It's a thrill to be in a room able to interview a talent such a Director Rob Marshall. It's refreshing to see he values us as a group, as well. He told his publicist, and reiterated to us, that we're his favorite moment of the junket because we're such a different experience. It's lovely to know that so many of the people we interview value not only our opinions but also our attitudes in the room when we do our interviews.
Director Rob Marshall Talks Mary Poppins Returns
Director Rob Marshall likened directing actors to parenting children.
“I really find they need to feel positive reinforcement, and it’s such a simple thing to do,” Marshall said. “It’s like being a really good parent. And I try and achieve that when we’re working. As an example, Ben Whishaw, who plays Michael Banks, he’s never sung before you know. He was sort of nervous about how do you do that, and I always feel that people can do so much. It’s just feeling that they can and knowing that they can.”
“We had over 2 months of rehearsal. So it was during that time that you can fail and be bad you know and then learn to get better and not feel judged. That’s a really important thing. I like to protect actors to make them feel they can do things and try things. And everybody was so nervous on this film because you know we were following that extraordinary film that means so much to me and so much to so many people. I’m sure everybody in this room. And so we knew we were doing the impossible, but I honestly felt like if we did it together from the right place with a great respect for the first film and found our own way at the same time then we would at least have done it in the right way, and then you hope that it works.”
On original props from the first Mary Poppins
At the D23 Expo in July 2017, Rob Marshall had mentioned they were using the original table in the front hall. It came from the Clun 33 at Disneyland. There were other items they wanted to use they had seen at the Disney Archives, but not allowed to use.
So they recreated some of the ones they wanted, such as the blocks and the snowglobe. Those blocks you'll see in the attic scene with Ben Whishaw.
They also recreated their own version of the kite.
On working with Dick Van Dyke
Rob Marshall said Dick Van Dike was “something else.” In the best way possible.
“There’s no one like him,” Marshall said. “I was so excited and nervous to even call him to ask him to do this, because he’s a hero for me. ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show,' Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang, Bye Bye Birdie, all of it, so talking to him he just disarms you immediately. He’s so joyous, and it’s just sort of who he is. And he said yes so quickly. He was excited to be part of it.”
“And when he came onto the set, he honest to God, grabbed my arm as we were walking on. He said, ‘I feel the same spirit here on this set that I did in the first film.' And I thought, ‘Okay well that’s everything. That’s all I need to hear.' That was everything for me to hear that from him.”
We talked about the scene where Dick Van Dyke dances on the desk. He's amazingly spry for his age! It's almost hard to believe it's him dancing!
“Oh yes, all of it,” Marshall said. “In fact, I said to Lin and Emily, I said, ‘If he falls off that desk you’re dead'.” The room roared with laughter at that comment because we could almost envision how that whole sequence of events went down.
“Well, I said you’re spotting him,” Marshall said. “I mean who else? There’s no one there. I said, ‘You are spotting him. So if he starts to wobble I want you to jump in.' Of cours,e he was perfectly fine. In fact, he doesn’t even use Lin’s hand.”
So fun fact, when you watch the sequence with Dick Van Dyke dancing on the desk, watch for Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda's hands. They look as if they're ready to grab Dick Van Dyke's hand should he need it. When you see Miranda, he is literally standing with his hand ready, but Van Dyke doesn’t use him, he just goes right up onto the desk.
On using some of the original music from Mary Poppins
Director Rob Marshall worked closely with songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman to get the perfect mix of original music while working in snippets of some of the original music from the first Mary Poppins into the score.
Marshall said that with an original musical, you kind of have to do it together. “You know wherever you hear ‘A Spoonful of Sugar,' those mean so much to us. So you can abuse that.”
“I strategically placed that exactly like the items, like the props and things. In fact, the majority of it happens literally in the last like 15 minutes,” Marshall said. Because I feel like we’ve earned it by that time. I feel like you know she looks in the balloon and you hear ‘A Spoon Full of Sugar' or they’re up in the air and you hear a little ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite'. Because I think we’re coming full circle. Michael’s now a child and we tried to make it something that was emotional.”
Marshall shared with us an emotional moment for him while filming the movie Mary Poppins Returns.
“I will say when Dick Van Dyke does that monologue to the kids where he tells the story about Michael as a little boy…and you hear ‘Feed The Birds,' I will tell you now that when I shot that scene, I like to work with music. So I had ‘Feed The Birds,' the music in my ear, and I’m watching Dick Van Dyke, and I have him in my ear too and he’s delivering this monologue, and I honestly broke down. I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t say cut. I couldn’t say it. Nothing came out. I was so moved. I mean I think Emily [Blunt] said cut or something. I just couldn’t believe my life had come full circle. From a 4-year-old boy having seen the film with Dick Van Dyke there, hearing ‘Feed The Birds,' watching him say that. He’s in our film 54 years later as a 91-year-old man. I mean that’s just magic to me. It was total magic. I’m still not over it.”
MARY POPPINS RETURNS arrives in theatres everywhere on December 19th! Grab your tickets now!
Thanks to Walt Disney Studios for bringing me to Los Angeles on an all-expense paid trip. As always, all opinions are my own.