The Little Mermaid director Rob Marshall relives Halle Bailey’s breathtaking audition for Ariel, revealing that she was the very first actor they saw for the part. Serving as a live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1989 animated movie (itself an adaptation of an 1837 fairy tale), The Little Mermaid follows Ariel as she trades her beautiful voice for human legs so that she can discover life on land. The film is the latest in a long line of Disney live-action remakes of their animated classics.
Ahead of The Little Mermaid‘s release date later this month, Marshall reveals in a new interview with British Vogue what it was like casting Bailey as the live-action Ariel. The director recalls the actor’s audition process, revealing just how much Bailey blew everyone away. Check out Marshall’s full recollection of events below:
“[Producer] John DeLuca and I were watching [Bailey’s performance at the 2019 Grammys] , and I said, ‘John, who is that? She looks like an angel. I mean, Halle’s so beautiful, but she also has an otherworldly sensibility. This was so important for a character that’s a mermaid and a teenage girl, who has to have this combination of strength, passion and courage, as well as a kind of naivety and innocence.”
“She was the very first actress we saw for the role. She came in and she sang ‘Part of Your World’. And by the end of it I was crying. I couldn’t believe the depth and the truth and the simplicity and passion she brought to the song. It was just so moving.
“Can she hold the film? Can she act with Javier Bardem [King Triton] and Melissa McCarthy [Ursula]? But every time she came in, when she read, she got more confidence. She understood nuance, she understood truth and she showed all of those wonderful colours that Ariel needs. We started to see other people. Many other people, hundreds of other people, but the bar had already been set. And no one ever surpassed that bar.”
The Little Mermaid’s Ariel Casting Backlash Explained
Although Marshall and the producers may have been blown away by Bailey’s performance, the reveal of her live-action Ariel was met with backlash online, at least among a small subset of social media users. Upon the release of the first Little Mermaid trailer, #NotMyAriel started trending on Twitter, with users arguing that Bailey, a Black woman, is too much of a departure from the pale-skinned, red-haired Ariel seen in the 1989 animated movie.
This Little Mermaid casting backlash soon gave way, however, to a surge in support for Bailey. Videos started being shared online of young children, many of them Black or brown-skinned, reacting positively to the depiction of an Ariel who shares their same skin color. Bailey herself reacted to one of these videos on Twitter, saying the young girl in the video made her “sob” with happiness.
Of course, what really matters when it comes to a live-action depiction of Ariel isn’t the actor’s skin or hair color, but how well she can convey the necessary emotions and create the necessary empathy for her character. Plus, the actor who plays Ariel obviously needs to be able to sing. Judging from Marshall’s comments and recent Little Mermaid trailers, Bailey certainly has all the qualities of a great live-action Ariel.
Source: British Vogue
The Little Mermaid (1989)