Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Berlin Review: With 'Midnight Special,' Jeff Nichols Offers Up a Very Special Sci-Fi Thriller Berlin Review: With 'Midnight Special,' Jeff Nichols Offers Up a Very Special Sci-Fi Thriller How They Designed the Characters and Sounds for the Oscar-Nominated 'Mad Max: Fury Road' How They Designed the Characters and Sounds for the Oscar-Nominated 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Meryl Streep to Fund The Writers Lab, Supporting Women Screenwriters Over 40 (EXCLUSIVE) Meryl Streep to Fund The Writers Lab, Supporting Women Screenwriters Over 40 (EXCLUSIVE) Oscar Predictions 2016 Oscar Predictions 2016 Roger Deakins on Shooting Hollywood From the Inside Out in 'Hail, Caesar!' (Video) Roger Deakins on Shooting Hollywood From the Inside Out in 'Hail, Caesar!' (Video) A Letter to Michael B. Jordan A Letter to Michael B. Jordan Bona Fide Acquires Movie Rights to Knausgaard New York Times Series 'My Saga' for Alexander Payne (EXCLUSIVE) Bona Fide Acquires Movie Rights to Knausgaard New York Times Series 'My Saga' for Alexander Payne (EXCLUSIVE) WATCH: 9 Oscar-Nominated Screenwriters on How They Got Their Start, Their Writing Process, and Much More WATCH: 9 Oscar-Nominated Screenwriters on How They Got Their Start, Their Writing Process, and Much More Inside the Oscar Nominees Lunch Inside the Oscar Nominees Lunch How John Ridley and Company Create the Emotional Resonance of 'American Crime' How John Ridley and Company Create the Emotional Resonance of 'American Crime' Top 10 Takeaways:  'Hail, Caesar!' Leads Three New Releases—Which Barely Total $20 Million Top 10 Takeaways: 'Hail, Caesar!' Leads Three New Releases—Which Barely Total $20 Million 'Deadpool' Review & Roundup: Ryan Reynolds Finds a Franchise Worthy of His Talents 'Deadpool' Review & Roundup: Ryan Reynolds Finds a Franchise Worthy of His Talents Arthouse Audit: 'The Club' and 'Rams' Reveal Weakness in Subtitled Film Market Arthouse Audit: 'The Club' and 'Rams' Reveal Weakness in Subtitled Film Market Inside the Directors Guild Awards Inside the Directors Guild Awards Joel & Ethan Coen Crack Each Other Up, And Me, Talking About 'Hail, Caesar!' Joel & Ethan Coen Crack Each Other Up, And Me, Talking About 'Hail, Caesar!' Why George Miller Should Win DGA Award and Directing Oscar for 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Why George Miller Should Win DGA Award and Directing Oscar for 'Mad Max: Fury Road' WATCH: Oscar Nominee Tom Hardy Explains Why Shooting 'The Revenant' Was So Bloody Hard (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) WATCH: Oscar Nominee Tom Hardy Explains Why Shooting 'The Revenant' Was So Bloody Hard (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) How They Created the Bear VFX for the Mauling of Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant' How They Created the Bear VFX for the Mauling of Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant' How Quentin Tarantino Resurrected Ultra Panavision 70 for 'The Hateful Eight' How Quentin Tarantino Resurrected Ultra Panavision 70 for 'The Hateful Eight' What Happened to Scorsese's $70-Million Short 'The Audition' Starring DiCaprio, De Niro and Pitt? What Happened to Scorsese's $70-Million Short 'The Audition' Starring DiCaprio, De Niro and Pitt?

Things I Learned at the 'Saving Mr. Banks' Premiere; Hanks, Thompson, Sherman & More Talk Disney, Travers and 'Mary Poppins'

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 10, 2013 at 3:53PM

The Disney company wasn't sure they were ready to jump on board "Saving Mr. Banks," admits motion picture chairman Alan Horn. He wasn't sure it was the right thing to do, but production head Sean Bailey lobbied hard, and they finally decided that having some control by financing this Australian/British/US co-production of the origin story of the "Mary Poppins" movie, "Saving Mr. Banks," was a good idea.
1
Emma Thompson and Julie Andrews at the "Saving Mr. Banks" premiere
Emma Thompson and Julie Andrews at the "Saving Mr. Banks" premiere

The Disney company wasn't sure they were ready to jump on board "Saving Mr. Banks" (December 13), admits motion picture chairman Alan Horn. He wasn't sure it was the right thing to do, but production head Sean Bailey lobbied hard, and they finally decided that having some control by financing this $35 million Australian/British/US co-production of the origin story of the "Mary Poppins" movie was a good idea.

