Javier Bardem Little Mermaid

Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid is quickly pulling its cast together, and now one of the film’s few remaining major roles has received a nibble on the end of its line: Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem is in talks to play King Triton, the protective father of the title character. Learn more below.

Variety confirms an initial report from The DISinsider which said Bardem is in talks for the role of King Triton, the merman ruler of a hidden underwater kingdom named Atlantica. The film’s protagonist, Triton’s daughter Ariel (Halle Bailey), is a curious, adventurous mermaid who feels stifled by her father’s harsh rules about contact with the human world, and she ultimately breaks her father’s rule, falls for a human man (Harry Styles), and trades her voice to a sea witch for legs so she can be with the man.

This isn’t the first time Bardem has been a member of the Disney family: I can still hear his sing-song-y recitation of the name “Jack Sparrow” from his performance as Captain Salazar in 2017’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. I’m not excited about a live-action version of The Little Mermaid, but this seems like good casting; Bardem can play stern and patronizing with the best of ’em.

Variety says that in this version, Ursula the sea witch will be Ariel’s aunt. If Ursula is Triton’s sister, that will be yet another Disney story of sibling rivalry that results in a power struggle for a kingdom’s throne. (Both versions of The Lion King are other prominent examples featuring this idea.) Melissa McCarthy is in talks to play Ursula, but I suppose just because McCarthy is white and Bardem is Spanish doesn’t mean they can’t be directly related: after all, this film will be giving us the first black version of Ariel.

King Triton’s isolationist policies could hold extra significance after 2020 – hopefully they’ll be seen as a shudder-inducing reminder of America’s current foreign policy and not as a painful reminder that things have only gotten worse in that regard between now and then.

Mary Poppins Returns director Rob Marshall is directing this new version of The Little Mermaid, and he’s producing with John DeLuca, Marc Platt, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The film will include several songs from the animated original, which were created by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, plus some new songs by Menken (music) and Miranda (lyrics).

Filming on the new remake is expected to begin in 2020.

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