Emma Thompson And Tom Hanks Talk SAVING MR. BANKS In New Featurette
When Disney’s SAVING MR. BANKS opens in theaters in December, audiences will delight in a movie that gives them not only a rare glimpse of the behind-the-scenes tug-of-war that ultimately brought “Mary Poppins” to the screen but also a glimpse of the creative geniuses it took to envision the classic film – everyone from a cantankerous, difficult author to an ever-optimistic, visionary entrepreneur.
John Lee Hancock’s film will have it’s North American Premiere at the Opening Night Gala of the 2013 AFI Fest on Thursday, November 7.
Actors Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson discuss the backstory of what would ultimately set the wheels of the beloved film in motion.
Prior to it’s screening at the AFI Fest 2013, the Oscar-winning actress will be honored with a handprint-footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
In preparation to take on the persona of P.L. Travers, Thompson listened to tapes of the sessions in Los Angeles between the songwriting team of Richard and Robert Sherman, Walt Disney and Travers, all of which had been saved in the Disney Archives.
“The tapes remind me of the myth of Sisyphus because it’s like listening to people push something very, very heavy up a hill and then get to the top and just watch the whole thing roll back down again. It’s really hard work listening to those tapes because P.L. is so awful and so irritating. Just listening to them makes you want to throw something heavy at her.”
And Tom Hanks himself seems to also embody Walt Disney. Says director John Lee Hancock, “This film portrays a side of Disney we haven’t seen before,” Hancock reveals. “It’s not the Walt we know from ‘The Wonderful World of Disney,’ which was fun to explore.
“I don’t look or sound anything like Walt Disney,” Hanks affirms in responding to Hancock’s comments. “In addition to growing a mustache and parting my hair, the job at hand was to somehow capture all that whimsy that is in his eyes as well as all of the acumen that goes along with that. You can’t do an imitation of Walt Disney.
On dressing the cast, Veteran costume designer Daniel Orlandi was offered great insights from Richard Sherman. “Richard Sherman was a great help,” affirms Orlandi. “He had a lot of insight into Walt and what the Sherman brothers and Don DaGradi wore to work every day. In the film, we have Jason Schwartzman as Richard Sherman wearing a bright red vest that Pamela points out specifically because the legend is that she did not want the color red in the movie ‘Mary Poppins.’”
Hancock confirms the anecdote about Travers’ demands to remove the color red by saying, “The craziest demand is that she declared that she was simply off the color. In our film, Walt confronts her in front of the Shermans and Don DaGradi and capitulates. And they’re aghast. They’ve never seen Walt give in to anything like that.”
“I don’t think it had anything to do with the color red,” Hancock surmises. “It was just a demand that she was making and if he couldn’t give in on something as simple as no red in the picture, then they would have many more fights. Then she should just go back to London. So he gives in, at least momentarily, on the color red which was a silly and crazy demand.”
Although P.L. Travers made many demands in the film, Emma Thompson counts the “no red” one as her personal favorite. “She just turned up one day and said, ‘I’ve gone off the color red and you can’t have any red in the film.’ Disney replied, ‘But it’s set in London. There are pillar boxes and there are postboxes and buses and a British flag.’ This was witnessed by the Sherman brothers with Walt Disney finally going, ‘Okay, okay. No red, no red.’ Of course it all changed and there was plenty of red in the movie. But she really tested those guys.”
For Hancock’s film, “There’s no red in Emma’s wardrobe,” Orlandi confirms. “Of course, when you see the movie ‘Mary Poppins,’ Mr. Banks is in a bright red velvet smoking jacket in his first scene,” points out Orlandi about who actually won the final argument.
A sequence in the upcoming film portraying Travers’ demand to eliminate the color red took place in the last stage set in which Hancock filmed – the rehearsal studio where the Shermans and DaGradi staged their storyboard displays and musical numbers to win the author over and get her to sign a contract with their boss.
When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise—one 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.
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.
The film will release in U.S. theaters on December 13, 2013, limited, and open wide on December 20, 2013.