Entertainment Weekly‘s newest cover story is about the upcoming live-action “The Little Mermaid,” which swims into theaters on May 26, 2023. They released ten new stills and behind-the-scenes images from the film.
“It’s a very emotional story,” director Rob Marshall told EW. “We were able to take the beauty of what’s there in the original film and the Hans Christian Andersen tale and really bring more depth.”
Marshall’s partner and producer of the film, John DeLuca, said of Anderson, who fell in love with a man as an adult but eventually married a woman, “He was never going to be part of the world.”
Marshall went on, “Even though it was written in the 1800s, it seems very modern, about this girl who wants something more, feels displaced, doesn’t feel like everyone around her. Through courage and her own convictions and her own passions, she gives up so much to be where she really feels she belongs.”
Halley Bailey portrays Princess Ariel, and Jonah Hauer-King portrays Prince Eric. Hauer-King said of their first meeting during a screen test that she was kind, but tried not to read into it because three other guys were auditioning for the role.
A few minutes after completing his audition, Bailey knocked on his trailer door. Hauer-King said, “I thought, ‘What does it all mean? Is that an indication? Did she knock on everyone’s door?'” It turns out Bailey hadn’t gone to wish the other guys luck. Hauer-King went on, “We became very, very close friends — and still are.”
A new character for the live-action “The Little Mermaid” is Eric’s mom, Queen Selina. Like Bailey’s Ariel and Javier Bardem’s King Triton, Eric and Selina are different ethnicities, and she’s also a single parent.
Noma Dumezweni, who portrays Queen Selina, said of Eric and Ariel’s relationship, “It’s a lovely balance. It’s the sense of these babies being two outsiders of their origin story.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda worked with Alan Menken on three new songs for “The Little Mermaid,” including Eric’s ballad “Wild Uncharted Waters,” as well as Ariel’s “For the First Time,” and Scuttle and Sebastian’s “Scuttlebutt.” The latter two characters are voiced by Awkwafina and Daveed Diggs respectively. Ariel’s best friend Flounder is voiced by Jacob Tremblay.
Bailey spent her time filming in mermaid form on wires or in a device called a tuning fork, which makes her look like she’s swimming.
“It was an intense routine of having to be in the gym by like 4 a.m.,” she said, “working out before you go to stunts, and then you’re on the harness and in that world in the air for hours at a time and your core is burning all day, and your legs and your arms.” But she says it was worth it because, “I loved being able to feel like I could fly.”
Bardem was relieved he wouldn’t be shirtless as Triton. Instead, he’s wearing armor.
“I’m not Dwayne Johnson,” he said. “I’m not Bradd Pitt.”
Still, he had to be in shape for the same swimming stunts as Bailey. “It was like [being] at Disney Parks in the rides,” he said. “You have to be in shape because those arms have to be there. And most importantly, you have to have a strong core. You really have to do some gymnastics.”
Bailey did film in the water, as well, and on location in Italy.
“There’s something so healing and peaceful about being near the ocean,” Bailey said, “and something spiritual about it too. I just felt like I was getting purified, you know?”
The character of Ursula, originally voiced by Pat Carroll, was based on the drag queen Divine. Melissa McCarthy takes on the role in live action and “100 percent” used drag as an influence.
“There’s a drag queen that lives in me,” she said. “I’m always right on the verge of going full-time with her.” McCarthy began her career performing in Manhattan clubs as the drag persona Miss Y.
This adaptation of “The Little Mermaid” takes notes from the Broadway musical version, expanding Ursula’s backstory to make her Triton’s estranged sister.
“To keep the humor and the sadness and the edginess to Ursula,” McCarthy said, “is everything I want in a character — and frankly, everything I want in a drag queen.”
McCarthy had eight dancers around her, puppeteering her tentacles. “Rob wanted me to experience the tentacles and the space I really took up,” she said. “I would swoop to the left, and all of these dancers would come with me. Then if I’d reach out for something, one of my tentacles really would go out and bring something back.”
Watch the full trailer for “The Little Mermaid” below.