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There must be something in the air in Hollywood as of late, as departure seems to be the word on the minds of quite a few creative types. First we lost Cary Fukunaka as he departed the It remake; then Henry Cavill left Stratton mere weeks before production was going to start. Now, we've got word that Sofia Coppola has left that world under the sea, as she's departed from the live action remake of The Little Mermaid.
Deadline has the scoop, citing "creative differences" as the main thrust behind the dissolution. This isn't the only director The Little Mermaid has lost during its production cycle, as Anna Karenina director Joe Wright was also once set to bring this film to life. The project, which had set up shop at Universal Pictures as a co-production with Working Title, was supposed to be a "darker" version of the classic fairy tale. Knowing Sofia Coppola's work, this was probably the beginning of the problems that would eventually cause Coppola to split.
With Kelly Marcel and Abi Morgan writing drafts of the script, and Sofia Coppola at the helm, there's a good chance this film may not have stuck with the light and simple route a studio like Universal would want to take in order to compete with the live-action remakes that Disney is currently having a lot of success producing. It’s possible that the studio wanted the Little Mermaid that ends with a wedding on a boat; while Coppola probably had the more traditional, tragic suicide in mind for the big bow.
While the former is the safer idea, and easiest to put into effect, the possibility of a true retelling of The Little Mermaid is too good to pass up. While Coppola may have a bit of a problem making any of her films seem anything other than aloof hipster bait, The Little Mermaid might have been the sort of film that could benefit from such an outlook. It's a lot of speculation, but besides a Funny Or Die short and whatever details may leak out between now and whenever a new director signs on, this is all we really have to go on.
It's sad to see Sofia Coppola's The Little Mermaid get taken down before it had a chance to give Disney a run for its money. However, if you're still interested in seeing a live action revamp in the offing, then you'll be pleased to know that Universal is still very much in the mermaid business at this moment - which means we'll probably hear about a replacement director within the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned for more info.