Friday, August 30, 2013

Saving Mr Banks

Saving Mr. Banks is an upcoming 2013 biographical drama film directed by John Lee Hancock from a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel. Centered on the production of the 1964 Walt Disney Studios film, Mary Poppins, the film stars Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks with supporting roles from Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, and Colin Farrell. Taking its title from the patriarchal character of the same name, the film depicts author P. L. Travers (Thompson) and her two-week briefing in Los Angeles as she is persuaded by filmmaker Walt Disney (Hanks), in his attempts to obtain the screen rights to her novel. Filming started on September 19, 2012. Walt Disney Pictures will produce the film in association with BBC Films and Essential Media. Theatrical release in the United States is slated for December 13, 2013 in select cities and in wide release a week later on December 20. The film will be produced by Alison Owen, Ian Collie, Philip Steuer, Christine Langan, Troy Lum, Andrew Mason and Paul Trijbits.

What's it all about?
In a series of children's books featuring a nanny called Mary Poppins, Walt Disney scents House of Mouse catnip. Unfortunately the English lady author refuses to grant him the rights. Her traumatic childhood down under has left her clinging to her books' characters as the family she's yearned for in vain. After 16 years spent trying, Walt heals her troubled soul, elicits her consent and delivers a big-screen classic.

How did it happen?
British newcomer Kelly Marcel and Australian Sue Smith wrote a screenplay that made it to 2011's "Black List" of the scripts not yet in production that scored highest in an annual poll of Hollywood producers. Disney pounced on the distribution rights only last year, with studio chairman Alan Horn calling the project a "brand deposit". Ruby Films, who brought us Tamara Drewe and Jane Eyre, produced. John Lee Hancock, who made The Alamo and The Blind Side, directed the film entirely around Los Angeles.

Nominations it wants
Best picture: in Argo, Hollywood merely rescued a bunch of errant Americans; Saving Mr Banks shows it salving the ills of the human heart. What more can you do to flatter the Academy's voters? What looks to be a well-hewn and intelligent story wil doubtless get a nod for best original screenplay. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in the lead roles are both top of their game, and clearly eyeing up the two most coveted of actors' statuettes.

When Walt Disney’s daughters were young, they loved a little book about a magical (and slightly sadistic) nanny named Mary Poppins. He promised them that he would someday make a movie out of the series, and 20 years later, he delivered. But it was no easy task, which is what the upcoming film Saving Mr. Banks is about.

It took Disney—Walt himself, not a bunch of execs with money-stuffed briefcases—16 years of wheedling, convincing, and coaxing before author P.L. Travers would agree to let him make a movie. She believed that Disney would make Mary Poppins a twinkling, rosy-cheeked delight—and to an extent, she was right. Disney did give her script approval, but no doubt later regretted it, since script approval proved to be an extremely painful process. Every little word, every tiny detail, seemed to be a point of contention.

After they finally came to terms on a script and the movie was filmed, Travers screened it and then asked Walt, “When do we start cutting it?” Disney shook his head and explained that she had script approval—not film editing rights—and refused to change a thing. Travers was furious.

Since Saving Mr. Banks is a Disney production, of course, I’m guessing that the movie will end with P.L. Travers and Disney agreeing to disagree goodnaturedly. But nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the picture above of Ms. Travers smiling with Walt and Julie Andrews at the movie premiere, she was actually miserable. She cried when it was over, feeling her characters and ideas had been butchered.

Mary Poppins, Travers said, was “already beloved for what she was—plain, vain and incorruptible—(and now) transmogrified into a soubrette. ... And how was it that Mary Poppins herself, the image of propriety, came to dance a can-can on the roof-top displaying all her underwear? A child wrote, after seeing the film, ‘I think Mary Poppins behaved in a very indecorous manner.’ Indecorous indeed!”

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