Ursula, the treacherous sea witch who stole Ariel’s voice in the 1989 animated classic the little Mermaid And the new live-action reboot, Drag Queen, is not. At least according to official Disney canon.
But the iconic vamp’s creation was, in fact, inspired by one of the most famous drag queens in pop culture history: Devine (born Harris Glenn Milstead), the star of John Waters’ infamous NC-17-rated 1972 cult hit. pink Flamingoamong other films by Autobiography of Campy Films.
Story In short: Basic little Mermaid Producer and songwriter Howard Ashman was, like Waters and Milstead, a gay man from Baltimore who participated in the same social circles. After little shop of horrors After the playwright saw Rob Minkoff’s early sketches of Ursula, he encouraged the animator to lean into the visual similarities he identified between Ursula and Devine. “The makeup is divine, the brows painted on more than her brows. (She) was created from that template, (who was) such an amazing character,” explains Rob Marshall, who directs the new musical film. Ashman later coached the late actress Pat Carroll, who played the character in the original. voiced the character, to communicate with him in the same way, (Milstead died in 1988, exactly one year before little Mermaid was issued.)
Following the announcement of the live-action reboot in 2016, a legion of fans wanted to see the drag queen cast as the new Ursula. Marshall eventually cast Oscar-nominated actress Melissa McCarthy, noting that the popular bridesmaids And Ghost Busters The star has experience in drag.
“When I first sat down with Melissa, the first thing she said to me was, ‘You know I started in drag,'” recalls Marshall (Chicago, Mary Poppins Returns, McCarthy in the early 90s Performed as a drag queen named Miss Y Around various places and events in New York.
McCarthy confirmed that she also channeled Devine for her new in-the-flesh iteration of Ursula.
She says, “My inner-divine is always with me.” “I’m a huge fan of John Waters. (His movies were) on loop for me the whole time, like in high school and college. And I always knew when I saw the original, like I had any facts to back it up. Wasn’t, but I was like, ‘I bet it’s based on the Divine.’ She looks divine. The body is there. And when I found out, I was like, ‘I knew.’ But I think I totally nailed it. That humor, that self-deprecation. That tribute to what you love and also making fun of it is what makes drag so entertaining and great. So it’s definitely Played a big part in it for me since I’m a big fan of drag.
And Marshall is a huge fan of McCarthy, drawing early raves for her performances, especially the show-stopping number “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” (See clip above.)
“The great thing about Melissa is she’s such a good actress, she really wanted to find the nuance of the character,” says the director. “It’s so amazing sometimes. She’s kind of funny, sometimes she’s scary, sometimes she’s kind of vulnerable and hurt and angry. I mean, it’s a lot of things and It gives you a whole palette of colors, you know? It’s amazing.”
the little Mermaid Opens May 26.
watch the trailer: