Why Sofia Coppola Dropped Out Of Her Little Mermaid Movie

The Little Mermaid artwork

Two movie studios currently have their own live action Little Mermaid movie in development. There's the Disney version, which is remaking the 1989 animated movie of the same name, and then there's the Universal version, which will be more faithful to the original fairy tale. In 2014, Oscar-winning director Sofia Coppola was hired to helm the latter movie, but by June 2015, she'd dropped out. Now Coppola has attributed her departure from The Little Mermaid to the underwater shoot being too difficult to handle. Coppola explained:

It became too big of a scale. I wanted to shoot it really underwater, which would have been a nightmare. But underwater photography is so beautiful. We even did some tests. It was not very realistic, that approach. But it was interesting to think about.

During the "An Evening with Sofia Coppola" event at New York City's Film Society of Lincoln Center earlier this week, Sofia Coppola elaborated (via Indiewire) on her time with The Little Mermaid. While Coppola had previously said that her exit from the Universal feature was due to its scale, this time around she pointed specifically to the daunting task of filming underwater, as the quality of the footage was ultimately not to her liking. Besides Disney's Little Mermaid movie, the only immediate upcoming Hollywood project that faces that same obstacle is Aquaman, so we'll see how director James Wan fares with the DC movie's underwater environment late next year.

But it wasn't just the underwater filming that bothered Sofia Coppola about The Little Mermaid. She also took issue with how the business elements of making the movie were affecting her artistic sensibilities. As she put it:

For me, when a movie has a really large budget like that, it just becomes more about business, or business becomes a bigger element than art. When it's smaller, there's less people involved, it's not so much at risk, business-wise.

With the complications of filming underwater and being uncomfortable with businesslike approach, it's understandable that Sofia Coppola decided she didn't want to direct The Little Mermaid anymore. Since leaving the project, Coppola turned her attention to The Beguiled, which is now playing in theaters and has been earning decent reception. No doubt, though, that her experience with The Little Mermaid changed her thought process about getting involved in certain Hollywood blockbusters.

As it stands now, Universal's Little Mermaid is still in the developmental stage. Chloë Grace Moretz was cast to play the eponymous protagonist after Coppola left, but then she exited the project in September 2016. Love Actually director and scribe Richard Curtis was working on the latest screenplay, and Electrick Children's Rebecca Thomas is credited as the new director, but ever since Moretz dropped out, there haven't been any major updates on The Little Mermaid's progress. Once it's been announced when the fairy tale blockbuster is finally moving into production or when it will be released, we'll be sure to let you know.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.