Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer on why we need Mary Poppins more than ever
Mary Poppins Returns introduces grown-up versions of Michael and Jane Banks, who reunite with their childhood nanny when they need her the most.
In Rob Marshall’s latest, we get a new chapter in the story of the Banks children, now played by Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw as the adult versions of the kids from the original Disney Mary Poppins film. And while Mary (Emily Blunt) guides the younger Banks kids, still mourning the loss of their mother, Michael also finds that he needed a bit of Mary’s magic to help see him through. With the help of Jack the Leerie (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and his sister Jane, Mary Poppins performs another wondrous miracle to help them get through and reminds us that all it takes it to trip a little light fantastic to show the way.
ComingSoon.net recently sat down with Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer to talk about joining the film, working with one another and what it was like to become a part of the Disney family.
Coming Soon: Having grown up with Mary Poppins, was there a moment in the script when it clicked that you needed to be a part of this return to such a beloved classic?
Ben Whishaw: I think when Rob explained to me what his idea was for this sequel that it would be set twenty years after the first film in the depression era in London and the fact that this boy had grown up into somebody that was now a widower. I was just touched by this description of Michael, life had thrown stuff at him that he wasn’t anticipating or expecting. I thought that was such a brilliant thing to have as a such a galvanizing force for the film and the thing that makes Mary Poppins have to come back.
Emily Mortimer: I would like to know as an audience what’s happened to these children. Where they are now. And inevitably they’re going to be somewhere twenty years onward life kinda punches you in the face and beats up you up and wears you down. To open the film with Michael Banks at that moment in his life was such a sort of very touching thought. Life does that to all of us. We all need Mary Poppins, that’s the thing and we need her more than ever. We all need a version of her as we get older.
CS: What were your takes on the roles of Michael and Jane Banks as adults? Did you pull inspiration from the original cast performances to create who they would be all grown up as siblings?
Ben Whishaw: They’re a combination of Glynis Johns and David Tomlinson.
Emily Mortimer: We are! We are their children. We really immediately got along. Rob put together a group of such lovely people. It felt very easy–particularly me and Ben. For one thing, he looks like my real brother, my half-brother Jeremy Mortimer. There was a feeling of recognition and feeling fond immediately. That was just incredibly helpful.
Ben Whishaw: It’s true what people say sometimes, a lot of it is about the casting and Rob had a great instinct. He puts people together and it feels right.
CS: Was there a moment on set that felt surreal realizing you were in the world of Mary Poppins?
Emily Mortimer: The Dick Van Dyke Moment was pretty, intensely incredible. We were all just sort of in total shock at how brilliant he was and just to be connected to the original movie. There was the guy who was Bert and the bank man. He told us so many stories about being the old man. He’d be around tourists on the Disney lot as the old man and suddenly run up to them and confuse them all.
CS: I’m a really big fan of some of the other family films you’ve lent your voices to: Emily, Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the best Miyazaki dubs and Ben, Paddington 2 is one of this year’s best. Can you talk about approaching these roles and looking at the impact they’ve made in animation as some of the most timeless?
Emily Mortimer: I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know much about Miyazaki when I got that gig and I then became obsessed with him afterward. I think his films are just incredible. I guess in a way ignorance was bliss in that instance because I didn’t realize how extraordinary his work was before being a part of the film and the contributions made to world culture. I thought it was quite cool while working on it, then after was like ‘Well fuck, this is BIG’.
Taking on the original film and redubbing it, that could have been so ghastly and it was weird because you had to kind of lip-sync to these animated characters that have already recorded everything in Japanese. I loved it!
CS: And for Paddington? I’m not sure if you’re aware but there’s a lot of talk about why there isn’t a stronger push for it during the awards season. The films have resonated with people of all ages.
Ben Whishaw: The only thing I think is that sometimes people think it’s a bit lesser of a thing because ‘it’s for children or for family’. But for me as a performer, it’s no different for me–what I would do, how I would work, how I would approach the work if I was doing anything else–Shakespeare–literally anything else. It’s really no different. So I find it strange sometimes that people see it sometimes as a bit less or like it’s easy. But equally, I don’t care about those things anyway. I don’t think value is placed on something by an award.
Emily Mortimer: That’s what so amazing about the original Mary Poppins is that you felt like it too was whimsical in a way that was not heavy yet it was made for made for everyone. It didn’t suppose that children were to be looked down as a lesser audience.
Ben Whishaw: Exactly that when you approach a children’s film like that it doesn’t work. It’s such a fine thing.
CS: Yes, and lots of adults I know love it because Paddington makes them and everyone feel good.
Emily Mortimer: I’ve got to see Paddington 2, I’ve only seen the first one which is amazing! Everyone says the second one is even more brilliant. Is it directed by the same director?
Ben Whishaw: Yeah, it’s such fun. He’s a brilliant guy. I don’t know whether there will be another one.
Mary Poppins Returns opens today!