Sofia Coppola to Direct The Little Mermaid

Best known for hard-edged, whimsical films like Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette, director Sofia Coppola is in talks to shoot the live-action adaptation of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 fairy tale “The Little Mermaid,” which later became the beloved Disney classic.

Usually focused on tales for more mature audiences—consider 1999’s The Virgin Suicides, 2010’s Somewhere, or last year’s The Bling Ring—Coppola will enter a new entertainment area with the production of The Little Mermaid, one geared toward a much younger audience.

However, set to direct an “exquisite and painful” version of the story, according to UK’s The Independent, Coppola may produce a more mature Little Mermaid than ever—at least, if she sticks to the original Hans Christian Andersen plot, which includes intense yearning, brutality, and death, and portrays the mermaid as quiet, reserved, and possibly even depressed.

Other differences in the plot lines:

The Hans Christian Andersen Version:

  • Here the mermaid is very juvenile. She mourns for her unfortunate body and longs for an immortal soul. This represents her adolescence as she is changing from a child to a young woman. She is instantly concerned with love after seeing the prince. Her voice is sweet and her skin, hair and form are beautiful. While not as determined as Ariel, she still finds strength to visit the witch in order to gain what she wants.
  • In the ending, she is presented as a hero as she chose not to kill the prince to save herself, even though he has married another woman, meaning she is doomed to death. She is portrayed as a self-sacrificing heroine, and inevitably comes out looking smarter than the prince. The moral here shows that self-sacrifice can reward you.

The Disney Version:

  • There is a more feministic approach on the character here. The shy and quiet mermaid from the original tale evolves to a bright and curious young woman. Ariel focuses more on being human and on the relationship/love aspect of being a woman. Instead of looking more into her immortal soul, we look at her self-discovery as a woman. She becomes the average teenager that falls in love and goes after her dreams.
  • Given the happy endings of Disney movies, everything is solved in the end with a kiss. Eric finally realizes he has been tricked and rescues Ariel from Ursula, the evil witch. Ariel turns out not to be the strong individual she was at the beginning, and becomes another woman in a hero’s arms. While she still achieves her dream of becoming human and marrying the prince, she loses her strong sense of individuality as a woman. The moral of this story is that dreams do come true.

Atonement director Joe Wright—also working on a remake of the classic Peter Pan—was originally set to direct the film, but it might take Coppola’s edge to bring this darker fairy tale to life. Carolina Thompson, who wrote Edward Scissorhands and The Corpse Bride, is currently rewriting the tale of the young mermaid who falls for the human prince. Previously, Kelly Marcel (Fifty Shades of Grey, Saving Mr. Banks) and Abi Morgan (Shame) had tackled the script rewrite.

Will Coppola stick to the original storyline and create a darker film, or with the new film will we be reminded of Disney’s classic Ariel? The jury is out—but as for production, “the intention is to move quickly.”

Andrea Fisher is a Triad-based writer, movie lover, and content specialist for Dish2u. She has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Chicago Tribune and Business Insider. Read more of her work @andreafisher007.

Categories: Movies for Children