Mary Poppins Returns stars Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda spoke to us on the film's set and explained why director Rob Marshall was the right person to take on the Disney project. Returns, of course, is the long-awaited sequel to the Mouse House's classic 1964 musical Mary Poppins and continues the story of author P.L. Travers' magical flying nanny (as now played by Blunt). In addition to being a major box office success, Mary Poppins ultimately netted five Academy Awards, including the Best Actress Oscar for then-lead Julie Andrews.
Given the rather high benchmark set by the original film, Disney understandably decided to hand the Mary Poppins sequel over to its trusted collaborator Marshall. The Oscar nominated director's previous films include the Mouse House's Into the Woods musical adaptation, as well as its fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides. While both of those tentpoles were lucrative hits, Marshall's crown achievement still remains his Best Picture Oscar winning musical Chicago (as was adapted from the stage show by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse).
When Screen Rant spoke to Miranda (who stars as the lamp-lighter Jack) on the Mary Poppins Returns set, the actor/songwriter specifically cited Marshall's efforts on Chicago as being a big part of the reason why he signed on to make the Mary Poppins sequel to begin with. For (much) more insight on that, read Miranda's full quote about Marshall below:
I mean, it’s amazing. And that’s the other reason I wanted to do this. Because, you know, there are dreams come true moments; getting your show on Broadway, getting to be in a movie. And then there are dreams that you didn’t even have the audacity to have, like that there would be a sequel to Mary Poppins and you could be dancing with Mary Poppins someday. Who would have the audacity to have that dream? And here we are. But you know, the other, the main reason I’m here is because I think Rob Marshall’s the best at making movie musicals. I think Chicago is the best movie adaptation of a musical, which is the hardest thing to pull off. And I’ve talked about it with Rob many times. I mean, he was born in the wrong era. Like if he were born during the MGM unit, there’d be tons of Rob Marshall classics, so seeing him get to work on an original musical is really thrilling because you’re there from the ground up. You’re building the music, you’re building the story, so he already did the hardest thing, which was to adapt a two-act musical into a three-act film. So now to get to build an original musical and to watching him do it has been one of the great learning experiences of my life.
That sort of enthusiastic praise means all the more coming from Miranda, a contemporary musical theater icon who both created and starred in the Broadway sensation Hamilton and headlined the Tony award-winning musical In the Heights (a stage show he co-created with Quiara Alegría Hudes). Blunt, on the other hand, had collaborated with Marshall on Into the Woods and it was her (good) experience acting in that musical which convinced her to work with him again on Disney's Mary Poppins sequel. As she told us:
I mean we all laugh a bit about the fact that Rob makes you feel that you could do anything. In fact, we sort of, all of us come over and then we have to extract the smoke that has blown up... behind all... you know he just has this way of making you feel that you can do anything. He has this wonderful ceremonial approach to film making. He makes it magical and special for everybody. He is meticulous about the details and I just love working with him, because he just digs for golds every day. So he expects a lot of you and that comes from singing, the acting, the dancing, because he doesn't miss anything. So you do feel in such safe hands with him, in the same way he approaches me as an actor, he approaches me as a dancer now. He just... he wants it to feel like a confident exciting experience and he wants to feel characterful, as appose to perfect. He has depth to him and I just loved every second, I find him the most elegant, wonderful person to be around.
With so much big name talent involved on both sides of the camera - including, Hairspray songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, as well as Life of Pi's screenwriter David Magee - Mary Poppins Returns has a lot working in its favor, as far as its chances of success are concerned. Considering that Disney already has Miranda working on a live-action The Little Mermaid remake that Marshall is (reportedly) lined up to direct, the studio clearly thinks highly of what the filmmaker and his crew have done with the practically perfect nanny so far.
- Mary Poppins Returns (2018) release date: Dec 19, 2018