Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel to Disney’s Mary Poppins, stars Emily Blunt as the extraordinary Mary Poppins! The actress shared some fun facts during an exciting recent press conference I attended for the new film. Like many, I am a fan of the 1964 original film as well as the beautiful Oscar-award winning actress Julie Andrews! I appreciated how Emily played homage to Julie Andrews but also carved out a new space for herself. She did her own version of Mary Poppins although she even agrees that no one will outdo Julie Andrews. That being said, Emily was perfect in this role. I was not disappointed in her portrayal of Poppins.
How did this role come about for Emily?
She received a call from Rob Marshall who she’s known for a long time. “The voicemail certainly had a sort of charged energy to it, like I was ‘Oh my god, what is this project?’ And when he called me, because he is so beautifully ceremonious and wants 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. He said, ‘We’ve been digging through the Disney archives and we have by far their most prized possession.’ And when Rob said ‘Mary Poppins’ I thought 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, you know, all happening simultaneously at that moment because Mary Poppins is so iconic. “
Playing Julie Andrews-
“She had such a big imprint on my life and on everyone’s lives People hold this character so close to their hearts. How do I create my version of her? What will my version of her be No one wants to see me do a sort of cheap impersonation of Julie Andrews 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 Rob 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.”
What did Emily draw upon for her performance?-
“I found the books to be a huge springboard and enormously helpful. She 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 but funny, and yet there is this humanity and she herself has to have such a childlike wonder in her in order to want to infuse these children’s lives with it. And under there must be a generosity of spirit to want to fix and heal in the way that she does. When we talked about it, in the year and a half we spent before we even started rehearsing, 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. She’s not just one thing, you know, because she is so enigmatic and it was a great, such a delicious character to play! I loved it.”
Mary Poppins and Jack (Lin-Manual Miranda) are just friends-
“I think really the sort of enigmatic master plan is to set him up with Jane Banks [LAUGH], but I think I enjoyed playing the sort of flirtation of it and I think really they are such kindred spirits even though he’s not necessarily magical, he gets it and believes it and they’re sort of in cahoots with each other so I love playing that chemistry with Lin and I was so lucky to get to play it with him because there’s suc buoyancy to him and how he plays his character.”
Singing on set-
“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. They’ve dealt with something so profound and so agonizing, to lose a parent and to be so young and miss her so much. I like cried thinking about it. But it just moved me so much and so on the day, it was one of my favorite days on set and we shot ‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’. She recognizes what they need at that moment and gives it to them in this very tender way and the sorrow is so true and she doesn’t shy away from the fact that they’ve lost something, but that there are cracks of light, there’s something to learn from and the idea of loss being something that they can digest as children. 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 a loss really.”
Balancing Julie Andrews’ performance with the P.L. Travers version and the books while making it your own-
“What I decided to do was, even though I’d seen it as a child, was not watch the original so closes to shooting our version because I think she [Julie Andrews] is so beautiful and so extraordinary and, I think I would have maybe tried to accommodate in some bigger way what she did and let that sort of bleed into what I wanted to do. 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, you know. The decision really is that if I wanted to just carve out a new space for myself it was gonna have to be without watching the details of what Julie did so close to shooting. 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 all my god, she’s amazing.”
See Emily Blunt transform into Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins Returns on December 19!