Emily Blunt has revealed the biggest challenge she had to overcome while playing P.L. Travers' Practically Perfect nanny Mary Poppins in Disney's upcoming sequel, Mary Poppins Returns. And while the role was difficult for multiple reasons, Blunt had admitted that the dancing was the hardest part of all.
A sequel 54 years in the making, Mary Poppins Returns is described as being as much an homage to Disney's original Mary Poppins - a film that won five Oscars, including Best Actress for star Julie Andrews - as it is a followup to that classic musical. The film is very much a continuation and not a remake, however, as it picks up with the Banks family in Depression-era London, more than twenty years after the events of the first movie. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer costar in the film as the now-grown Banks children Michael and Jane, who are still reeling from a personal loss when Mary Poppins (now played by Blunt) re-enters the picture, in order to bring some hope and light back into their lives.
Screen Rant visited the Mary Poppins Returns set awhile back and asked Blunt what the biggest challenge on the film was for her. While the Edge of Tomorrow and A Quiet Place star admitted the role was challenging in more ways than one, she singled out the dancing as the element that intimidated her the most, at the start of production:
The dancing, probably. I feel that I just try to approach her as I would any other character and not be caught up in the white noise of, "Oh my God, you are Mary Poppins." I think that has been my main focus, is just to approach her calmly, as I would any other character, how I would play her, with what I have given on the page? I have not watched the [original] since I saw it as a child, cause I... no one is going to outdo Julie Andrews. I think I just want to... this is just going to be my version her. The dancing has been the most daunting prospect for me.
Mary Poppins Returns producer Marc Platt praised Blunt's performance in the film when we interviewed him, saying that she's "not only a consummate actress, who possesses a tremendous craft" but that she also "sings beautifully [and] dances magnificently, [which] was a big surprise". Director Rob Marshall, who previously collaborated with Blunt and Platt on Disney's Into the Woods musical adaptation, likewise praised Blunt's singing and dancing in the film in equal measure, adding that it's "very rare these days" to find actors who can do one as well as the other (like Blunt can).
With a cast that includes Hamilton creator and modern Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack the lamp-lighter (a character similar to Dick Van Dyke's Bert the chimney sweep from the original Mary Poppins), Mary Poppins Returns should feature some impressive musical sequencing and dance choreography in general. It's thusly good to know that, as far as the film's creatives are concerned, Blunt was able to hold her own when it came to dancing in the film, in addition to the acting and singing elements of her performance. One imagines the Practically Perfect nanny herself wouldn't have it any other way, of course.
- Mary Poppins Returns (2018) release date: Dec 19, 2018