It's great to watch what happens when a family picture is so inside the Disney wheelhouse, as the marketing as been inventively spot-on, from sending out "Mary Poppins" Blu-rays and mounting sing-alongs with composer Richard Sherman and Emma Thompson to staging the premiere right on the Disney lot Monday night, where the "Saving Mr. Banks" gang joined up with "Mary Poppins" stars Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews to sing "Let's Go Fly a Kite" in front of the Main Theater. 

This battle of the Titans stars Tom Hanks as mustachioed studio mogul Walt Disney, struggling to wrest control of the movie version of "Mary Poppins" from dyspeptic London-based author P.L. Travers (Thompson), who hated animation and wasn't even invited to the premiere. She showed up anyway, and wound up a very wealthy woman. 

Based on the 2002 Australian documentary "The Shadow of Mary Poppins" and financed by Disney, this UK/Australian/US co-production is directed by John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side") and is gaining momentum in this year's Oscar race. Two-time Oscar-winning writer-actress Thompson is coming on strong as a Best Actress contender, winning the National Board of Review.

The story flashes back to Travers' childhood in Australia with her beloved father (Colin Farrell), a failed banker, and unhappy mother (Ruth Wilson). Paul Giamatti stars as the film's one invented character, a limo driver designed to humanize Travers, and Jason Schwartzman and BK Novak are terrific as the Sherman brothers who melt Travers' heart with their songs. The writer's past unlocks the key to the film, as Disney figures out that this semi-autobiographical nanny who flies into 17 Cherry Tree Lane comes to save the banker father of Jane and Michael Banks--not the children. 

After developing the film, Australia's Essential Media and Entertainment brought the script by Sue Smith to Britain's Ruby Film ("Jane Eyre," "Elizabeth"), whose Alison Owen enthusiastically took it on, adding co-writer Kelly Marcel ("Fifty Shades of Grey") to the mix. BBC Films also came on board. She figured out that the Disney vs. Travers movie creation story had to balance out the backstory--the magic of making art out of tragedy is the secret sauce. And while Travers was a terror for all concerned--"My dear brother Bob and I went through a living hell with this movie," says Sherman, "for 48 years I hated her guts!"--it's fun to watch a woman being powerful and fighting for her creation--something Disney himself understands, as he recalls not being willing to give up Mickey Mouse early on in his career. "It's family," he said. 

The Disney family assembled on the lot for the afterparty in the Disney commissary, from Horn, who is wrestling with getting "Maleficent" into shape, and Disney CEO Bob Iger, who called Hanks himself to talk him into playing Disney, says Hanks: "If there's any way you could do this it would really help us out." Hanks said that he and Emma Thompson just sat opposite each other and nailed their big resolution scene in one afternoon.

Iger was grinning about nabbing the Lucas/Spielberg "Indiana Jones" franchise back from Paramount (which happily accepted some cash) and putting it into development with Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy. "It was not a must have, it was a want to have," Iger told me. "We can make a great movie."

Animation czar John Lasseter admits that Disney's princess musical "Frozen" was a tough nut to crack. The secret: figuring out that the Snow Queen was NOT a villain. Lasseter said he relies on Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo" and its sequel) and Pete Docter ("Up") to help him run Pixar as he returns Disney Animation to its former glory. They were both at the party, leaving the Pixar troops on their own in Emeryville. 

Check out a "Saving Mr. Banks" DGA Q & A below with Hancock, Hanks, Thompson, writer Kelly Marcel, producer Owen, and Sherman.

Saving Mr. Banks premiere

This article is related to: News, Walt Disney Pictures, Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Saving Mr. Banks


E-Mail Updates






Festivals on TOH



Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.