Ahead of its May 26, 2023, release, the cast and filmmakers of ‘The Little Mermaid’ got together for a press conference on May 9, 2023, hosted by Nischelle Turner. Starring Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy, and directed by Rob Marshall, this live-action remake of the 1989 film ‘The Little Mermaid’ was well-received at its premiere, and momentum has been trending positively for this film since.
The DisInsider was invited to attend this virtual conference, which was split into two halves. One was with the cast of the film – Halle Bailey (Ariel), Melissa McCarthy (Ursula), Jonah Hauer-King (Prince Eric), Javier Bardem (King Triton), Daveed Diggs (Sebastian), Awkwafina (Scuttle), Jacob Tremblay (Flounder), and Noma Dumezweni (Queen Selina). The other was with the creative team behind the film – director Rob Marshall, composer Alan Menken, and producer John DeLuca.
Read below for the scuttlebutt straight from the stars!
Turner opened by addressing McCarthy, asking how she felt now that the world was finally going to see the labor of love this cast had been working on for the last five years, and what it was like to be at the premiere.
McCarthy replied “It is really exciting. It’s like it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done it, you’re like did they shut it down? Is it like shutting down? And is the whole street blue? And like it just seems like oh my gosh, this is like why I love movies, why I love making movies. It just everything got kind of exciting and like it just is so fun.” A mom of two, McCarthy compared the premiere to putting her kids on the bus and sending them off to school, trusting that they’ll be okay.
Bailey was then asked what it’s like to be a Disney princess, and if she felt a kinship or connection with Ariel, having spent so much time as the character.
Bailey responded with ” Absolutely. I mean, I tell people all the time I feel like Ariel truly has helped me find myself and like this young woman version of me, you know, because I, well, it’s been five years of my life now. From 18 to now being 23, so those are like very intense like transformative years as you’re developing as a young woman. But I feel like especially these themes of the film and what she had to go through with her passions and drive and speaking up for herself, and even though it may be scary, she went for it. I feel like those things I really try to adopt and give to Halle now. So, she’s taught me so much, for sure.”
Hauer-King was asked by a reporter from The Mary Sue about bringing Ariel and Eric’s love story to life, and what his favorite addition to that part of the film was. He stated that their friendship was a new important development to their relationship. They also both had things to learn from each other, and their relationship was one of equals.
“I think what was fun about this … was looking at Ariel and Eric as two people who were kindred spirits who felt a little bit restless, who felt like they were behind the four walls of their respective castles, and were very much looking outwards and not in. And I think what was nice about that was that it meant that their relationship feels really earnt. They both felt like they were teaching each other things. They were excited and fascinated by each other’s worlds … I think it’s a really good message for what it means to be in love and what it means to be in a relationship is ultimately tied to friendship. That’s the fundamental thing of it. And that’s why it lasts, and that’s what makes it special.”
Turner opened this section of the press conference by asking Marshall what he thought of the premiere the night prior, and how he was feeling.
He answered that it was a “dream premiere” and “one of the greatest moments in [his] life”.
Turner asked Menken about Bailey’s powerful rendition of “Part of Your World”, and how he gave her room to improvise, even on such an iconic song, saying “I don’t want them to be assaulted with ‘Alan thinks this and this person thinks that.’ Just make it your own, and after you make it your own, and if I have anything to say, I’ll say it.”
Menken also spoke about the new songs in the film, and working with Lin-Manuel Miranda to create them.
” [It] was so much fun, because I gave Lin a very sort of lilting tune and he said, ‘Can we give a kind of a bap-a-bap, mm-bop-bop.’ So it’s a three-against-two kind of feel. Said, ‘Okay, let’s do that,’ and then boom… and then the scuttlebutt, which is just, that’s a surprise gift of him, ’cause I gave him this Caribbean tune. And Lin sort of did a rap over it that was so perfect. Used the music, but it had this rhythmic pulse to it. It was just pure Lin-Manuel Miranda.”
Menken and Marshall also spoke about casting Bailey as Ariel, and how she won them over even though she was their very first audition. Marshall stated “I mean, here’s the thing. The first actor we saw for
this role was Halle. The first thing she did is she came in and sang for us. And she sang that song. She shut her eyes and started to sing the song. And I thought, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I just thought she’s so deeply connected to what she’s singing about. It’s so emotional. It’s so beautiful. And
I thought, [laugh] oh my gosh, we’ve been doing this for five minutes. Have we found Ariel? And we had.”
The duo saw hundreds of other actresses audition for Ariel, but they kept coming back to Bailey. Much like Eric couldn’t get Ariel’s song out of his head, Marshall and Menken couldn’t get Bailey out of theirs. “She claimed the role for hers. That’s what happened.”
‘The Little Mermaid’ premieres in theaters on Friday, May 26th.
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