01st Dec2013

Saving Mr. Banks – Film

by timbaros

images-31Saving Mr. Banks is the story of the behind the scenes of the making of the 1964 film Mary Poppins in which Walt Disney tries to persuade the author of the book, P.L. Travers, to let him turn his book into a movie. There is also a movie within a movie that tells of Travers’ childhood and the relationship she had with her father.

 At a little over two hours, Saving Mr. Banks packs a lot of story into it. First off we have Walt Disney (a perfectly cast Tom Hanks) who flies in P.L. Travers (a very British Emma Thompson) to Los Angeles to, firstly, allow him to make her book Mary Poppins into a film (after begging her for almost 20 years), and secondly, to be there (and possibly help out) in the writing of the film, much to the dismay of the film’s songwriters – Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B.J Novak). The second arch of the movie is the story of P.L. Travers herself as a little girl (played by the winning Australian Annie Buckley) who, with her family, lives on a farm in Queensland, Australia, with her mom (Ruth Wilson), and father Robert (a surprisingly good Colin Farrell), and his addiction to alcohol.
Mary Poppins is the story of a man, George Banks, who, with his suffering wife, Mrs. Banks, search for a perfect nanny for their two children, who have a tendency to misbehave and run off (which no previous nanny could handle). Mary Poppins blows in (literally) to take care of the children and to set them straight. (Pamela) P.L. Travers’ father was the inspiration for George Banks.
Saving Mr. Banks is, for the most part, an enjoyable film, but there are moments that make you cringe in your seat. Thompson depicts Travers as a very snooty know-it-all woman. She is insulting (always putting down the Sherman brothers lyrics), rude (barging into Disney’s offices anytime she wants), and at one point goes back to England, leaving the production, and Walt Disney, hanging. It is up to Walt Disney to fly to London to get her formal approval for Disney to finish making Mary Poppins. She finally comes around (lucky for us). The depiction of Travers in Saving Mr. Banks is not a very good one and it really effects the likeability of this movie. In the beginning of the film, as she lands in Los Angeles, the first thing she says is that it smells like chlorine. This sets the tone for her character throughout the movie.  There is no better actor in Hollywood to play Walt Disney than Tom Hanks. Hanks has a reputation in Hollywood, and around the world, as being the nicest person in Hollywood, and he plays Disney like he could be your own father who has the keys to the biggest candy store in the world. Paul Giamatti plays Travers’ chauffeur, which Travers for most of the film doesn’t realize he exists until the very end.
On the other hand, the part of the movie where Travers is a young girl in Australia is the best part of this film. It actually seems like a different movie altogether. Told in flashbacks while Travers is in Los Angeles, we see that her childhood was a good one, but unfortunately the father that she loved so dearly was a gambler and an alcoholic who could not take care of his young family. Buckley as a young Travers is amazing, as is Ruth Wilson as Margaret, her mother. Farrell, as her father, gives the best performance in this film as an ill-tempered yet loving man who really wants to take care of his family but cannot due to his addictions. The scenes play out like a dream sequence, they are very good. And then there is a woman who comes from the sky (not literally) to help the family.
The film depicts Travers weeping with tears of joy at the premier of Mary Poppins. But in reality, she did weep, with tears of horror, stating ‘Oh God, what have they done.’ So while Saving Mr. Banks is a good film, one that may make you weep, don’t let Thompson’s very negative portrayal of Travers and the fact that this film is not entirely the true story of the making of Mary Poppins put you off. Saving Mr. Banks is a BBC/Disney co-production, so of course the Disney brand in the film is full of sugar and spice and everything nice.
01st Dec2013

Saving Mr. Banks Press Conference – Film

by timbaros
IMG_3723Excerpts from the Saving Mr. Banks press conference held at the Dorchester Hotel on October 20th:
Q: Was there a sense of trepidation for you in playing Walt Disney?
