"Little Mermaid" Star Jonah Hauer-King Talks About Being Chosen Over Harry Styles as Prince Eric

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Disney’s given their beloved animated films the live-action treatment for a while now, and their upcoming release of The Little Mermaid will be nothing short of epic. The original Little Mermaid was actually part of Disney’s Renaissance, which birthed iconic animated films like Aladdin and The Lion King (which also turned live-action in 2019). Just like Princess Ariel cannot wait to swap her mermaid fin for some human legs, we’re already getting excited to see the live-action rendition of this classic come to life.

Here’s everything we know about The Little Mermaid’s live-action film so far.

When does The Little Mermaid come out?

The movie was originally set to come out in 2021, but due to the pandemic, production was put on hold for a while. Per Digital Spy, Disney has confirmed that the live-action version of the animated classic hits theaters on May 26, 2023.

In September 2022, leading lady Halle Bailey made an appearance at Disney’s D23 Expo in Burbank, California to give fans a first look at the movie’s teaser trailer, which featured her performance of “Part of Your World.” She also posted a clip to Instagram, where we see Ariel rocking red locs and her signature green-shifted mermaid tail.

And if the trailer wasn’t enough, Halle took to social media in February 2023 to share a new first look at The Little Mermaid. “I’m so very excited to continue the #Disney100 celebration with this new look at #TheLittleMermaid 🥰🧜🏽♀️just 100 days until it arrives in theaters,” she wrote on Instagram.

Last fall, Halle revealed the very first poster for The Little Mermaid, a striking recreation of an iconic shot of Ariel sitting on a rock in her grotto and gazing up towards the world above (and out of) the sea. “Words can’t describe how immensely honored I feel to play the mermaid of my dreams, Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid,” the actress wrote. “Come under the sea with me, in theaters May 26, 2023 🧜🏽♀️”

Is there an official trailer for The Little Mermaid?

Yes! The first official trailer for the live-action film made its debut at the 95th Academy Awards on March 12, 2023. Halle and Melissa McCarthy (who portrays Ursula in the remake) presented the clip, where we get a glimpse at all the beloved characters. Halle also posted the full video to Instagram following the ceremony. “can’t believe we got to debut the full little mermaid trailer at the oscar’s 🥹♥️here it is ✨🧜🏽♀️,” she wrote.

What is The Little Mermaid about?

The original story of The Little Mermaid follows 16-year-old Ariel, a mermaid who’s fascinated with life on land. Her strict father King Triton has forbidden her to go on land in an attempt to protect her, but she goes anyway and falls for a human prince. She then makes a dangerous deal with Ursula, a sea witch who steals Ariel’s voice in exchange for turning her into a human for three days. Things start to go wrong for Ariel once Ursula begins to work her evil magic, and with help from her father and sea friends, the mermaid must figure out a way to find her voice.

Who has been cast in the movie?

Halle Bailey of sister R&B music duo Chloe x Halle and Freeform’s Grown-ish slides into Ariel’s fin as the iconic princess. Disney received tons of praise for casting a Black actress as Ariel in an attempt to be more inclusive.

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“After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role,” director Rob Marshall said in an interview with Variety.

"Playing Ariel means the absolute world to me," Halle told Zane Lowe for Apple Music 1. "I mean, ever since I was a little girl, this movie has meant so very much to me. Ariel is a very big part of the reason why I even wanted to get in the water being a little girl and learn how to swim. And she’s a very big part of who I am as an individual and learning, especially venturing into womanhood, what it means to want something greater and bigger for yourself and not being afraid to go after your passions and dreams."

Other A-listers will be taking their talents to the film, too. Jacob Tremblay — who starred in another Disney film, Luca — is set to play Ariel’s bestie Flounder, while Daveed Diggs will play Sebastian the lobster. As for Ursula, Melissa McCarthy takes on the role of the sea witch. Awkwafina also gives new flair to Scuttle the seagull, while Javier Bardem portrays King Triton under the sea.

Although Harry Styles was originally set to play Prince Eric, he declined the role to embark on a tour to support his album Fine Line. Since then, English actor Jonah Hauer King has signed on as Ariel’s love interest.

Jonah spoke to The Hollywood Reporter and explained director Rob Marshall's thinking behind the casting. "Rob [Marshall] and the producers and Disney didn't approach this film and this casting with any kind of agenda, they just wanted to cast the person who was best for the role," Jonah said. "[Harry is] pretty cool and amazingly talented, so yeah, it was cool to be mentioned in the same breath."

Also joining the cast are Noma Dumezweni, Jessica Alexander, Russell Balogh, Adrian Christopher, and Emily Coates. According to a report by Digital Spy, their specific parts have not been publicly released yet.

