In an ideal world, Nicole Kidman's transformation into the Sea Witch will be akin to Angelina Jolie's upcoming portrayal of the Sleeping Beauty villainess in Maleficent (what we know of it from the trailer, anyway). The Sea Witch in Andersen's original is more of a neutral enabler than the half-octopus Ursula is in the Disney version, but for the sake of dramatic flair we could see Coppola giving the role more of an evil edge. Kidman almost always plays the victim or the heroine, and it would be exciting to see her portray an antagonist, particularly in a film that takes place in the fantastical realm.
Self-destructive and rebellious in Thirteen, romantic and innocenct in Across the Universe, and sophisticated and evil in True Blood, Evan Rachel Wood is an acting chameleon. Wood has demonstrated that she can capture the right mixture of naiveté and defiance to portray the lovesick Little Mermaid, who makes a Faustian deal with a sea witch for the ability to walk on land. In exchange for the potion that changes her tail to human legs, she forfeits her ability to speak, and Wood is facially expressive enough to keep the character's silence from becoming problematic. Plus, though this is not exactly relevant, Wood rocks the redhead look, should Coppola decide to keep that distinguishing feature in.
Though his facial hair is a little scruffy, Garrett Hedlund is a) handsome and b) carries himself in a classic, princely kind of way, so really, nothing could go wrong with this casting. The object of the Little Mermaid's affection, the Prince is intrigued by her and loves to watch her dance. Her inability to talk seems to be a dealbreaker, though, as he ultimately breaks her heart by marrying a princess. This sends the Little Mermaid into a downward spiral that does not end well. The role of the Prince must go to a charmer and a heartbreaker. We imagine that Hedlund has both of those qualities covered (cinematically speaking, of course).
Please explain to us how, after nearly a decade in the industry, no one has ever cast Carey Mulligan as a princess? Granted, Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby (2013) was basically American royalty, but we think Mulligan could bring a lot to the character of a fairy-tale-type princess. Mulligan has never done a film set in the fantastical realm, but she has dabbled in the period genre; her first feature role was one of the younger Bennet sisters in Pride & Prejudice (2005). With her ethereal presence and demure personality, Mulligan could easily bring innocence and naiveté to the role of the Princess, reminiscent of her turn as Kathy in the dystopian drama Never Let Me Go (2010). But, as we saw in Drive (2011), she is also capable of unlimited dramatic power, proving that she's flexible enough for any interpretation that Coppola might have for the role.
Tom Hanks is morphing more and more into a genial and all-knowing grandfather, and that's just the vision we have (for better or for worse) of the little mermaid's father, the Sea King. Hanks is a known fan of the kid-friendly genre, most notably lending his voice to The Polar Express (2004) and the Toy Story series (even though Coppola's version of The Little Mermaid will not exactly be rated G). After 35 years in the film industry, Hanks has played just about anything and everything, so really this comes down to the fact that he has a magisterial voice and commanding presence. After all, someone's got to boss the little mermaid around.
Jane Fonda is iconic and fabulous, and that's all the criteria we have for casting the role of the grandmother. We think she could really spice up an otherwise wallflower-type character.