Emily Blunt headlines Rob Marshall’s new musical Mary Poppins Returns, the Disney sequel to the beloved classic story about a magical English nanny who came to the aid of the Banks children in the Oscar-winning Mary Poppins more than two generations ago.
The ‘millennial’ Mary Poppins
Raymond de Asis Lo (The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2019 - 12:00am

Emily Blunt on the character originated by Julie Andrews (bottom): ‘She is so magical but yet she is so reassuring and that idea of somebody sweeping in and making everything right again is seared into people’s memory as a child.’

Emily Blunt was wearing a glowing pink pantsuit type of outfit when she met with our select group of journalists in a New York hotel in early fall last year. It was a gloomy, wet morning and she was like sunshine bursting through dark clouds when she walked in to our interview room!

“It was actually between this and another hot pink dress,” she playfully remarked when we commented on her choice of fashion. “It’s a bit chilly today!” she added in her distinctive British accent that reminded us why she was meeting us that day.

The beautiful actress is headlining Rob Marshall’s enchanting and exhilarating new musical Mary Poppins Returns, the highly-anticipated Disney sequel to the beloved classic story about a magical English nanny who came to the aid of the Banks children in the Oscar-winning Mary Poppins more than two generations ago.

The original movie came out in 1964 and was instantly hailed a classic by many. “At the time that it came out, the film was a great unifier,” Emily recalled. “It was just this uncynical, hopeful, incredibly magical ride! Can you imagine the spectacle at the time watching the animation sequence in the ‘60s? People must have been blown away by it!”

Although she couldn’t exactly recall her exact age when she first saw Mary Poppins, the actress is very certain how it made her feel and how it had meant to her then and until now.

“I just adored it!” she declared. “It was just everything that people feel about it. It’s quite emblematic in some ways of your nostalgic memories as a child. It was one of the first films I ever saw.

“She is so magical but yet she is so reassuring and that idea of somebody sweeping in and making everything right again is seared into people’s memory as a child.”

Mary Poppins Returns takes us back in time to 1935, some 25 years after the events of the first movie. In the sequel, Michael Banks is now a father himself to three children. His wife has been dead for a year and he has been raising the kids with the help of his sister Jane. One morning, he receives the disheartening news of him possibly losing his house if he is unable to pay off his bank loan in five days. And just as everything seems lost and bleak again, Mary, their beloved childhood nanny, arrives just in time to take the Banks family on a magical adventure again and, yes, to save the day.

Andrews won Best Actress in both Oscars and Golden Globes in 1965

“She is like a superhero, really!” Emily exclaimed when asked what the character represents to her. “She’s like my superhero. You can kind of interpret who she is and what she’s all about for yourself but ultimately she comes and saves the day!”

Mary Poppins in the Disney film is stern but gentle, cheerful, and nurturing. She is also astute and determined, a trait shared by the star herself.

As one of Disney’s most prized properties, any actress would probably get scared taking on an iconic character that’s well loved by many and won a Best Actress Oscar for Julie Andrews when it came out, but for Emily it was a not a major thing. “I knew that it was going to be about me approaching this as I would any other role and I kept coming back to it,” she said.

Emily related that she never felt any pressure taking on the role except for the time when her friends started commenting how fearless she was. “It was everyone else’s reaction that started it all,” she recalled. “I have a friend who said to me, she goes, ‘Dude, you got balls of steel!’ and I was, like, ‘Oh-my god!’ and it was when I had to really work hard to let all of that be, like, white noise and I was just going to do my version of her and take a big swing, which is what I wanted to do and I have the support of my wonderful director, cool team of people and that’s what I kept coming back to.”

At the time of our interview, we were only shown two short clips of the movie. It was about two weeks later in Los Angeles when this writer saw the movie in its entirety. In my screening, it was like watching a Broadway show live. Every production number was met with a huge and thunderous applause from everyone in the audience. By the end of the screening, everyone was in agreement: Mary Poppins Returns is one of the best movies of the year and Emily makes Mary Poppins distinctively her own.

Yes, she can act, but boy can she also sing!

Emily did not have any formal voice training. To prepare for the movie, she employed two teachers from New York and Los Angeles to help her train and create her singing voice on screen.

“I don’t sing like Julie Andrews,” she said humbly. “I don’t have the same voice as Julie Andrews so the songs are written for me and not what I can do and what I can bring to them. My voice in the film is not my natural singing voice, it’s like a characterized version of it because she’s such a big character so it’s creating that as well.”

Mary Poppins Returns features brand-new songs filled with hope and brimming with Joy from Oscar-nominated composer Marc Shaiman. The movie has both elements of timeliness and timelessness and there are cultural and social subtexts that people everywhere could identify with.

“My husband calls it a joy bomb,” Emily said referring to the movie. “It’s what we need right now!”

“I think it’s a fragile time. It’s a disconcerting time. It’s a time when people are reluctant to feel hopeful and I think that this film will hopefully reignite that, you know, that idea that it’s good to hope. We must welcome everyday with great hope.”

Mary Poppins Returns is now showing in cinemas. It also features stellar performances from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Meryl Streep, Ben Whishaw and Colin Firth.

EMILY BLUNT JULIE ANDREWS MARY POPPINS
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