In 1961, Walt Disney invited “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers to his studio in Los Angeles to discuss, in person, his continued interest in obtaining the movie rights to her beloved book and character—a pitch he first made to her in the 1940s. Still hesitant and disinterested after all those years, Travers wanted to tell the Hollywood impresario to go fly a kite but with dwindling sales of her books and a bleak economic future looming, P.L. Travers said yes and embarked on a two-week sojourn in Los Angeles that would ultimately set the wheels of the beloved film in motion.
Now, Walt Disney Pictures presents “Saving Mr. Banks,” a film inspired by this extraordinary, untold back story of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen, starring two-time Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson, fellow double Oscar® winner Tom Hanks and acclaimed actor Colin Farrell.
“Mary Poppins’” journey to the screen begins the moment Walt Disney’s daughters beg him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins.” Walt makes them a promise to do so, but it is a promise that he doesn’t realize will take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation.
For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp.
It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.
Expounding on the premise of the film, director John Lee Hancock says, “It’s really a fantastic story, but it’s not the behind-the-scenes look at the making of ‘Mary Poppins.’ You’re not on a soundstage with a young Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Our story takes you back two to three years before the actual production of the movie began.”
“Walt Disney saw the promise of that movie, which made it worth dealing with P.L. Travers to secure the rights. That’s our story, a fantastic story, about a beloved movie, its own story and characters, and the origins of how it became this amazing, groundbreaking film. On a deeper level, it’s also about two storytellers and Disney’s journey trying to discover why P.L. Travers holds on so dearly and protectively to her story and the image of this father she adored,” Hancock concludes.
Colin Farrell co-stars as Travers’ doting dad, Travers Goff, along with British actress Ruth Wilson (Disney’s “The Lone Ranger”) as his wife, Margaret; Oscar® and Emmy® nominee Rachel Griffiths (“Six Feet Under”) appears as Margaret’s sister Aunt Ellie (who inspired the title character of Travers’ novel); and a screen newcomer—11-year-old Aussie native Annie Rose Buckley—is the young, blossoming writer, nicknamed Ginty, in the flashback sequences.
The cast also includes Oscar® nominee and Emmy® winner Paul Giamatti (“Sideways”) as Ralph, the kindly limousine driver who escorts Travers during her two-week stay in Hollywood; Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore”) and B.J. Novak (“Inglourious Basterds”) as the songwriting Sherman brothers (Richard and Robert, respectively); Emmy winner Bradley Whitford (“The Cabin in the Woods”) as screenwriter Don DaGradi; and multi-Emmy winner Kathy Baker (“Edward Scissorhands”) as Tommie, one of Disney’s trusted studio confidantes.
“Saving Mr. Banks” is directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”) from a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith.
Opening across the Philippines on Feb. 26, “Saving Mr. Banks” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.