Under the Sea: Who Should Play ‘The Little Mermaid’ for Sofia Coppola?

April 8, 2014 | Posted By In Featured, Features | 2512 Views


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Another new fairy tale adaptation is heading for the big screen, and this time Sofia Coppola will be behind the camera. She’s taken over a live action version of “The Little Mermaid” from Joe Wright, and this one is said to be much closer to its Hans Christian Andersen roots than the now iconic Disneyfied Ariel version.

So who will play Coppola’s Little Mermaid, who gives up her voice and undergoes excruciating pain in order to exchange her flippers for legs in order to live amongst the humans who fascinate her and the Prince who she falls in love with at first sight? It’s a dark tale of unrequited love and a hell of a coming-of-age tale, so which young actress has what it takes to star in the film?

Below, part wishlist and part prediction, are ten actresses we could see as Sofia Coppola’s Little Mermaid.

mermaid-elle Elle Fanning
This is one that would fall more on the prediction side, since Elle Fanning’s casting here would work on multiple levels. She’s the right age if Coppola sticks to Andersen’s original vision, she’s one of the few young stars her age and she certainly has the look and talent to play the role. Perhaps even more importantly, she’s worked with Coppola before, and this is a director who likes to work with the same actors more than once. Fanning certainly wouldn’t be the worst choice, though a bit expected, and she’s someone who wouldn’t necessarily need a potential breakout role as this would be for someone lesser known.

mermaid-alexandra Alexandra Daddario
After a breakout turn on HBO’s “True Detective,” Alexandra Daddario is suddenly garnering plenty of attention from Hollywood (ok, it’s not like it’s hard to guess why), so this might be her moment to nab a great leading role like this one. She’s younger than she looks, but is sometimes still caught in that weird gap between teen and adult roles, and that gap where young women come of age is what Sofia Coppola specializes in. Those piercing eyes give her an otherworldly quality, certainly suitable for a beautiful creature who comes from below the surface of the sea and who will have to spend a bulk of her time conveying her thoughts wordlessly.

mermaid-holliday Holliday Grainger
We’ve bemoaned more than once that Holliday Grainger should be competing for these fantastic lead roles on the regular with other actresses her age, but for some reason she seems to always get relegated to supporting roles instead. If you’ve watched “The Borgias,” you know she’s capable of being more than just the friend or the sister, she can command a screen like nobody’s business, going from innocent and naive to seductive and powerful with ease. That range would suit her well here, where she’ll have to play so many different layers of a young girl journeying far from home and finding her own voice and place in the world.

mermaid-kaya Kaya Scodelario
Dark and gloomy is something Kaya Scodelario has always done well, from “Skins” to “Wuthering Heights” to “The Truth About Emanuel,” and she’s been garnering more and more attention for her serious film turns of late. Scodelario is used to working with female auteurs like Andrea Arnold and Francesca Gregorini, and Coppola certainly has a knack for discovering and collaborating with rising leading ladies, from Kirsten Dunst to Scarlett Johansson to Elle Fanning, so this seems like a perfect fit and natural progression for both.

mermaid-saoirse Saoirse Ronan
Is there any role that Saoirse Ronan doesn’t inevitably end up on the short list for? But really, in this case, she has exactly the right ingredients to play a Little Mermaid. Let’s not even take into account that she likely had this role in the bag when Joe Wright was attached to direct. Her delicate features, coupled with an inner strength and confidence and proven acting range that basically tells us she’ll be able to act the hell out of this, makes Ronan ideally suited. Plus isn’t it about time Coppola and Ronan collaborated on something? Something so out of Coppola’s wheelhouse, so in Ronan’s, could bring something beautiful and unexpected to fruition.

mermaid-alicia Alicia Vikander
We won’t rest until Alicia Vikander gets that fairy tale adaptation lead that she’s been hunting since “Snow White and the Huntsman”! Of course, the Swedish actress is now in a very different position than she was in 2010, but after missing out on that and then “Cinderella,” perhaps third time will be the charm. She’s strong, she’s beautiful, she can convey so much with just a look, and she certainly has the melancholy and gravitas to perform the more somber and bittersweet tone of this lonely young girl’s story. Any project would be lucky to snag Vikander as their leading lady, so the question remains: Is she still interested in this genre?

mermaid-sophie Sophie Turnber
She just looks like the Little Mermaid, doesn’t she? The Disney version, for sure, but four seasons on “Game of Thrones” has certainly proven that Sophie Turner is capable of much more depth than that. Her Sansa Stark is innocent and vulnerable but stoic and strong, never letting her dire circumstances get the best of her, and that complexity will certainly need to be brought to the surface in a Little Mermaid tale that’s more grownup and more rooted in its dark origins as well. Turner would be an ideal lead here if Coppola decides to stick to the Little Mermaid’s original, early teenage age rather than age her up to twenty-something.

mermaid-olivia Olivia Cooke
Olivia Cooke is still a relatively unknown English actress, but she has been garnering notice for her role on A&E’s “Psycho” prequel series “Bates Motel,” in which she plays an ill classmate of Freddie Highmore’s Norman Bates. Hollywood has certainly taken notice because she’s been getting cast in one film role after another lately, all while still committed to a TV series. From “The Quiet Ones” with Sam Claflin to “The Signal” with Brenton Thwaites and the just announced “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl,” Cooke is certainly leaving her mark. Coppola has a keen eye for discovering rising young talent, so it seems likely Cooke would come across her desk for this.

mermaid-alice Alice Englert
The epitome of the tough but vulnerable type, Alice Englert impressed us in both the quiet and understated “Ginger and Rosa” and the more mainstream “Beautiful Creatures.” With a Coppola-led “Little Mermaid” likely hitting a sweet spot somewhere in between, Englert could provide just the right balance in her leading lady as well. She’d be a great Little Mermaid, and let’s face it, after “Beautiful Creatures” went nowhere, she needs another shot to prove she’s got what it takes to continue rising as an actress.

mermaid-emma Emma Watson
Ok, we’re not totally sure Emma Watson is the best fit for this material or this role, but she certainly wouldn’t be the worst choice. She’s here simply because ever since this project was announced, her name has been bandied about – mostly in the media, but she hasn’t exactly flat out denied her potential involvement either. She just worked with Coppola in “The Bling Ring” and proved plenty of skeptics wrong about her range, so could she do it again here? She’s certainly got the look and has been really stretching herself since leaving “Harry Potter” behind, so we wouldn’t bet against it.

Who would you like to see play The Little Mermaid?


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Linda is currently a Film Reporter at TheWrap. She studied Film & Digital Media at the University of California. She likes David Fincher, New York City, and cats. She founded Up&Comers in 2010. You can find more of her random ramblings, 140 characters at a time, on Twitter @lindazge.