Melissa McCarthy is in early talks to play Ursula in Disney's live-action The Little Mermaid. The Mouse House continues to earn hefty box office returns on the live-action remakes of their animated features like Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast. As a result, the studio has several additional live-action retellings either scheduled to arrive over the next year or two (or, in The Lion King's case, next month), or in some stage of active development. And one of the most noteworthy projects in the latter group is definitely The Little Mermaid.
The studio's 1989 animated Little Mermaid feature (itself, adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale) is the film that's typically credited with launching the Disney Animation Renaissance in the late '80s and through the '90s. Naturally, Disney has assembled an all-star team to re-imagine the movie in live-action so far, including Rob Marshall (Chicago, Mary Poppins Returns) as director and Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alan Menken's songwriting collaborator. Now, it appears that the film has its eye on an Oscar-nominated A lister to play its baddie.
Variety is reporting that McCarthy has entered talks to portray the wicked sea witch Ursula in Disney's live-action Little Mermaid remake. Assuming that she signs on, McCarthy will draw from a script by David Magee (who also wrote Mary Poppins Returns) for her performance as the famous Disney animated villain.
Judging by Variety's report, the live-action Little Mermaid is angling to update and otherwise "fix" the 1989 animated film in the same ways that Disney's other live-action retellings have aspired to modernize the movies that inspired them. However, when rumors emerged last year claiming that Lady Gaga was being considered to play Ursula, it was met with criticism from fans who felt the iconic antagonist should be portrayed by an appropriately plus-sized actress. Fortunately, the remake's creative team isn't going that route and has instead reached out to McCarthy, a multi-talented performer who's certainly helped to improve representation for plus-sized women on the big screen with her work in the last eight years since her break-out turn in Bridesmaids.
More recently, McCarthy has started to move away from her usual comedy projects and tackle a wider variety of roles spanning multiple genres. Last year, for example, she excelled as the unapologetically messy author Lee Israel in the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and snagged an Oscar nod for her efforts. She will continue to mix things up in August, when she plays one of a trio of mob wives who take over the family business in the crime drama The Kitchen. And while she's never played a villain quite like Ursula, the flamboyant sea witch feels like a role that ought to be well-suited to McCarthy in the live-action The Little Mermaid. Here's hoping that she signs on, if only so everyone can find out what McCarthy's rendition of the iconic tune "Poor Unfortunate Souls" sounds like.