Print Edition - 2018-12-27  |  Life & Style

Blunt had mixed feelings about taking on Mary Poppins Returns

- The Straits Times, LOS ANGELES

Dec 27, 2018-

Hollywood continues to crank out one remake after another pretty shamelessly. But it treads extra carefully when rebooting something as sacrosanct as Mary Poppins, the 1964 movie musical that became an instant classic.

The original—a children’s fantasy featuring Julie Andrews as a nanny with magical powers—is re-imagined in Mary Poppins Returns, which stars Emily Blunt.

Blunt, 35, knew something big was in the works when director Rob Marshall left her a cryptic message saying he wanted to discuss a role, but did not say what it was.

Speaking to The Straits Times and other media at a press day in Beverly Hills recently, the English actress recalls: “The voicemail had a charged energy to it, and when he called me, he said, ‘We’ve been digging through the Disney archives and this is by far their most prized possession.’

“And when he said ‘Mary Poppins’, the air changed in the room.”

But she and Marshall approached the project with mixed feelings because of how revered the original is. It won five Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Andrews, whose now legendary film career it launched.

Blunt is no stranger to success herself, including with the horror hit A Quiet Place earlier this year, the science-fiction blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow (2014) and crime drama Sicario (2015).

But the stakes felt different with this. When she was offered the role, she “was filled with an instantaneous ‘Yes!’, but also with some trepidation because (the character) is so iconic”, Blunt says.

“She had such a big imprint on my life and on everyone’s lives—people hold this character so close to their hearts,” says the star, who is married to A Quiet Place director John Krasinski, 39. They have two daughters aged four and two.

Knowing it would be impossible to fill Andrews’ shoes, she decided not to try.

“No one wants to see me do a sort of cheap impersonation of Julie Andrews because no one is Julie Andrews. She should be preserved and treasured in her own way for what she did.”

Instead, Blunt endeavoured to put her own stamp on the character who, in this film, once again swoops in to help the Banks family, this time in 1930s Depression-era London, some decades after the events of the first movie.

To put her own spin on it, the actress turned to the PL Travers book series the films are adapted from, which were published from 1934 to 1988.

“I found the books to be enormously helpful. She leapt off the page at me just in how complicated she is, how unknowable she is in this wonderful way—that duality of the character in that she is stern and incredibly rude and vain, and yet there is this humanity.

“And she has to have such a childlike wonder in her in order to want to infuse these children’s lives with it. There must be a generosity of spirit to want to fix and heal in the way that she does,” she says.

The actress also felt she was “in safe hands” with Marshall at the helm, even though he admits to some hesitation as well.

Published: 27-12-2018 08:35

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