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Sofia Coppola walks out on The Little Mermaid live-action film

Sofia Coppola at Cannes (Image by: Getty Images)

Just as the world was preparing itself for a Hans Christian Andersen story set to a My Bloody Valentine soundtrack, it was announced that director Sofia Coppola has dropped out of Universal Pictures’ The Little Mermaid live-action film.

Though no official statement has been released, word on the street cites the ever-reliable “creative differences” as the reason for Coppola’s departure. The industry insiders that have Variety’s ear were a bit more forthcoming, telling the magazine that Coppola and Universal couldn’t agree on who should play the lead. The director wanted to cast Maya Thurman Hawke as Ariel, but studio execs reportedly didn’t think the daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke was a big enough name to lead the film.


The film’s production has been rocky from the start—although the update was announced at the end of the previous decade with Joe Wright (Atonement) attached to direct, the project sat in pre-pre-production. Fifty Shades of Grey scribe Kelly Marcel and Shame writer Abi Morgan penned drafts over the years, but eventually Caroline Thompson came on board, presumably to work on an Ariel who wasn’t quite so self-loathing. Thompson, a longtime Tim Burton collaborator, seems to know her way around fairy tales old and new; in addition to writing the screenplays for Edward Scissorhands and The Corpse Bride, she also wrote the Snow White TV movie that starred Kristin Kreuk as the titular damsel in distress.

Despite the ever-changing directing and screenplay credits (and a competing fish-out-of-water tale), Universal remains undaunted—The Little Mermaid will move forward with Working Title producers Eric Fellner and Tim Belvan on the film. As for Coppola, she’s just wrapped the Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas, featuring Bill Murray, Chris Rock, and her cousin, Jason Schwartzman.

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