In Disney’s holiday release, Saving Mr. Banks, moviegoers will learn how the beloved 1964 classic Mary Poppins almost didn’t make it to the cinema and into our hearts. The extraordinary story, based on real life events, tells us how it took ‘Uncle Walt’ twenty years to persuade British author, P.L. Travers to bring the magical nanny from the page to life on the big screen.
Excellent casting sees double Oscar winner Tom Hanks masterfully morph into the studio icon opposite two-time Academy winner, Emma Thompson, as the awfully complicated writer. Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), Saving Mr. Banks stars Colin Farrell (In Bruges) as her doting father, Travers; Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) and BJ Novak (The Office) as the legendary songwriting duo the Sherman Brothers ; Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) as screenwriter Don DaGradi; and Paul Giamatti (Sideways) as Ralph, the driver who befriends Travers during her LA stay in the early ’60s.
Farrell uses his natural roguish demeanor to play a man who prefers the fabricated fairy tale he spins for his children over the drudgery of everyday life. He heavily relied on screenwriter Kelly Marcel’s script to help form his character, as there wasn’t much information on Travers Goff. Farrell has a few movies in post; the thriller, Solace; opposite Anthony Hopkins and the Akiva Goldsman fantasy drama; Winter’s Tale, with Will Smith and Jennifer Connelly. So let’s go and fly a kite shall we? You can watch the video interview with Colin Farrell above and/or read the transcript below.
Can you imagine a life or even a childhood without Disney?
Colin Farrell: I could but I would have to go into the planes of some far reaching land where there isn’t electricity and stuffed animals are sent in the post.
Which is how you grew up of course…
Oh yes, of course! But I digress, his imagination and the imagination of the creative people who he worked with, the artists, played a really significant part in my upbringing. His films, The Jungle Book, The Lady and the Tramp, Pinocchio were the first time I was ever exposed to any of the themes which you spend your later years trying to unravel or through your life. You know, friendship, isolation, society, parenthood. Yeah, he was there. He was around my house.
So how much did you know about this story and the fact that Mary Poppins almost didn’t get made?
I had no idea. And I don’t think many people do. It’s something that seems to be… it’s very well known in this studio that we’re on now, the Disney Studios and that’s something that’s an insider tale in the industry. But I had no recollection of hearing anything about it and it would be so bizarre that something that brought so much joy to peoples’ lives is seen as such at times frivolous and yet important piece of entertainment and whimsical was such an arduous and painful process to bring to bear.
Now you play the father of PL Travers in flashbacks. Can you talk about the kind of character he was and their father/daughter relationship?
Her father, and again, well boy is it an interpretation because I couldn’t find out very much. There was scant information to be had on Robert Goff when he was born to when he died, so I just went off what Kelly Marcel wrote in the extraordinary script she wrote and for all intent purposes, he seemed a very tender man and a very loving man. And an incredibly loving father and was someone who was devoted to the importance of the imagination. The importance of myth and the importance of poetry and culture as represented through those arts and somebody who at the end of the day couldn’t really attend to the things he really wished he could attend to; the well being of his family. He was somebody who suffered from a very deep melancholy and also a crippling case of alcoholism and died a young death unfortunately. But when we meet him, he seems like an ideal father, fun to be around and loving and tender.
And he very much influenced his daughter’s life…
That’s the thing. You go if she hadn’t had that hardship; if she hadn’t witnessed her father die when she was seven and if he hadn’t been a father who instilled in her the importance of the imagination and the love of language, would she had been able to write the books that she wrote? I don’t know if it would have been worth the books, but it might have been better for one girl to have her father for another forty years. But yes, he was part of the genesis. She distilled her experience with him into the Mary Poppins character and into the Mary Poppins books.
Lastly, are you involved in the new Warcraft movie?
Don’t know what is happening yet. I read the script, the script is phenomenal but I don’t know what is happening.
Saving Mr. Banks opens in theaters December 20, 2013.