When Vulture caught up with director Joe Wright at a cocktail reception this weekend for his upcoming Eric Bana–Saoirse Ronan assassin thriller Hanna, there were two things we had to know about immediately: the enticing news that the Chemical Brothers would be scoring the film (which he’d just revealed at New York Comic Con), and the recent announcement that he’d be directing a live-action version of The Little Mermaid. First up: girls with fins. “My dad was a puppeteer and he did a production of The Little Mermaid that he loved very much,” Wright told us. “It was kind of my favorite of his shows. It’s a story that I feel very close to. I’m not quite sure how we’re going to do [the film] technically, but I know how to do it emotionally.” And that involves suicide, not songs, he promised. “It has the original ending [of the Hans Christian Andersen story],” he said. “It will be dark. I hate the idea that they destroyed the ending of the original in the Disney version.”
Lest he appear to be too eager to traumatize a new generation of mermaid-loving girls, fear not: Wright is actually quite protective when it comes to the teenage Ronan, whom he’s reuniting with after her Oscar-nominated role in his 2007 film Atonement.
“She turned 16 while she worked on the project, and what was really odd that I noticed myself and other people doing is that before she was 16, everyone kept the cursing to a minimum, and then literally on the day of her birthday, everyone started telling her rude jokes,” he laughed. Then again, Wright says the preternaturally mature Ronan has come a long way in just a few years. “When she was 11 or 12, she had this extraordinary talent, this fierce, raging talent, and it was quite uncontrolled — unmanaged, almost, by craft. I guess what’s happened in the intervening years is that she’s really developed her craft and her control over her talent. It’s a joy to behold. I think her performance [as a teenage assassin] in Hanna is one of the most extraordinary performances I’ve ever seen. It’s an amazing thing that she did.”
Wright was just as effusive about the addition of the Chemical Brothers to the soundtrack, making them the latest in a line of musicians like Trent Reznor and Daft Punk who’ve begun an unorthodox side career as film scorers. “They certainly don’t make classical music!” he said. “They’ll probably bring a bit more bass and rhythm to the project. What I’m hoping to achieve with the soundscape of the film is the kind of place where the sound effects and the music become one, so it’s one soundscape instead of a layer of music that happens over the project.”
Wright has been a friend of the Chemical Brothers for almost fifteen years, and spoke gleefully of the times when he would go on tour with the band and do subversive projections at their live shows. “I remember we really used to fuck with people’s heads … just when they were coming up on their happy pills, we’d suddenly switch to projecting maggots all over the walls to mess with people,” he said, grinning. “It was fun.”