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Sofia Coppola is undeniably a filmmaker with a distinct and unique style. Her acclaimed body of work, including films such as Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, and The Virgin Suicides, has consistently captivated audiences with her mesmerizing storytelling. I eagerly await her forthcoming A24 flick, Priscilla, but an unmade project holds my interest too. Before the recent Disney remake, the Godfather Part III performer had delved deeply into a live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. In a recent interview, she revealed why she decided to step away from the Universal Pictures project.
Sitting down to chat with Rolling Stone, Sofia opened up about her brief involvement with an adaption of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale for Universal Pictures. When asked about the breaking point that led her to exit the project, she candidly revealed:
Yes, there was [a breaking point]. I was in a boardroom, and some development guy said, ‘What’s gonna get the 35-year-old man in the audience?’ And I just didn’t know what to say. I just was not in my element. I feel like I was naive, and then I felt a lot like the character in the story, trying to do something out of my element, and it was a funny parallel of the story for me.
Coppola's distinctive filmmaking is marked by its focus on intimate, character-driven narratives that often delve into themes of loneliness, alienation, and the human condition. Her films possess a unique allure that transcends demographic boundaries. However, it's evident that her artistic vision, especially in the case of The Little Mermaid, hasn’t always aligned with the commercial considerations typically associated with Hollywood blockbusters. This is a challenge she has encountered more than once. She elaborates on this point:
It happens a lot because usually the people financing things are straight men. So it’s not the same point of view, but you’re trying to explain, like, 'People, not everyone’s gonna be into what you’re into,' but I just wanted to make things that appeal to me and express that.
The Little Mermaid might be a beloved classic fairytale, but the On the Rocks director clearly felt that her creative instincts were out of sync with the project’s direction. As the live-action film stopped at Universal and Disney began its own take on the story with director Rob Marshall, Coppola moved on to another well-known story as she is the director of Priscilla, the film about Priscilla Presley's relationship with Elvis.
Last year marked a significant one for the “King of Rock-and-Roll.” Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis was a massive hit, even earning a 2023 Oscar nomination for Austin Butler, and Elvis’s presence on the big screen is far from over. Moviegoers can anticipate the release of Priscilla, another film centered around Elvis, which is slated for the 2023 movie release schedule.
However, this forthcoming project might not be joining the ranks of best music biopics, because it will be anything but a straightforward biography of the Jailhouse Rock singer. Coppola specifically delves into the early controversial romance between Elvis and Priscilla, who was only 14 at the time of their meeting. While the musician’s estate reportedly disapproves of the Oscar-winning director’s upcoming endeavor, Priscilla Presley, who is an executive producer on the A24 film, holds a more positive perspective, saying, “It feels like a college movie.”
Sofia Coppola might not have been able to be a part of Little Mermaid’s world, but I’m so happy she brought Priscilla Presley’s story to the big screen, because it looks incredible. Priscilla releases in theaters on November 3.
You can also get a more theatrical look at the late musician’s life by revisiting 2022’s Elvis, which is available on streaming for anyone with a Max subscription. Or catch up on Disney’s The Little Mermaid reboot with a Disney+ subscription.