More than 50 years after her introduction, Mary Poppins will float back into theaters on December 19. Prior to the release of ‘Mary Poppins Returns’, the cast and creators gathered in Los Angeles to discuss reviving iconic characters, matching the musical composition of ‘Mary Poppins’ and balancing nodding to the past with moving forward.
The panel, moderated by producer Marc Platt, included director Rob Marshall, composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, producer John DeLuca, writer David Magee, Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Jack), Ben Whishaw (Michael Banks), and Emily Mortimer (Jane Banks).
Director Rob Marshall and star Emily Blunt discussed the weight of creating an original musical with such expectation.
Marshall: I wanted to be able to in an odd way protect the first film and treat this film with great care and love. And, you know, musicals are very difficult to do, an original musical, there are so many layers to it, but with this one, you know, creating an original musical from scratch was actually for me a dream and I’ve never done it before and to be able to create it with this beautiful company was exactly what I was hoping for. And I have to say the guiding message of this film about finding light in the darkness is honestly what drew me to it and kept guiding me throughout the whole process including until this very moment, you know, when people are actually now seeing the film because it feels so current to me.
Blunt: I found the books to be a huge springboard and enormously helpful, you know. [Mary Poppins] leaped off the page at me just in how complicated she is, how unknowable she is in this wonderful way, that duality of the character, you know, that she is stern and she is incredibly rude, you know, and vain and, but like funny, you know, and yet there is this humanity and she has to herself have such a childlike wonder in her in order to want to infuse these children’s lives with it and there must under there be a generosity of spirit to want to fix and heal in the way that she does, you know.
John DeLuca and Scott Wittman explained how composing for the film drew on long held inspiration.
DeLuca: I learned everything I could from that [Mary Poppins album]. So then I grew up and the dream came true where I got to incorporate every single thing that I ever learned from that album into real life and got to write songs with Scott and then got to score the movie which is a whole other thing outside of songwriting.
Wittman: We went back to the books, but we had a lovely experience. And I think my favorite part of the whole experience was the months that Rob, John, David, Marc and I spent together in the books and carving out what the musical numbers were gonna be and I think that’s probably one of the most creative times I’ve had in my very long time in show business.
Lin Manuel Miranda talked about how the film experience is different from performing on Broadway.
Miranda: There are a lot of highs on a movie like this and coming from the theater where the only thing that changes in the performance is the audience and your energy that day to go okay Thursday we’ll be shutting down Buckingham Palace and riding with 500 bicyclists. And Friday you’ll be, you know, dancing with the penguins. You know those kind of moments are really sort of unforgettable, but for me I brought my son to set every time we filmed a musical number and to watch his eyes like saucers while daddy danced with, you know, what seems like 500 dancers and bikers. I’ll never forget the look on his face as long as I live.
Finally, Rob Marshall addressed the high expectations for visual ingenuity when carrying on the traditions of ‘Mary Poppins.’
Marshall: Because we were setting this in the ‘30s in a more real time, I really love the juxtaposition between the real world that we were shooting and this real family, I wanted you to really connect emotionally to these people and know that they were real. And then these fantasias that, and adventures that Mary Poppins takes them on, then we can go so many places and come back to this real world. And the hope for me was that by the end of the film they combine, they collide and so all of a sudden, you know, Michael is at a place emotionally where he can bring fantasy into his real life and that’s when he has that beautiful moment where her says I never thought I’d feel such joy and wonder ever again.
’Mary Poppins Returns’ is in theaters December 19.