Melissa McCarthy knew she had big tentacles to play villainous Ursula in the live-action version of The Little Mermaid.
While working as a nanny to two VHS-obsessed children, McCarthy became obsessed with the outrageously haired, half-octopus sea witch in the 1989 Disney animated original.
“I’ve seen The Little Mermaid hundreds of times more than any other movie. We literally watched it every night,” says McCarthy, 52. “I always thought Ursula was the most obnoxious and most incredible role.”
Playing his dream role alongside Halle Bailey’s mermaid Ariel in the remake (currently out) was a double challenge for the two-time Oscar nominee McCarthy. Not only did he deliver a convincingly sly performance featuring Ursula’s epic “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” he was also naturally compelling. A comparison to her beloved original animated version of Ursula, voiced by Pat Carroll.
“My desire was to give all my love to the original work of Pat Carroll,” McCarthy says. “And then I put my own spin on it.”
The casting of Ursula, who tricks Ariel into giving up her golden voice for human legs and feet in order to pursue her true love, Prince Eric, has proven to be one of the hottest casting stories in Hollywood. I was. Even Lizzo threw a blonde Ursula wig into the ring in 2018, wearing a full ensemble and shouting “Poor unfortunate souls” in a social media video.
McCarthy pleaded with director Rob Marshall, who was convinced it was a futile effort.
“I said to him, ‘I’m probably not even at the bottom of your list. , please,” McCarthy says.
Over lunch, Marshall told McCarthy that he had already noticed her vocal prowess on Barbra Streisand’s 2016 album Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway. The album features her unlikely duo singing “Anything You Can Do.”
“But I didn’t really know how far Melissa could sing,” says Marshall. “She was so thrilled to see that she literally had such a rich voice with so many colors. And she’s fearless.”
Lizzo also volunteered for casting after meeting McCarthy while recording Adele’s “One Night Only” concert special and bonding over their shared love for Ursula. “I’m definitely going to see The Little Mermaid this weekend,” Lizzo said.
McCarthy, who grew up in the southwestern suburb of Plainfield, has thought and sympathized with Ursula’s plight for decades. Sure, she deceives the innocent Ariel, and the sea witch is a disaster for King Triton (Javier Bardem). But she has her own reasons. After all, Ursula lives alone at the bottom of the ocean with only her two eel henchmen, Flotsam and Jetsam.
“She is classified as a villain, but I have mixed feelings about Ursula. McCarthy, who became more sympathetic to Ursula, said. “Coming out of lockdown and playing someone whose mental health isn’t 100% because of loneliness is something we can all relate to.”
What’s more, Ursula’s dastardly power move to dethrone King Triton and become Queen of Atlantica takes a new turn. In the new version the two characters are related. So Triton kicked his sister out of the kingdom.
“It changed for me when I learned that your family had banished you and sent you into exile,” McCarthy said. “The people she wanted to love abandoned her. Even though she deserved it, she missed her entire life.”
But the sympathy only goes so far as McCarthy brings Ursula some delicious badness. She closed her performance by singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” with an orchestra of 200 people. “It’s as scary as singing with Barbra Streisand,” says McCarthy.
The underwater scenes in The Little Mermaid were shot against a blue screen in the studio, requiring McCarthy to be strapped to a rig to simulate effortless water movement. The water and special effects such as Ursula’s hair and tentacles were digitally added by his computer graphics. However, the movement of floating in the air was very real.
“I had to go to ‘swimming school’ because I wanted Rob to look like he was floating in the water rather than really swimming,” Ursula said. says McCarthy, who perfected it to “glit” through the water. . “I’ve never seen such beautiful, asymmetrical underwater movement in a movie.”
Filmed using blue screen technology, McCarthy had to wear a skull hat instead of Ursula’s famous gray hair. This was “initially traumatic” for McCarthy. McCarthy has come to love the Ursula wig she’s been wearing since the transforming camera test.
“When I put the wig on, I was like, ‘Oh my darling,’ and it felt like it all made sense to Ursula,” McCarthy says. “I had quite a few conversations with Rob and asked, ‘Can I wear the wig anyway?’
Request denied. But McCarthy was able to refer to Ursula’s elaborate make-up, which she spends more than an hour each day, and her gorgeously dark eggplant nails.
“I can’t imagine finding my Ursula without that makeup. That’s the armor she’s wearing to show the world,” McCarthy says.
The best work was the corset dress with rainbow-colored vines popping out from the collar. McCarthy worked with costume designer Colleen Atwood to give the water scene maximum flexibility. “Colleen designed a corset that I could slide around,” says McCarthy.
From Ursula’s tentacles to her stunning hair, it was breathtaking to see the computer added imagery and painstakingly finished performance.
“Each strand of hair was drawn and manipulated by a series of computer movements. said McCarthy. “I was like, ‘I got it!'” I really got it. 』「
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