Jodi Benson’s bond with Rob Marshall, who directed her in this year’s The Little Mermaid, spans four decades. Benson was an active member of the New York City theater community before she was cast as the voice of Disney’s Ariel in the 1989 animated masterpiece.
Benson tells EW that she met Depp “when he was a dancer on a couple of different shows” and that she “feels like her husband [actor Ray Benson] and he did a musical together” when Depp was a member of the ensemble dance.
In 1990, Benson was one of the leads in Marshall’s first theatrical production, a touring production of Chess. Decades later, when it came time to remake The Little Mermaid, it was an easy decision to include Benson, with whom he already had a history.
“We thought, ‘It is just so perfect to have her in that, if it felt like it could be organic and not too stunt-y.”
Benson has a small role in the Caribbean kingdom ruled by Queen Selena (Noma Dumezweni) and Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) in the current theatrical release of The Little Mermaid. By this point in the film, Ariel (Halle Bailey) has completed her metamorphosis into a human and is experiencing the land world for the first time.
A kind stranger who she happens upon offers her a meal. But hold on! She’ll require utensils to consume that meal. Benson’s character offers a fork to Ariel, who uses it to comb her hair after becoming a human. Marshall compares it to “a literal passing of the torch.” It’s the equivalent of “passing the dinglehopper” in Scuttle language.
The scene was originally created by David Magee for the script. Ariel uses a fork to comb her hair at the prince’s dinner table in the 1989 animated picture. That wasn’t, in Marshall’s opinion. No one, not even a mermaid, would start primping at the beginning of a meal.
Therefore, they rethought it in terms of a commercial marketplace. This incident surfaced when they discussed how to incorporate Benson into the narrative.
Not to be forgotten is the fact that filming at Pinewood Studios was accompanied by weeks-long quarantines and enough safety precautions to turn the place into a new Fort Knox. Plus, as Benson recalls, there was the “severe weather” outside of London to deal with, as well as outfit fittings, makeup trials and hair trials.
You can also check out about Halle Bailey appearance in The Little Mermaid:
I was making a big pot of rice and beans for everyone, and there was a heater just at my feet. She comments on how “intensely hot” the scene was to shoot. The actors are eager to come to hang around in between scenes.
According to Marshall, having the real Ariel on site had a profound effect on everyone involved. He recalls that once, Bailey asked Benson to perform a brief piece of the character’s signature song, “Part of Your World,” for her.
Because “Halle was out of her mind to meet Jodi because she grew up with that Ariel,” he explains. Similarly sweet and enthusiastic about this encounter was Jodi. It really was a sight to behold. It’s been 34 years, after all. Jodi’s beauty lies in the fact that she welcomes and even celebrates the presence of this other Ariel in her life.
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