Tom Hanks: There was a responsibility, which is different than trepidation. Walt Disney was ubiquitious in our lives as Uncle Sam, Smokey the Bear, the President of the United States. I felt that it was going to be quite a distance to go and that we had no clue to where to begin outside my own memories, and that led a substantial, there’s a lot of video out there, there is a lot of audio you can listen to. Unfortunately, it’s mostly Walt Disney performing as Walt Disney. So where you can those moments where he is trying to be natural, something other then ‘the new exciting realm of tomorrow which will be opening…’ that that was worth its weight in gold, I had access to that, thanks to Diane his daughter and the fabulous museum that he is establishing in San Francisco.
Q: How did you come to be introduced to this project?
John Lee Hancock (Director): I was trying to set up another movie. I do adult dramas which take about ten years to get made usually, so I was trying to get one set up when the script (Saving Mr. Banks) came across the desk and I was reading it and I was told that it was quite good, behind the scenes, the making of Mary Poppins, then I thought I like Mary Poppins, I’m not someone who watches it every year so I am probably not the right person for this. Eventually my agent that I should definitely read it and I had the pleasure of having done so, and I picked it up and I was just enthralled, and again Kelly’s words and ah I felt like even though I am a Texas guy from a refinery town I felt inside the story and it was one that I desperately wanted to tell and then I had to get the job. So then I had to go and pitch my take, talk about the movie, and thankfully met Allison Owen in that meeting I got hired, I don’t know how, but thank god.
Q: There is obviously a problem in making a movie about a Disney film with Disney songs, studio, about a corporation, did you expects lots of problems from Disney? Were they forthcoming?
Alison Owen (Producer) I don’t think Kelly (Marcel, Co-Writer) and I didn’t know what to expect when we were developing the project and certainly from its inception there was a question about how much of the clips and songs do we use, how much intellectual property rights are we going to play fast and loose here, and Kelly at one time said ‘do I tiptoe around them, try to use as little as possible or do we just try to make the best story that we can.’
and I think she steered me in the right direction. Let’s just go for it. They’re either going to let us do it in which case we might as well make the best that we possibly can be, or they will shut us down which won’t matter too much. So Kelly set out to write the best script she could, using all the material, then we had a certain strategy, in terms of approaching Disney, and luckily for us, the right people were sitting at the right desk and in the right chairs at that time and Mary Poppins was blowing the wind in the right direction and that was it. And Disney has supported this project and absolutely been smart and intelligent in letting us do the right thing in telling this story.
Q: So Kelly was that your intent as well, rather than trying to be cautious and anticipate problems?
Kelly Marcel (Writer): Yeah, absolutely, I really felt like you can’t tell a story about the making of Mary Poppins without using the songs and using Walt Disney and you know, just throwing it all at the script. I would be disappointed if I went to see the film and didn’t get to hear the songs. I think this is what we knew we were going to do from day one, and I think if Alison hadn’t had said go for it then I wouldn’t of known how to write it, what to do with it. Yes, it was definitely my instinct.
Q: It seems like you were in a different movie half the time there.
Colin Farrell: That sounds like an insult.
Q: There’s a foreground story and there’s a backstory, which of course is the story of Mr. Banks, it seems to me that it is very different from any other role youv’e played, did it feel like a departure for you?
Farrell: Anytime you could step into the fiction of another person’s skin and you peruse the script of the character’s life sort of being the subject of the story, this was on the back of the chronology we were talking about, it did feel a little bit more unique, and I think more than happy about the characters the sensibility, the sensitivity, the whole thing, just in reading, sometimes you read things you put them down, you get very analytical about them, you think about the dialogue, you think about the situation, characters, and you look at the whole stories , this defied any kind of analysis. It was moving, from start to finish, and fun at turns. So I loved the character even more than the character, it just seemed, you know I feel , it’s really nice to be part of things that work, and things that affect people. So that the whole becomes greater than the parts that make it. That is more apparent to me so like Emma, I mean I never did read the first page because it came down and then we heard my voiceover so it was like, yes, that’s my film.
