As expected, “creative differences” are being cited as the reason for the departure, but it’s not hard to fill in the blanks there. Coppola, whose past films have included The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Somewhere and The Bling Ring, is known for directing somber, decidedly adult dramas, and she likely had a very distinctive vision for what she wanted her take on the Hans Christian Andersen tale to look like.
Universal and Working Title likely couldn’t completely get behind Coppola’s ideas for the movie, which led to the rift between the director and the studios. That being said, The Little Mermaid is still very much a go, with Caroline Thompson (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands) having been tapped to rewrite the script. She’ll be working from previous drafts by Fifty Shades Of Grey screenwriter Kelly Marcel and Shame scribe Abi Morgan.
Live-action retellings and reimaginings of classic fairy tales are all the rage these days, thanks to the box office success of films like Snow White and the Huntsman, Maleficent and this past March’s Cinderella. Projects on the way include Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (with Emma Watson, Dan Stevens and Luke Evans starring as Belle, the Beast and Gaston, respectively), a Mulan take, this fall’s extravagant Pan and a Tinker Bell spinoff called Tink.
And so, The Little Mermaid will eventually make its way to theaters – just not as Coppola intended it. Hopefully, as with George Miller’s Justice League Mortal, we’ll eventually get some idea of what that film would have looked like under her supervision, but in the meantime, we’ll keep you posted with how the project progresses.
Of note: Joe Wright was at one point interested in directing The Little Mermaid, but he went on to make a different fairy tale adaptation with Warner Bros.’ Pan.