|Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Motion Pictures|
Starring two-time Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson, fellow double Oscar® winner Tom Hanks and talented actor Colin Farrell.
In 1961, Walt Disney invited “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers to his studio in Los Angeles to discuss, in person, his continued interest in obtaining the movie rights to her beloved book and character—a pitch he first made to her in the 1940s. Still hesitant and disinterested after all those years, Travers wanted to tell the Hollywood impresario to go fly a kite but with dwindling sales of her books and a bleak economic future looming, P.L. Travers said yes and embarked on a two-week sojourn in Los Angeles that would ultimately set the wheels of the beloved film in motion.
“This story offers incredible context to what the author P.L. Travers went through in her own life that led to the birth of the character of Mary Poppins,” says Colin Farrell, who plays Travers’ troubled father in the 1906 flashback sequences. “The tragedies that befell her at a very young age and the emotional pain and trauma that she went through that came out in her work…this story goes back to show you Emma’s character, P.L. Travers, the writer of ‘Mary Poppins,’ as a child in rural Australia in 1906. Kelly’s ability with clarity of narrative in these two aspects of P.L.’s life, the flashbacks and contemporary story in 1961, is amazing. Just like her script, which achieves a level of emotion that is not self-indulgent or preachy, but quite astonishing.”
“Disney spends a lot of the movie trying to figure out what P.L. Travers’ issues are, beyond the fact that she doesn’t like animation,” director John Lee Hancock goes on about the story and relationship between his two protagonists. “Trying to figure out where she’s coming from and why she’s making this negotiation so incredibly difficult.
“And, when he does figure it out, he spends a lot of time trying to win her over, manipulating her to get his way, and she wins over and over again,” Hancock continues about the story’s arc. “He capitulates, which was so unlike Walt, and which he is not necessarily happy about, trying to get her to come on board. He then realizes that he’s been talking to the wrong person. He needs to find out more about her, who she is, and what her relationship with her father was, and that becomes the key. He realizes that they have a somewhat shared past in their relationships with their fathers. He must convince her that the idea of turning something dark or even tragic into something that has a message that lives on and saves you from that dark past is the stuff of storytellers. And that’s what they have in common.”
“P.L. Travers is burdened by her past in our film, one that she cannot escape,” adds actor Tom Hanks, who plays the iconic Walt Disney, picking up on Hancock’s comments. “There is an aspect to the pain and the guilt that she feels from the memory and loss of this very special man, her father. When Walt is able to verbalize to her how he dealt with such pain in missing his own father, that’s when she finally understands.
“Walt Disney is so different from her, with his money and Disneyland and his dancing penguins, that I think she felt that she had nothing in common with him, so therefore this was never going to work out,” Hanks elaborates. “But then, she realizes that his reasons to make the movie equal the reasons she wrote her books. I think she then makes her peace with the reality of giving up control. Never in the movie does she talk to Walt Disney as an equal, until that moment. I think the movie attempts to interpret our past and how the jobs we do, in this case the art that these two create—Walt Disney with his films, P.L. Travers with her books—address and heal those scars and those wounds by taking on the past and turning it into something that is not a burden.”
Adds Emma Thompson, who plays the prickly author, “I think that P.L. Travers felt that Disney was making her version of the world somewhat dishonest because he was denying the darkness. Disney, who had experienced enough darkness of his own, wanted to create a world for children that was not dark. The books have a very particular atmosphere and are rather different to the movie, which has Disney’s and the Sherman brothers’ extraordinary, bubbly-champagne-like life force. Americans have a kind of energy and life force that’s very, very different to P.L.’s and to her designedly and forcefully British outlook.”
“Saving Mr. Banks” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.