Musician-actor Harry Styles has entered talks to play Prince Eric in Disney's upcoming live-action remake of its animated feature, The Little Mermaid. Assuming that he signs on, he will join a cast that includes his fellow singer-performer Halle Bailey as the mermaid Ariel, in addition to Melissa McCarthy as the sea witch Ursula.
A live-action retelling of Disney's animated 1989 feature (itself, adapted from Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale), The Little Mermaid is being directed by Rob Marshall from a script by his Mary Poppins Returns writer David Magee and an earlier draft by Jane Goldman (Kingsman). The film is tentatively expected to begin production in early 2020 for a release in 2021 and has started to quickly fill out its cast over the past month. Other roles filled so far include that of Ariel's fish pal Flounder and the not-so-wise, but well-meaning seagull Scuttle. Jacob Tremblay and Awkwafina are set to voice the respective characters.
According to THR, Styles is currently in early negotiations to play Eric - the human prince that Ariel falls in love with - in Disney's live-action Little Mermaid retelling. The One Direction veteran has acted in major films before (namely, Christopher Nolan's WWII drama Dunkirk) and was recently in the running to play young Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann's upcoming biopic about the iconic American musician. That said, Variety's Justin Kroll is cautioning that his deal for Little Mermaid is far from done and Styles might be on the fence about the role for now.
While Eric doesn't sing in the animated Little Mermaid, that could change in the live-action movie. Disney's Broadway stage musical adaptation of the 1989 film actually gave Eric a pair of solo numbers, so there's already a precedent for that. It's also known that Lin Manuel-Miranda is working with Alan Menken on a new song for the live-action retelling, so it's quite possible that the pair are cooking up a fresh tune for Eric to perform (much like how this year's live-action Aladdin added a number for Jasmine titled "Speechless"). That would certainly explain why the project is pushing to cast a singer (like Styles) to play Eric.
If nothing else, musical theater fans should be pleased to see that Disney has started to cast more experienced singers in their live-action remakes of late. The live-action retelling of Beauty and the Beast specifically was criticized for using too much auto-tune during its musical numbers, and it would be a real shame if The Little Mermaid's lovely, Oscar-winning tunes received a similar treatment. Thankfully, "Part of Your World" is definitely in safe hands thanks to Bailey, and it's fair to presume that Styles (should he sign on) won't have a problem handling whatever melodies Marshall and his team throw in his (One) direction, either. (Sorry, had to be done.)