Q: Have any of you seen the film Mary Poppins since you made Saving Mr. Banks and does if feel different? The backstory of it?
Emma Thompson: The first night we were all together in L.A., they showed Mary Poppins. That was the last time I saw it, actually. We al sat there marvelling at it and saying ‘Ohmygod I forgot this bit, that bit’ and then ‘Ohmygod it’s so long’, it went on for days. But that it was extraordinary filmmaking.
Hancock: Kelly and I went through how many times scene by scene in just just saying is there some little twinkle we can put in there so people that are real fans of the movie that won’t obstruct the plot to tell the theme just little nuggets for people who are big fans, there’s a bunch of them in there.
Marcel: There’s quite a few, it was lovely.
Thompson: Don’t tell them all.
Q: I thought the performance you gave was most moving, especially the father daughter chemistry, if you can say how you managed to get that? Did you talk with her first? What was your experience in filming with her?
Farrell: Custard cremes. She’s incredible. I mean I don’t know how many actors or actresses are small human beings that John Lee and Alison may have met in Los Angeles I know they met many. When they went over to Australia they researched where Travers and her family were from and they saw a lot of young girls there as well and I believe they went through it was quite an ordeal to get her legal papers to work but it was worth every single phone call because she’s phenomonal, to work with her, it was real easy. She was there with her twin brother Max and her parents were over and our section of the film was it was such a pleasure that they shot in chronology and did it all in two weeks so very much felt like a film within itself so for two weeks we went to a ranch, which was about 350 acres and then a house which was about a hour and a half north of Los Angeles, scorched Earth, young grass, bent over,and they built this lovely little house, and it was just Ruth, the girls, six chickens, one horse, happy days.
Q: How much input do you like to have a writer have when you are playing in a film. Tom, in particular to your production side, do you like the writer to get involved in the scriptwriting or do you just hand it over?
Hanks: Well, in this case I was a hired gun. I didn’t say anything that didn’t appear in the script and we had meetings in which we went over, I think I had questions that went sort of like, there were some Americanisms that I think needed to be put in and some things that I discovered that Walt had a tendency to say that he originally used, that was all ok, we treated this I think we can all agree like the bible, we were not we did not mess around. The apostle, the gospel according to, so there are types of films that define themselves and I think that was going to be the requirement for making this movie when extremely well constructed beautifully knit sweater and I am not about to start pulling a thread loose to have it all fall apart.
Thomspon: It is miserable goingointo a film when the script is not ready, you know, really, Barry Sonenfeld will tell you he didn’t write up a script and he started filming, I will tell you that was the third act, I don’t understand how to work like that.
Farrell: I’ve finished films even when the script wasn’t ready…..ha, ha…
Thompson: I added one line just in response……(inaudible)…
Marcel: and it was brilliant. They were all absolutely amazing, it was such an incredible experience, to have everyone be so true to the script, that’s all John’s.
Q: You have a terrific performance and at the end I needed some tissues. Given your stellar reputation, and that everyone says they love working with, how do you get into the mindset of the woman?
Thomson: I just let out my inner prickly pen. Basically it was my true self. I don’t hide that for effect, because  you know you get on better, so I just let it all hang out and I’m going to tell that it was such a relief to be rude, really, and to have no repurcussions whatsoever, saying, you know, I don’t, can you imagine, I don’t want to go to your f*cking press conference, just to come out with these things and she didn’t, she said just what she meant, and she just said it, and I do that sometimes and get into some sort of trouble, but we will, now, but, that was what was so great.
Hanks: She said what we all think.
Moderator: Indeed she has!
Q: If you had the opportunity to ask the characters one thing, what would you ask them to get into the mindset of that character and to make sure you played them correctly?
Panel: Can you repeat what you’ve just asked?
