“Wind’s in the east, mist comin’ in.
Like something is brewin’ about to begin
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store
But I feel what’s to happen, all happened before.”
—Bert in “Mary Poppins”
Now, Walt Disney Pictures presents “Saving Mr. Banks,” a film inspired by this extraordinary, untold backstory of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen, starring two-time Academy Award®–winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks.
“Mary Poppins” journey to the screen began the moment Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins.” Walt made them a promise to do so, but it was a promise that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation.
For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp.
It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.Expounding on the premise of the film, director John Lee Hancock says, “It’s really a fantastic story, but it’s not the behind-the-scenes look at the making of ‘Mary Poppins.’ You’re not on a sound stage with a young Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Our story takes you back 2-3 years before the actual production of the movie began. “Walt Disney saw the promise of that movie, which made it worth dealing with P.L. Travers to secure the rights. That’s our story, a fantastic story, about a beloved movie, its own story and characters, and the origins of how it became this amazing, groundbreaking film. On a deeper level, it’s also about two storytellers and Disney’s journey trying to discover why P.L. Travers holds on so dearly and protectively to her story and the image of this father she adored,” Hancock concludes. Colin Farrell (“Minority Report,” “Total Recall”) co-stars as Travers’ doting dad, Travers Goff, along with British actress Ruth Wilson (Disney’s “The Lone Ranger,” “Anna Karenina”) as his wife, Margaret; Oscar® and Emmy® nominee Rachel Griffiths (“Six Feet Under,” “Hilary and Jackie,” “The Rookie”) as Margaret’s sister, Aunt Ellie (who inspired the title character of Travers’ novel); and a screen newcomer—11-year-old Aussie native Annie Rose Buckley as the young, blossoming writer, nicknamed Ginty, in the flashback sequences.
The cast also includes Oscar® nominee and Emmy® winner Paul Giamatti (“Sideways,” “Cinderella Man,” HBO’s “John Adams”) as Ralph, the kindly limousine driver who escorts Travers during her two-week stay in Hollywood; Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore,” “Moonrise Kingdom”) and B.J. Novak (“NBC’s “The Office,” “Inglourious Basterds”) as the songwriting Sherman Brothers (Richard and Robert, respectively); Emmy winner Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing,” “The Cabin in the Woods”) as screenwriter Don DaGradi; and multi-Emmy winner Kathy Baker (“Picket Fences,” “Edward Scissorhands”) as Tommie, one of Disney’s trusted studio confidantes. “Saving Mr. Banks” is directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side,” “The Rookie”) from a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel (creator of FOX-TV’s “Terra Nova”) and Sue Smith (“Brides of Christ,” “Bastard Boys”). The film is produced by Alison Owen (the Oscar®-nominated “Elizabeth,” HBO’s Emmy®-winning “Temple Grandin”), Ian Collie (the Aussie TV documentary “The Shadow of Mary Poppins,” DirecTV’s “Rake”) and longtime Hancock collaborator Philip Steuer (“The Rookie,” “The Chronicles of Narnia” trilogy). The film’s executive producers are Paul Trijbits (“Lay the Favorite,” “Jane Eyre”), Christine Langan (Oscar® nominee for “The Queen,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin”), Andrew Mason (“The Matrix” trilogy, “Dark City”) and Troy Lum (“Mao’s Last Dancer,” “I, Frankenstein”). Hancock’s filmmaking team included a trio of artists with whom he worked on his 2009 Best Picture Oscar® nominee, “The Blind Side”—two-time Oscar® nominated production designer Michael Corenblith (“How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Apollo 13,” “The Alamo”), Emmy®-winning costume designer Daniel Orlandi (HBO’s “Game Change,” “The Alamo,” “Frost/Nixon”) and film editor Mark Livolsi, A.C.E. (“Wedding Crashers,” “The Devil Wears Prada”). Hancock also reunited with Academy Award®-nominated cinematographer John Schwartzman, A.S.C. (“Seabiscuit,” “Pearl Harbor,” “The Amazing Spider-Man”), with whom he first worked on his inspiring 2002 sports drama, “The Rookie.” AN IDEA TAKES FLIGHT
When Australian filmmaker Ian Collie gave Oscar®-nominated British producer Alison Owen a copy of his documentary plus a feature film script written by Sue Smith about P.L. Travers, the author of “Mary Poppins,” Owen was intrigued…surely Travers was a Brit? After all, Mary Poppins was the quintessential British nanny! And so began the journey of “Saving Mr. Banks.” After bringing on Kelly Marcel to work on the screenplay, with the support of BBC Films, Owen and Collie felt they had cracked the story of the battle between this grande dame and the King of Hollywood, Walt Disney.
The finished script began generating excitement around Hollywood and attracted the attention of director John Lee Hancock. Hancock read the script and met with Owen to discuss the project, telling her what he loved about it—the way Marcel had intertwined the 1961 story with the 1906 story of Travers’ childhood, revealing the origin of Mary Poppins—and the visual possibilities that offered.
But before landing a director, or a cast, Owen knew that she had to get the support of the studio. There was one person she knew she had to enlist to help—songwriter/composer Richard Sherman, who suffered through the burden of dealing with the irrational Travers 50 years previously. With Sherman’s endorsement that they were telling the story with truth and integrity, Owen came to Disney, where the project found its ideal home.THE CAST & CHARACTERS When the filmmakers sat down to discuss the casting for “Saving Mr. Banks,” they drew up a list of their dream cast. As fate would have it, they were able to sign the talent they wanted, who were all happy to join the production. The first choice to play “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers was two-time Oscar® winner Emma Thompson. “When you’ve got somebody like Emma Thompson, she has a very large toolbox,” director Hancock proclaims about his leading lady and her abilities to tackle such a challenging role. “Anytime you’re taking on a character that is that complicated and that sad, there’s a weight that goes along with it. Emma confided in me that it was tough to wake up and play P.L. Travers every day. And it would be great when we were done so she would have hopefully done P.L. proud. She is so incredibly talented.”
Emma Thompson says of the curmudgeonly P.L. Travers, “She was a wonderful case study, requiring so many different shades. She was just so complex. She’s one of the most complicated people I’ve ever encountered in biography.”
Versatile actor Paul Giamatti took on the role of P.L. Travers’ friendly limousine driver, Ralph, the only fictional character in the film…and the only American Emma Thompson’s character P.L. Travers liked in the film. “They have a nice relationship,” says Giamatti. “You see another side of her. You see a lot of her difficult side and you see her be less difficult with Ralph. She’s completely blunt with him but he gets right away who she is, and he understands and he’s totally cool with it. It’s easy to like him and I think she can’t resist after a while, so she comes to like him.”
Ruth Wilson came on board to play Margaret Goff, P.L. Travers’ mother in the flashback story. Explaining her character, Wilson says, “Margaret perhaps married below her station. She married this very poetic, charismatic guy who offered her the world and promised every dream. However, reality hit hard and life with Travers turned out harder than she ever imagined.”
I cannot wait to see this movie, just reading this content I'm really looking forward to it. A big thanks to Walt Disney Pictures for this insight into the how and why is came about. Have a Magical Weekend.