It’s been a big year for Disney’s live-action remakes, with three hitting the cinemas and two making $1 billion (sorry, Dumbo).
But if you thought that because the sheer amount of them would lead to a diminishing interest in the upcoming remakes, you’d be sorely mistaken as there is a lot of talk about The Little Mermaid.
Specifically, Disney fans are very keen to see who will play Ursula in Rob Marshall’s adaptation – and it’s not just because she’s one of Disney’s most iconic villains.
While nothing has been confirmed officially yet, it looks like Melissa McCarthy will take on the role of the sea witch in the live-action remake. She recently responded to the reports by saying it “would be an awfully fun thing to do”.
“I’d love it if Disney gave me a little ringy dingy. We’ll see,” McCarthy added, before giving the camera a cheeky wink. “If it did [happen], it would be very wonderful, Disney.”
It’s certainly a lot better than the rumoured casting earlier this year about Lady Gaga taking on the role, around the same time that Zendaya was reported to be playing Ariel. But some fans still aren’t convinced that McCarthy is the right person to play the villain.
Of course, casting backlashes are nothing new, but here they do have a basis in the character’s origin.
The original look for Ursula in the animation was inspired by drag queen icon Divine, who regularly appeared in movies by John Waters. This inspiration led some to hope that when it came to the live-action version, Disney would cast a drag queen as Ursula.
Earlier this year, Harvey Fierstein played the role of Ursula in The Little Mermaid live at the Hollywood Bowl.
Given his background in drag performance (winning awards for the likes of Hairspray and Torch Song Trilogy), Fierstein was talked about as a possible Ursula and would play the role, if composer Alan Menken had his way.
“I’ve wanted Harvey Fierstein to play Ursula. I would kill for that,” Menken told Gay Times in 2017. “We wanted that, and we would love it in a flash.”
Another popular choice among fans is Drag Race alum Latrice Royale. Known for her hilarious catchphrases and larger than life persona, she possesses all of the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to pull off such a role.
And Latrice agrees too. Just a few weeks ago, Royale told AV Club that “the ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ moment is just everything for me”, although she did admit that McCarthy would be a “cute” choice too.
It doesn’t seem like either of them will end up getting the role, but Harvey Fierstein and Latrice Royale weren’t the only options either, as performers from outside the drag world were throwing their hat in the ring too.
When reports emerged that Disney was working on a remake of The Little Mermaid, musician Lizzo was also quick to throw her name in the hat with a terrific version of ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’.
As with Fierstein, it looks like Lizzo won’t be cast in the remake, however much fans would have wanted it.
And neither will Tituss Burgess.
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If McCarthy does indeed land the role, it’s a daunting task to live up to the memorable performance from Pat Carroll in the 1989 animation that saw her deepen her own voice to play Ursula as an “ex-Shakespearean actress who now sold cars”.
It’s hard to believe now, but Carroll wasn’t even the first choice for the role as Elaine Stritch was cast, but she had creative differences with lyricist Howard Ashman and left the movie.
So those who hope that Disney will actually cast a drag queen in the remake might not want to lose hope just yet…