Finally, Bridgerton star Simone Ashley makes an appearance as well. The actress gushed to The Times about having “a small part in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.” She previously alluded to working on set of a Disney film when she learned that she was cast as Kate Sharma in Bridgerton season 2 in 2021. However, details of Simone’s role have not been revealed.

What has the cast said about the movie?

Halle covered the March issue of Edition by Modern Luxury, and dished about the upcoming live-action film. The singer and actress said she spent up to 13 hours a day filming scenes in the water for the upcoming film. “I pushed myself as far as I’ve ever pushed myself in life,” she said. “And I feel like the message from her was to know that you’ve always had it in you.”

Halle also noted that the new film is “more nuanced" than the original animated movie, which debuted in 1989.I’m really excited for my version of the film because we’ve definitely changed that perspective of just her wanting to leave the ocean for a boy,” she told the outlet. “It’s way bigger than that. It’s about herself, her purpose, her freedom, her life and what she wants.”

“As women, we are amazing, we are independent, we are modern, we are everything and above. And I’m glad that Disney is updating some of those themes,” she continued.

A few weeks earlier, at the 2023 Kid’s Choice Awards in March, Halle teased The Little Mermaid and what it entails. During a red carpet interview, the 22-year-old star said that Melissa McCarthy’s transformation into Ursula the Sea Witch is “amazing.”

“People are gonna be so amazed [by] her job [playing] Ursula,” Halle told Entertainment Tonight. “First of all, she’s a beautiful human being, so talented, and the way she just consumes Ursula is so beautiful. I’m just so proud of her and I can’t wait for people to see it.”

As the film nears its release, Halle told Zane Lowe about her excitement. "I am feeling so, so good about this film being close to the release now. I’m really excited. I’m a little bit nervous just because this has been so long in the making. I mean, I auditioned for this film when I was 18 and I turned 23 this year. So it’s been a long wait and the suspense has been killing me. But now that it’s finally here, I’m like, whoa, I can’t believe it. And it’s a very, very big pinch me moment. I’m so excited. And I just can’t wait for people to see what we did to this film."

Halle also dished about her rendition of the infamous song Part of Your World. "I took inspiration from the original, really based off of the amazing base that we had of the original already. I mean, Jodi Benson is an iconic singer and she’s just such a lovely person inside and out as well. So when you are redoing a song that’s already great, you just have to really try your best to honor the original, as well as not be afraid to make it your own. So that’s truly what I tried to do," she said.

Will the original songs be in the movie?

If you grew up singing along to the absolute bops that are “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea,” you’re probably wondering if they’ll make their way to the live-action version of The Little Mermaid. The short answer is: yes and no.

Award-winning actor, singer, and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda teamed up with the original music composer of 1989’s The Little Mermaid, Alan Menken, to write new songs for the live-action version. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Menken revealed that these tracks include numbers for Prince Eric (called “Wild Unchartered Waters”), Scuttle and Sebastian (titled “Scuttlebutt”), and one new unnamed number for Ariel. There’s also a song for King Triton, called “Impossible Child,” but the final cut didn’t make it into the film, Menken said.

According to the outlet, a collection of the classic songs will also be included, but some of the lyrics have been updated to better reflect the times and incorporate important topics, such as consent.

“There are some lyric changes in ‘Kiss the Girl’ because people have gotten very sensitive about the idea that [Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel],” Menken said. “We have some revisions in ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ regarding lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn, even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel to give up her voice.”

In a clip shown during the 2023 MTV Movie & TV Awards, we see a sneak peek of the magical, romantic boat scene where Ariel and Eric almost kiss. The short clip doesn't reveal any of the altered lyrics, but the wordless glances between the two are too cute. The pair leans in to finally touch lips before their rowboat gets flipped upside down.

Halle made an appearance at the 94th Annual Academy Awards, where she revealed her favorite song for the upcoming movie. The R&B hitmaker “couldn’t help but gush” about one renowned song from the original film. “Of course, ‘Part of Your World,’” she told Brandon Maxwell during the official Oscars pre-show. “Yep, that’s my number one.”

Has The Little Mermaid finished filming?

Yes! Production started in 2020 and was originally based in London, but had to be pushed back during the COVID-19 pandemic, which Halle said “caused everyone to slow down.” The Little Mermaid then picked up filming in Sardina, Italy, and Halle and Jonah were even spotted filming a scene on a boat (for “Kiss the Girl,” perhaps?) on June 28, 2021.

Just a couple weeks later, on July 12, 2021, Halle confirmed on Instagram that filming for The Little Mermaid wrapped. “After auditioning for this film when I was 18 just about to turn 19, to now finishing filming through a pandemic when I turned 21... we have finally made it... I feel so grateful to have experienced this film in all of its glory,” she captioned the post.

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