“Mary Poppins Returns” star Emily Blunt made a decision that made her performance authentic.

By: Hiro Katoh   December 16, 2018


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While most actors find it challenging to play iconic musicians, actors, ex-Presidents, etc. Imagine the daunting task of playing an iconic Disney legend and being judged by the harshest critics out there – kids! However, it seems no one told Emily Blunt what she was stepping into because even though her version was different from the original, she transformed into Mary Poppins flawlessly. Blunt bringing a unique Poppins to the screen while not losing any of the authenticity highlights what an amazing actress she really is. But most importantly, the film is fun for the younger viewers. We chat with the new Miss Poppins on how she achieved this, what it was like, and if her kids approved

Q: How did this project come about for you?

I think Marc (Marc Platt, Producer) even called my agent and said something big is coming down the pike for Emily and I got a voicemail from Rob (Rob Marshall, Director) who is my dear friend and we have known each other a long time and the voicemail certainly had a sort of charged energy to it, like I was oh my god, what is it, you know? What is this project? And when he called me, because he is so beautifully ceremonious and want every moment of the process to feel special and transporting and memorable for you, that even the phone call had such a sense of ceremony to it. And he said, you know, we’ve been digging through the Disney archives and, we’ve been and by far their most prized possession. And I was like what, what is that? And I couldn’t think, like what it was, and when you said Mary Poppins, I thought like the air changed in the room.

It was so extraordinary, such an extraordinary rather unparalleled moment for me because I was filled with an instantaneous yes, but also with some trepidation, all happening simultaneously in that moment because she (Mary Poppins) is so iconic. She had such a big imprint on my life and on everyone’s lives. She, people hold this character so close to their hearts. And so, how do I create my version of her? What will my version of her be, because there’s no point? No one wants to see me do a sort of cheap impersonation of Julie Andrews (the original Mary Poppins) because no one is Julie Andrews. And so she should be preserved and treasured in her own way of what she did. And so I knew this was going to be something that I wanted to take a big swing with and I knew I could do it with this man (Marshall) who is the most emboldening, meticulous, brilliant director in the world and I was in safe hands with him. However much I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Q: How were you able to balance Julie Andrews’ extraordinary performance in the original film with the P.L. Travers (Pamela Lyndon Travers, the author of Mary Poppins) version from the books while adding your own personal signature as well?

I think for me what I decided to do was, even though I’d seen it as a child, was not watch the original (version) so close to shooting our version because I think probably because she is so beautiful and so extraordinary and, I think I would have maybe tried to, I don’t try and accommodate in some way, you know, in some bigger way, what she did, and let that sort of bleed into what I wanted to do and so I just decided if I’m going to do this, I’m just going to go on my gut instinct from the book because she is rather different in all of the books. And that was the decision really is just to, if I’m going to crave out new space for myself, it was gonna have to be without watching the details of what Julie did so close to shooting. I mean I have this searing memory of Mary Poppins, but not of all of the tiny details of how she played the character. And so as soon as we wrapped, I watched the original. I was just floored by it, and probably relieved that I hadn’t watched it because I think I was oh my god, she’s amazing. And I showed my daughter it.

Q: Where did you find all the different colors that you painted with this character?

I found the books to be a huge springboard and enormously helpful. She (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 that she is stern and she is incredibly rude and vain and, but like funny, 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. So I think for me and certainly for Rob when we talked about it, in the year and a half we spent before we even started rehearsing, we would talk about her so much and we both wanted to find those layers and those moments of humanity and also the fact that she’s probably a bit of an adrenaline junky, like she loves these adventures. It’s like her outlet. So just finding those moments so she’s not just one thing because she is so enigmatic and it was a great, such a delicious character to play, loved it.

Q: It can be said that you really grabbed everyone with the film’s song, Where the Lost Things Go which you provided the vocals for. Where did you pull the emotion from that you poured into this song? Also, how does it feel like singing that on set?

I mean I remember those early days of coming to Marc’s (Marc Shaiman, composer) apartment and singing that song and I was so incredibly moved by it that I found it virtually impossible to get through it the first few times I sang it in Marc’s apartment. It was so emotional for me because I did think of my own children and these children in the film and their sense of loss and that they’re trying to hold their father together and they’ve dealt with something so profound and so agonizing, you know, to lose a parent and to be so young and miss her so much and ,oh my god, I like cried thinking about it. But it was just, it just moved me so much and so on the day. It was one of my favorite days on set and we shot that song all day, in a couple of days because it is that she recognizes what they need in that moment and gives it to them in this very tender way. And this song is so true and she doesn’t shy away from the fact that they’ve lost something, but that there’s cracks of light, and there’s something to learn from and the idea of loss being something that they can digest as children and not and to walk through, that you are going to walk through this loss, but nothing is gone forever only out of place. It’s just such a hopeful way to look at loss really.

Mary Poppins Returns opens theaters nationwide on December 19th. For more information visit the film’s official website at https://movies.disney.com/mary-poppins-returns or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/marypoppinsreturns/

Interview by Hiro Katoh

Edited by: Jody Taylor – https://twitter.com/RealJodyTaylor

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