, ended with celebration and marriage, and was sealed with a kiss. There were even rainbows involved — it was that happy of an ending.
But the original fairy tale being retold by Disney was much, much darker. And that is the story that director Sofia Coppola longed to make. During a talk with New York City’s Film Society of Lincoln Center on Tuesday, The Beguiled director spoke about her Little Mermaid live-action remake that once was, IndieWire writes. (You may remember that Chloë Grace Moretz was at one time attached to the project to play the mermaid, until she temporarily quit acting and pulled out of the project.)
"It wasn’t the Disney version, it was actually the original fairy tale, which is much darker,” Coppola said. "I thought it would be fun to do a fairy tale, I’ve always loved fairy tales, so I was curious about doing that." Not only that, but Coppola wanted to film the entire movie underwater. Imagine! “It became too big of a scale,” Coppola said. “I wanted to shoot it really underwater, which would have been a nightmare. But underwater photography is so beautiful. We even did some tests. It was not very realistic, that approach. But it was interesting to think about.”
However, the director's expectations for the movie weren't aligned with those of the producers, and thus they split ways. “For me, when a movie has a really large budget like that, it just becomes more about business, or business becomes a bigger element than art,” she said. “When it’s smaller, there’s less people involved, it’s not so much at risk, business-wise.”
As a quick refresher, here's the gist of Hans Christian Andersen's original Little Mermaid tale, which we would have seen had Coppola stayed on the project: A sea witch gives Ariel a pair of human legs in exchange for her nearly immortal soul. (Mermaids live to be 300 years old and then turn into sea foam when they do die.) The witch also not only takes Ariel's voice, but she also straight up cuts out her tongue. So Ariel is on land, meeting the Prince with bloody legs that are constantly in pain and a tongue-less and voice-less mouth. The Prince likes his new mute friend, but ends up marrying another princess instead. Ariel dies and become sea foam and spends the next 300 years doing good deeds.
What a movie this would have been.
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