It’s been over a year since we heard the news that Sofia Coppola would direct a new version of The Little Mermaid for Universal Pictures and Working Title, and we’ve heard pretty much nothing about the project since. Which makes today’s news kind of non-news: Deadline reports that Coppola has exited the project, citing creative differences. The Lost in Translation filmmaker had been tasked with crafting a new live-action take on the Hans Christian Anderson tale, but it appears that we won’t be seeing her vision after all.
Per Variety, She and Universal differed when it came to casting Ariel. Coppola was keen on newcomer Maya Thurman Hawke, the daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, but the studio was wary about the choice.
Despite Coppola’s exit, Universal and Working Title are still moving forward with the project, with Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands) having penned the most recent draft of the script after Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks) and Abi Morgan (Shame) wrote previous versions. Joe Wright was at one time developing The Little Mermaid as a directorial project, but it’s possible that he got his “fantasy film” bug out of his system with Pan, and he most recently entered negotiations to direct the drama The Lifeboat so I wouldn’t necessarily hold out hope for him to return.
Feature film-wise, Coppola last directed the somewhat disappointing 2013 film The Bling Ring, but she most recently wrapped a star-studded Christmas special starring Bill Murray called A Very Murray Christmas that will premiere on Netflix this holiday season.
Universal no doubt wants to get The Little Mermaid moving sooner rather than later. Disney has found a new niche in turning its beloved animated classics into live-action films, and it has no less than eight reboots in various stages of development at the moment—Beauty and the Beast is currently filming in London, and The Jungle Book is in post-production. With this trend on the rise and Disney’s massive head start, I imagine Universal wants to capitalize on its Little Mermaid redo before the Mouse House beats them to the punch.
Given Coppola and Wright’s involvement it sounds like the studio is keen on a more adult or challenging take on the material, so it should be interesting to see who signs on in Coppola’s stead. Who do you think should direct The Little Mermaid? Sound off in the comments below.