Thomson: If you would ask Margaret, who was a bit suicidal and a bit sad,
Wilson: Why didn’t you leave him quicker? It’s a good question.
Thomson: You next Tom. Then the press conference came to a sordid end. They sat there thinking.
Hanks: Interesting, fascinating, mind numbing, hypothetical wrestling with in ways that actually I’m gonna it’s gonna fill me with self loathing. I would have to say, um, that, ah, eh, uh, I’m knocking myself, it is such a brilliant question.
Moderator: Congratulations for that
Hanks:How about if we can tell the other person what we would ask. How ’bout that.
Please Kelly write something we can say. We’re coming back to this. We refuse to leave this question unanswered.
Question: This question’s probably for Emma. You’ve created your own Mary Poppins at some point called Madame McPhee, so how, how influenced were you, did you know the story behind Mary Poppins the book and had you already researched that.
Thomson: No, no, not at all. It’s interesting to create a magical nanny and they you play someone whose created a magical nanny and you suppose that behind every magical nanny is a cantankerous opinionated old bat. Let that sink in…umm….Yes, perhaps there is some sort of alter ego, someone you wish you could be um, certainly I wish I could like that, and think with Walt and the mouse and having her, nanny, there’s certainly ah these are characters that are created out of the soul of that person when the soul was very vulnerable and emergent, as it were. So that’s what gives them their power. Their staying power. She said that she didn’t invent Mary Poppins but that Mary Poppins just arrived. And I think that most writers, a genius, would say the same thing. Most kind of say I didn’t write it, it just of arrived in me, there’s even ah even the most cantankerous writer says there a generosity of spirit of where these things come from, and, of course they are not going to come unless you sit at the writing table with your pen, that’s the discipline, but if you do that, then , then it’s like fill the dreams. You know, if you sit there, it will come, and sometimes its in a form that will survive any number of cultural interpretations or reinterpretations, and that what’s so interesting about this, and that as a movie about two cultures coming together, and clashing as one iconic creation.
Question: Question for Tom, Emma and Collin could answer, that would be great. Mr. Disney was a man that made us all dream and all of you have a dream profession, I think, and in a way and I think you also should be dreamers, I was wondering when you were beginning your careers, or before that, what kind of dreams were you have before coming into this dreamworld that was connected to Walt Disney.
Hanks: I I had no dreams at all, I was just trying to you know, make, just trying to hook up get some a job other than the one I had. That’s not unlike what Walt Disney did. When he started drawing he was drawing out in a disconnected garage from his house in Kansas City and he just had art supplies and he was just banging out stuff that came into his head hoping that he might be able to sell them for $5 a piece. I I relate to that. There is no clue as to where any of this stuff will take you, I was hoping make a living little bit more than nothing. Because I thought that this is just a job that you volunteer for, if you’re good enough at it they will ask you to play something else, and they will pay you $40 a week. This concept of having dreams when you’re young and always having to rhyme it, I could not understand it. I had not a single dream in my head. I kind of am like the communists. If I can build a decent tractor I can build another tractor. I didn’t have a 5 year plan, I was just stumbling around.
Question: A lot of Walt Disney’s meeting were obviously recorded. There’s a lot of factual information about some of these people involved. So how much creative license can any of you take, with the characters, with the story and leave for the people who aren’t documented as well.
Thompson: We take creative license because we are artists, I mean we are not documentarians. So you have to.
Hancock: The job was for it to be entertaining and hopefully moving and you have all that information about real characters, you have to condense it, you have to find an order for it, I don’t think anyone would want to watch a movie of the 39 hours spent in a rehearsal room, like a Warhol film or something, there are, I’m sure there are days that were really boring in there. So I think when you had Kelly Marcel (co-writer) was able to parch through everything and find the stuff that is entertaining and have it somehow congeal in a way where thematically it’s true, and tonally it’s true, that’s job 1. I think.
