People sometimes assume that the only way we can sit down to do interviews with people is if we publish glowing praise of them, but that’s ridiculous. Some of the best conversations are when there’s some push and pull going on.
I had already published my review of “Saving Mr. Banks” before I attended the press day, and I wrote in that piece about my questions about some of the choices made in the way the film portrayed the relationship between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers. When I went into each of the interviews, I wanted to discuss that with the cast, since they’re playing real people and they’ve had access to materials that we haven’t.
For example, in the closing moments of “Saving Mr. Banks,” as the credits play, you’ll hear actual excerpts of the recordings that were made of all of the story meetings that were held with Travers during her time in Los Angeles, and speaking just as a writer who has been through my fair share of brutal notes sessions, just that excerpt made me break into a sweat.
It made perfect sense to have Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak and Bradley Whitford all sit together for the interviews. I think every moment they have in the movie is as a group. There’s just a hint of friction in the interview as Whitford gets very specific about how he feels the truth was handled in the movie. I respect not only his point of view, but the research that they did.
Besides, as I said to them and in my review, Walt Disney was all about mythmaking, and from the very start of his company’s existence, there was a “Walt Disney” who the public knew who was not the same as the real man. He was brilliant at the creation and maintenance of this folksy storyteller persona, and I think he would be absolutely delighted to see what Tom Hanks did in portraying him. He’d also be mighty happy to see that the film firmly sides with him instead of Travers.
You can see “Saving Mr. Banks” starting December 20, 2014 in theaters everywhere.