You may have noticed a healthy showing for “Saving Mr. Banks” in Kris’ updated sidebar predictions, and he’s hardly out in the wilderness there. Sight-unseen buzz is strong for John Lee Hancock’s first directorial effort since 2009 Best Picture nominee “The Blind Side,” largely on the strength of good word (and a Black List mention) for Kelly Marcel’s first feature script, which chronicles the brittle relationship between P.L. Travers, the Australian author of “Mary Poppins,” and Walt Disney himself, as they sparred over his blockbuster adaptation of her children’s novel.
As you surely know by now, Emma Thompson plays Travers, while Tom Hanks plays Disney. We’ve had an inkling of the actor’s appearance as the legendary mogul since he turned up at the Emmys last year with Disney’s signature mustache in place, but we can now see the full effect in the first official still from the film. It’s hardly the most exciting image, but gives a clear look at the likeness — which is reasonable, without being a distracting transformation. Meanwhile, the disconnected body language between Hanks’s Disney and Thompson’s tight-lipped Travers is likely indicative of the dynamic we can expect between the characters throughout.
It’s hard to draw any other conclusions from a single image, though on this skimpy evidence, Daniel Orlandi’s early-1960s costuming seems to have that bright, slightly ersatz newness common to mainstream period pieces. And the film’s impressive supporting cast, which includes Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti and Rachel Griffiths, is being left to the imagination for the moment.
Hanks’s casting as the more famous of the two figures has grabbed most of the headlines on this project — and with “Captain Phillips” also on the horizon, the two-time Oscar winner is clearly shooting for a comeback year. But it’s Thompson that I’m most curious to see. Leading roles for the British actress — still the only person to have won Oscars in the disciplines of writing and acting — have been few and far between in the 21st century, while it’s been 18 years since her work last captured the Academy’s collective imagination. Een if the film turns out to be a soft serve, it’ll be nice to see her back in the spotlight.
Are you looking forward to “Saving Mr. Banks?”