Director Sofia Coppola has frequently explored the ennui and existential crises of the beautiful and well-to-do, including Scarlett Johansson’s drifting college graduate in “Lost in Translation,” Kirsten Dunst’s stifled princess in “Marie Antoinette” and Stephen Dorff’s blase actor in “Somewhere.”
Now she is negotiating to helm a live-action adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale “The Little Mermaid,” the story of a sea creature chafing against her life of looking lovely and swimming aimlessly about, according to Deadline Hollywood.
Caroline Thompson (“Edward Scissorhands”) is rewriting the script for Universal Pictures; previous drafts were penned by Kelly Marcel (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) and Abi Morgan (“Shame”). Joe Wright (“Pride & Prejudice,” “Atonement”) was also considering directing the film at one time.
The aforementioned names suggest that this treatment of “The Little Mermaid” will be darker and more grown-up than the beloved Disney animated musical from 1989. It could well be closer in tone to Andersen’s original tale, in which the mermaid’s Faustian bargain to live on land risks her dying brokenhearted and dissolving into sea foam if her prince marries another.
If that’s indeed the case, this new take on “The Little Mermaid” would join the list of new live-action films approaching fairy tales (and other stories popularized by Disney animated movies) from more mature angles. Disney has “Maleficent,” an inversion of “Sleeping Beauty” opening May 30, plus versions of “The Jungle Book” and the Peter Pan tale “Peter and the Starcatchers” in the works.
Warner Bros., meanwhile, has its own plans for a Peter Pan film, “Pan,” to be helmed, as luck would have it, by Wright.
Previous studio efforts to retell such stories have been a mixed bag, as “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” can attest. Coppola could have her work cut out for her, lest something be lost in adaptation.