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Elle Fanning – summer 2017
Elle wears all clothes 3·1 Phillip LimPhotography Ryan McGinley, styling Robbie Spencer

How would Sofia Coppola’s The Little Mermaid have looked?

It would have been filmed completely underwater, for starters

Sofia Coppola was rumoured, then confirmed, to adapt a live-action version of Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved 1837 fairy tale The Little Mermaid almost exactly three years ago. Trans model Andreja Pejic was attached to star as one of Ariel’s sisters. Ariel was meant to be portrayed by Chloë Grace Moretz, and the whole thing seemed like the perfect fit for the adept director. Coppola worked on the project for over a year. It even got a Funny or Die parody. So what happened? What would the Sofia Coppola treatment of The Little Mermaid have looked like?

Coppola’s version would have been much darker, for starters. “It wasn’t the Disney version, it was actually the original fairy tale, which is much darker,” Coppola said at an event at New York City’s Film Society of Lincoln Center Tuesday. “I thought it would be fun to do a fairy tale, I’ve always loved fairy tales, so I was curious about doing that.”

Being such a passion project, she was reluctant to quit. However, it just wasn’t going to work out, she says. “I would have liked to have done that (film),” she initially told Variety about her departure from the project. “We couldn’t agree on some elements. When it’s smaller, you can have exactly what you have in mind. For me, it wasn’t a good fit.”

Coppola expounded upon her reasoning more at the Lincoln Center event, titled “An Evening with Sofia Coppola”, saying, “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 […] 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.”

Talking to Marie Claire, Coppola said the decision to exit the project remains her “most agonizing career decision” to date.

Our long read feature with summer issue cover star Sofia Coppola drops this Friday on Dazed Digital.