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Mary Poppins always knew how to make an entrance, and her return in the new Disney musical is as magical as ever. It just took a little longer than most expected – a sequel we’ve waited more than half a century to see. The children she cared for have grown, but their nanny is mostly unchanged: Michael Banks: “Good heavens, it really is you. You hardly seem to have aged at all.” Mary Poppins: “Really, how incredibly rude.” In 2015, the project fell to director Rob Marshall as he was finishing work on the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. “Of course it was daunting,” says Marshall. “The first film is so beloved and wonderful. But I did feel that if anybody was going to do it then I wanted to be that one person because I love the first film so much – maybe because it was the first film I saw as a child – and I wanted to try and protect the spirit of the first film, and that feeling of childlike wonder.” He had a shortlist of one to step into the eminently sensible shoes once worn by Julie Andrews: Emily Blunt, who had been so impressive in Into the Woods. Blunt studiously avoided the original film. Indeed, she hasn’t watched it in 28 years. Instead, she returned to the original books and found unlikely inspiration in a classic screwball comedy and a certain royal rebel. “No one can impersonate Julie Andrews so why would you even bother trying?” says Blunt. “It was an impossible feat. If I was going to take Mary Poppins on I had to do it my own way or not bother doing it at all. I found the books to be a huge source of inspiration for me. She is rather different in the books: she’s very eccentric and rude and vain and funny and sort of unknowable. “I came up with the accent myself. I was inspired by, even though she’s not British, the speed and cadence that Rosalind Russell spoke in His Girl Friday and the way that she comes in like a tornado. I thought she should speak with great clarity and she is rather imperious and thinks she’s better than everybody. So I also thought about Princess Margaret.” Mary Poppins Returns rejoins the Banks family in Depression-era London, more than 20 years after the events of the first movie. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer are the now-grown Banks children Michael and Jane, who are still reeling from the loss of Michael’s wife and struggling with his general domestic hopelessness. When the family home is threatened with repossession, Mary Poppins returns via the medium of enchanted umbrella. She’s joined by Jack (played by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda), a cockney lamplighter and an apprentice of Bert, Dick Van Dyke’s character from the original film. “He’s got more energy than anybody in this room and when he got up on that desk and started tap dancing I thought, ‘This is it. If I die today I will have seen the best thing in my life,’” Blunt said of Van Dyke. Mary Poppins Returns is out in cinemas now, and we can’t wait to hear that accent! n EMILY’S SURPRISE INSPIRATION


95_04_January_2019online
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