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5 Favorite Disney Memories From 'Saving Mr. Banks' Star Jason Schwartzman

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist December 12, 2013 at 1:08PM

John Lee Hancock's "Saving Mr. Banks" dramatizes the creative struggle to get "Mary Poppins" adapted for the big screen. And while much of film is devoted to the contentious relationship between Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) and 'Poppins' author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), there were people at the periphery who were just as important to the process. Chief amongst these people were the Sherman brothers, the crack songwriting duo behind the movie's unforgettable songs. Jason Schwartzman plays Richard Sherman while B. J. Novak plays Robert Sherman.
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Disneyland

4. A Day In The Park With An Imagineer
As part of the research for "Saving Mr. Banks," Disney offered Schwartzman the chance of a lifetime: tour Disneyland with an Imagineer. Even though it wasn't truly essential to his character, Schwartzman couldn't resist the opportunity. "They asked if we would have a tour of the parks, if that would help us in any way. I couldn't see any direct way that it could help, since our characters weren't there, but since I am such a freak for Disneyland and interested in it and have a lot of questions about it, I said yes. I needed that for my soul," Schwartzman said. 

The actor went on, the excitement levels in his voice rising: "So this day we walked around with an Imagineer. This is the guy who literally created Indiana Jones the ride, Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain. And the highlight would be going on the Indiana Jones ride with him, we went on it twice, and him showing me all the illusions and tricks of the ride. I remember thinking, This is one of the greatest days of my life." 

But that's not all—on the same day Schwartzman got to emulate Walt himself, down to his signature drink. "We also went to Club 33, which was a dream for me, I had always wanted to go," Schwartzman said. For those of you without a membership to the official Disney fanclub, Club 33 is an exclusive restaurant and bar located in the Port Orleans section of Disneyland. Yearly membership fees for the club are tens of thousands of dollars and the waiting list to get in is years long. Any hardcore Disney fan will tell you that it's a lifelong dream to go to Club 33. And it's one that Schwartzman got to experience. "I found out that Walt's favorite drink was a Scotch Mist, which is scotch poured over crushed ice. So I went to Disneyland and got into Club 33 and had a Scotch Mist. I can't tell you how much it meant to me."

richard sherman

5. "Dorking Out" With Richard Sherman
The real Richard Sherman was a technical advisor on the film, and as he said to me, "the last guy standing amongst the people in that room." So Sherman became an invaluable tool not just to Schwartzman but the entire cast and crew of "Saving Mr. Banks." Still, the first meeting with Sherman is one of Schwartzman's favorite Disney memories. "The first real meeting was: I went to his house, I sat with him for a couple of hours, he answered all my questions. And I went and sat at the piano and the highlight was really him saying, 'Why don't you play something for me?' And I said, 'I just play a little … I don't play like you.' He said, 'Well I want to know what chords you're interested in.' And I played him 'Your Mother Should Know' by The Beatles. And then he played me a song, I forget who it was by, and we just started to play songs for each other. It was very little talking. It was just music. I couldn't believe it."

At some point Schwartzman started to feel guilty about pumping the musical genius, who has written songs for countless movies, TV shows and park attractions, for all of his wisdom and expertise. "I remember this exact line, I said, 'I am so sorry to dork out like this.' And he goes, 'Are you kidding me? I could dork out with you all day long.' And then as I was leaving the house he said two things that were amazing," Schwartzman said. "I told him that I just wanted to do him proud and asked if there was anything else I should know. He said, 'Just love music and you'll be alright.' And the other thing he said was, 'Don't feel any stress. I already did everything. You just be you doing the things I did.' That was a really great way to put it and took away a lot of pressure."

Not that the pressure was gone completely, of course. "My goal was to play the songs in the movie and I wanted them to be done as true to the time period as possible. If you get the 'Mary Poppins' songbook they're like a novelization, like someone listened to the finished version and roughly transcribed it. So if I had played those versions they would have sounded a bit too modern. So Richard gave me access to his demos—just him at a piano in the late '50s, and I transcribed all the original demos before they were all figured out for the movie, so where they would have been at the time period of the movie. And I learned those versions of the songs. No one would ever notice but I knew that Richard would be on the set and even though he's so welcoming and so excited and would have had no problem if I played them slightly incorrectly, but my goal to show him that I learned the way to play them in 1961." Schwartzman then added, somewhat sinisterly: "And also an excuse to get his demos. And now that I have them, I'm never letting them go. They are mine."

The feeling, it turns out, is mutual. When we got to talk to Richard Sherman, he said that Schwartzman was an absolute delight. "He's full of energy. He's full of talent. He's very musical," Sherman said, laughing. "50 years ago so was I. And he's very outgoing and affable and likable. I love him. I think he's great. He did a great job doing me."

"Saving Mr. Banks" hits theaters this Friday in limited release and goes wide into national expansion on December 20th. 

This article is related to: Saving Mr. Banks, Jason Schwartzman, Walt Disney Pictures, Features, Feature


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