I love “Mary Poppins.”
Later this year, we’re going to be tackling the film as part of Film Nerd 2.0, and I look forward to sharing it with the kids for the first time. When they’re a little older, I’ll introduce them to the books by P.L. Travers, which I think are wonderful in their own right, although very different.
Presumably at some point after that, I’ll share the film “Saving Mr. Banks” with them and we can talk about the way the two Mary Poppins that they’ll know, from the films and the books, are very different characters in important ways, and how it’s a case of Hollywood making the film they wanted to make, despite the author’s wishes. I would not want the P.L Travers approved “Mary Poppins” if it meant I couldn’t also have the Julie Andrews version.
I say that as someone who was raised with that film as part of their vocabulary, though, and I would imagine I might have felt different if I was the author. The film “Saving Mr. Banks” is set to tell the story of how Walt Disney personally spent 14 years trying to get Travers to give him the rights so he could make the film, and according to Variety, both Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are onboard as Disney and Travers.
This leaves me conflicted, because I certainly think Walt Disney’s life consists of several stories that are worth telling, and this one in particular could be quite striking. The script made it onto last year’s Black List, and it’s a well-regarded piece of writing. The problem, and I feel like a Grinch when I say this, is that Tom Hanks seems to be almost completely wrong for the part.
Don’t get me wrong… this is not some blanket dismissal of Hanks. Far from it. I like Hanks a lot, and I think he’s one of our great modern movie stars. But he has such a different energy than Walt Disney that it seems like they’re more worried about the box-office clout he brings than the accurate portrayal of Disney. He was such an omnipresent media figure for so much of my life that I can’t help but compare any actor who steps into the role to that grandfatherly image that Disney projected. If you’re just talking about physical resemblance, it seems to me that Nicolas Cage is the guy you go to first, because he could play a really spooky-accurate version of Disney in his later years.
I’m sure Hanks will be good in the role, and he and Emma Thompson together should make this an adult-minded hit for “Blind Side” director John Lee Hancock. And who knows? Maybe if this does well, someone else will decide to tell the story of Disney’s early days building his studio, or someone will decide to make a film about the relationship between Walt Disney and Kurt Russell, or any of the half-dozen other stories about Disney worth telling.