Director Sofia Coppola, best known for her films Lost in Translation, The Bling Ring, Marie Antoinette and the amazing The Virgin Suicides, has been tapped by Universal to direct a live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid, according to a report today in Deadline. Caroline Thompson, best known for writing Edward Scissorhands, is rewriting the script.
The modern, slightly more adult re-telling of classic fairy tales has been almost as big as superhero movies in Hollywood these past few years. Disney launched Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful to success (financially, anyway) and look to have similar good fortune with the upcoming Maleficent and next year’s Cinderella. Universal already had some success with Snow White and the Huntsmen, which showcased a terrific performance from Charlize Theron and an equally terrible one from Kristen Stewart. Universal is now looking to get to another public domain fairy tale before Disney can make the attempt, and they’ve set their sights on The Little Mermaid.
The biggest obstacle that Universal’s adaptation faces is that they can’t use any of the elements that were original to the Disney animated version that most people know. The names and overall appearances of Ariel, Prince Eric, King Triton and Ursula are unique to the Disney version, so they can’t use those. (ABC’s Once Upon A Time series however, can use the names, thanks to being owned by Disney.) They probably can’t even make the Little Mermaid a redhead. Of course, the ending of the original Hans Christian Anderson story was much different (and darker) than the animated classic, and would fit perfectly within Sofia Coppola’s wheelhouse. But I can’t see Universal spending millions on a fairy tale where the princess doesn’t get her prince and turns into sea foam at the end… although it would be awesome and ballsy of them if they went in that direction. I’d get in line for that one right now.