Saving Mr. Banks is one of my favorite films of the year. I don’t think any of us will look at Mary Poppins in the same way again. In the movie, we learn the back story of Author P. L. Travers who created one of the world’s best known nannies. This year the film Mary Poppins is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary and may be one of Disney’s best live action films!
Saving Mr. Banks also tells the back story of a more well known character, Walt Disney. We hear personal stories about his childhood, his dedication to his daughters and his determination to buy the rights to Mary Poppins. Tom Hanks does a spectacular job portraying the Hollywood mogul. Hanks lights up the screen with charisma, humor and did that famous mustache justice.
Tom Hanks was born in California is married to Rita Wilson, has four children, 2 grandchildren and has been in numerous films such as Saving Private Ryan, Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. What was it like being a part of the Disney magic? I attended a press conference and Tom talks about his role as Walt Disney. Here are a few moments from that day:
How did you get the essence of Walt Disney rather than trying to imitate him.
Tom Hanks: There is a bit of a vocal cadence and a rhythm that Mr. Disney had that took me a while to figure out. But a lot of the little anecdotes that we found specifically from the likes of Richard Sherman were already in the screenplay. For example, Walt’s cough. Walt smoked three packs a day, and Richard Sherman writes, and this was in the screenplay, you always knew when Walt was coming to visit your office, ‘cause you could hear him coughing, from down by the elevator. So you’re able to put that kind of stuff into it, it just ends up being, one of the delightful cards in the deck.
What are the challenges of playing such iconic character that helped your performance.
TH: There is a lot of anecdotal information that kept coming to us. There were people, who knew Walt, and they searched us out. Richard Sherman was, a never-ending, literally fountain of stories, of facts, of anecdotes, plus bits and pieces of everything that had happened. And Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s daughter, gave me unlimited access to the archives and the museum in San Francisco. I made a couple of visits there. I had a lot of video and audio that I could work with, the only handicap there was a lot of it is Walt Disney playing Walt Disney. Even some of that and plenty of others there’s an ocean of cadence to the man, and that true sense that he believed everything that he said about his projects. And he completely embraced the possibilities of wonder in the movies that he was going to make as well as the rides he was going to come up with, and the things that he was going to build. I had a great road map in order to-to search it out.
What have you learned about Walt Disney, after doing the movie that you didn’t know before, and how challenging was for you to have to look and sound like him?
TH: We had the most discussed, photographed, analyzed, diagrammed, tested mustache on the planet!
I don’t I look too much like him, but there is an angular figure you can get from the boxy shape of the suits, and playing around with, various pieces of hair in order get there. I had a little bit of luck in that, Walt Disney at this time in his life was very much already Walt Disney. He is the accomplished, artist and industrialist. the surprises really came from Diane, about how much of just a regular Dad this guy was. I mean, Disneyland itself came about because he used to spend every Saturday with his two daughters.
And after a while, here in L.A., he ran out of places that he could take his two daughters. There was pony rides over where the Beverly Center is now, and there was the merry-go-round in-in-in Griffith Park, but that was it. And he was sitting eating peanuts on a park bench in Griffith Park and the girls were on the merry-go-round, he said, “God, there really should be place Dads can take their daughters, on a Saturday in L.A.” And from that, Disneyland was born. So that connection that he had through a very tight family. His brother Roy, his Mom and Dad who were a part of his life as soon as he had money, that was it. The fact that, well, he was, sadly a victim of the times. He smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and he died of lung cancer. That just another one of the grim realities of the way the world operated back then.
How do you relate with the conflict of Mr. Disney that wants to tell this marvelous story that maybe he has in his mind, and the songs, and he has to deal every day with the author. How do you relate with the struggle of creating something day-by day as a filmmaker?
TH: Walt Disney was pretty much used to getting his way because everybody loved him. He’s the guy who invented Mickey Mouse. This movie is about the creative process and you just have to just keep the process moving forward, even if that requires jumpin’ on a plane and flying to London and knockin’ on a hell-in-a-gasbag’s door. It’s just what the creative process requires and it’s a good thing it’s fun, otherwise it’d be too much work.
You took your grandchildren to Disneyland. What is like to be Tom Hanks as a grandfather?
TH: I took my grandchildren to Disneyland on the day that we shot in Disneyland. An interesting thing happens as a grandparent that you see no reason whatsoever that your granddaughter shouldn’t be delighted to take a ride on the Winnie the Pooh Adventure. It’s Winnie the Pooh. It’s fun. It’s Pooh Bear. It’s Kanga and Roo and Owl. It’s Christopher Robin. It’s gonna be a blast. She’s gonna remember this the rest of her life, her ride on Winnie the Pooh’s Great Adventure. My granddaughter was terrified by the noise, the big spinning bears. She is now haunted for the rest of her days by this first image of Winnie the Pooh in a loud, short, herky-jerky ride that her grandfather forced her to do on the day he played Walt Disney in Disneyland. That is just a sample of the fantastic job I do as a grandparent. Thank you.
Saving Mr. Banks also stars Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell and Jason Schwartzman and is in theaters Dec. 20th! I’m excited to say that I’ve visited many if not all the locations that appear in this film, Walt Disney Studios, Disneyland and the Beverly Hills Hotel!
– That’s IT Tee
* I was invited to attend a press conference to facilitate this review.