Thompson: and with her P.L. Travers has this theory in that women’s lives are divided into three main parts: me, mother and crone. And it’s great if you look her up its very interesting and something very true about it. And we wanted to put part of each part into this, into this carnation of her, so rather than me playing someone who is rather like, mumble, mumble, mumble, that would’ve driven all of us and the audience screaming out into the night, So um
the movie starts when she was a mother, she was an angel, acting, her sexuality, that’s creative license I suppose, You’re taking bits and folding them back in to this period of time which is actually not very long to spend in a very complicated character – two hours. You know, so I suppose that’s creative license.
Question: Can you share you memories of watching Mary Poppins for the first time?
Kelly Marcel (Writer): I used to watch it every Christmas. So I know it inside out. So yes, it was part of growing up. I’ve not watch it much since. We watched it at Colin’s house but I’ve not seen it since the movie. I am looking forward to seeing it to see if I see it differently.
Hanks: I think I was I think it was re-released. I didn’t see it on it’s first go-round I think I saw it on it’s re-release, I was probably taken to it. Uh, but, the um the Mary Poppins step in time the chimney sweep’s dance I remember I just thought that I was taking speed or something. That was just the most amazing I didn’t know anything about dance but that was a magical sequence Step in time.
Thomson: I remember when the smoke turns into a ladder you know the smoke turns into steps. You remember that? It is just moments that you go as a child thinking Uh, oh, I wanted that to be possible so I really wanted that to be possible. And I was so in love with Dick
Hanks: We all are
Farrell: We are overobssessing over all Godstoppers. The wanted factor there. It is kind of like a Beatles/Rolling Stones question whether you are a Mary Poppins fellow or a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – We want the chocolate. Not that there’s any particular perfect time to see it. But Willy Wonka was my Christmas film. Stephen King hated The Shining. Different Mediums. I get my writer.
Thomson: I sent Stephen King a message about this press conference.
Question: You must of gone back to Richard Sherman. Can you explain what he contributed to the film?
Marcel: Well Dick was just a
Hanks: We all like Dick
Marcel: He’s coming up a lot! It was just amazing. I was just explaining to someone earlier actually that after we met him and we did an entirely new parts of the script because his mannerisms are enormous, I mean he’s the biggest, jolliest fellow you can ever meet. Literally like a cartoon character. He’s just incredibly wonderful and meeting him was kind of a beautiful experience we came in and he was crying because she had um ruined his life, I mean he really was very bitter and twisted about what went on in those rooms with P.L. Travers and when we went to see him he was saying to Jon, Alison and I crying his out eyes out going ‘I didn’t know that she had that childhood’ and then now I can forgive her and now I feel ok so it’s been quite a kind of cathartic experience, really, and he played all of the Mary Poppins songs for us and we all just cried, for hours.
Alison Owen (Producer): What was one of the most glorious things actually I think was having Richard as part of the experience. To watch two people have to watch two people watching moments of their lives being reconstructed and and weeping and holding each other’s hands was incredibly moving. It was really really wonderful. And Richard was an incredible asset to us right from the start. His enthusiasm, his support, his anecdotes and what he meant to Disney. His support when we went to Disney was he was absolutely invaluable because he was an actual Disney person and the fact that he’d taken us under our wing and he loved what we had done what we had done and and that was convey the truth and was quite vocal and should be told.
Hooker: He was part of the film. He was there with us everyday. Really invaluable.
Question: How do you want this film to be viewed. As entertainment Something that will surprise people, inform people.
Hooker: Oh gosh
Question: What do you want.
Hooker: That’s a tough one. You want all of the above. I mean you make a movie Everybody says you make movies for everybody else but ultimately it’s one and half year two years of your life its a marriage not a date you have to make it for yourself first and foremost and you hope that other people enjoy and um and see what you saw in it and what you continue to see in it so I would very happy for people would see the movie that we all worked so hard on. And hopefully they enjoy it, for whatever reason whatever people believe from that Good on you, I hope. Thank you.