DUBAI: For someone who grew up idolizing a Disney princess, American singer-songwriter Halle Bailey completes full circle as she makes her big-screen debut in the company’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” which is released in the Middle East on May 25.
Bailey told Arab News in a virtual interview: “Never in a million years did I think I would get a chance to be Ariel for this new generation.
“So, I think I just tried to embody all those things that we related to her for, like her soul and her independence and her headstrong ethos and her passion, as well as the beautiful love that she experiences, which I think is, honestly, just the cherry on top to her story.”
With her musical background, Bailey was excited to bring her own take to classic songs like “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea,” the original versions of which went on to win Academy Awards.
The new work brings back musician Alan Menken, who wrote the original songs, while “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a few new tracks for the film.
Bailey said: “It was lovely working with both of them on the new songs because Ariel has one new song in this version.
“And it’s really cool and up-tempo and the musician in me really appreciated the fact that Alan Menken was so heavily involved in the creation of these new songs as well.
“It made me feel like we were honoring and respecting the work that was done in the original, while also kind of giving it this new breath of life. So, I was living my full musical dreams through this movie.”
Based on the animated 1989 film and the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of the same name, “The Little Mermaid” is directed by Rob Marshall and follows the young mermaid Ariel, who makes a deal with sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to become human and be with Prince Eric, played by Jonah Hauer-King (“The Last Photograph” and “A Dog’s Way Home.”)
Playing young Ariel’s father, King Triton, is popular Spanish actor Javier Bardem, who phoned director Marshall as soon as he found out that a live-action version of the Disney classic was in motion.
Bardem added: “I said if there’s such a thing as a King Triton with a Spanish accent, I would love to be part of that.
“And he (Marshall) said, ‘Well, we were thinking about you actually.’ So, when he told me that I was surprised because I just gave it a shot, never thinking it’s actually going to happen. But boom, it happened.”
Bardem, who watched the original at the cinema when it was first released and has since watched it over and over again with his kids and family, immediately rewatched the movie to get a better sense of his character.
He said: “The first thing I saw was his broad chest. I thought, ‘Oh no, I have to do a lot of gym.’
“But then Rob told me, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to have armor.’ Cool, great. And then the other thing I noticed in this character was a little contradictory flavor. He’s grumpy, he’s mad and he gets angry, but there is some pain inside, there is some fear. There is an insecurity of losing his daughter, and not knowing how to help her. And he learns through her to love better.”