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I Feel Lucky

Review of "SAVING MR. BANKS"
By Jayne Waterford
Copyrighted © Jayne Waterford, 2014. Written 9th January 2014. First published 9th January 2014. Revised 9th January 2014
REVIEW: "SAVING MR. BANKS" by Jayne Waterford

I cry so easily in movies. I cried in "DELIVERY MAN" and that was shit!

John Lee Hancock's "SAVING MR. BANKS" (2013) is a very serious drama about a very unhappy woman and the ultimate sales men. That may sound a little harsh. I mean we all sell something don't we? But this drama for grownups allows us to walk around in the life of a woman who is very hurt. Just as well Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley)'s daddy, Travers Goff, is played by Colin Farrell at his best looking. He'd have to have something to distract us from being a hopeless drunk or it would be unbearable. Not even consumption gets my sympathy he's such a bore. Running around charming your children when you should be at work. Who is this guy?

And this is the crux of our story. Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) comes to save Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson). Aunt Dreadful (Rachel Griffiths) came to save and bail them out when their useless ass-of-a-dad was dying.

Otherwise, John Lee Hancock's "SAVING MR. BANKS" (2013) is enchanting.

Jason Schwartzman, who plays a Sherman brother,

enthrawls us as he plays tunes for the movie for Walt (Tom Hanks).

Walt, Pam, Mrs. P.L., Mrs.. People at Walt Disney really are on a first name basis. And Ralph (Paul Giamatti) had the opportunity to be so nice. And he has a daughter called Jane. How cute is that!

Emma Thompson takes us on a journey through Mrs. P.L. Travers' phsychological landscape and we come out empathising with her, feeling the forgiveness that music can bestow as she is helped to forgive her father by the fabulously talented team at Disney. However, when we meet her, she's not brittle or difficult, she's rude. For some reason every discourtesy rang a false bell. I suspect it was a device giving us more room to swing in her favour later.

The film opens in Maryborough, Australia 1906 and I must say the Australians are handled very well. Their accents are flat and manner direct. Things come up through the film that ring true of Aussies too. We don't give presents like the English or tip.

Cinematographically, I was almost blinded by bright and detailed handling of the set. Patches of rooms were spot-lit, detailed in high contrast and the whole thing in focus front to back (64 club). It was very difficult

to look at and the opening scene was not shot on a cruel lens, it was a bad lens. The grain was perfectly sharp but the image, cheap like Travers' manner. I found it difficult going and moved to the back of the cinema. Maybe it was the same lens that shot Robert Stevenson's "MARY POPPINS" (1964) or perhaps that's how the original film was lit. I'll have to check.

I feel like I have wrinkles now I've been on this arduous trip to LA but that's the power of a very thin, taunt and annoyed Travers.

It is a fraught story and it's made me a little cross. At its best it seemed to give us context for a renouned childhood experience. At its worst everyone is redeemed, tough Walt Disney sits in Pam's lounge room selling her hard on the idea of signing over the rites in the end. Tom Hanks' performance here is like a counter point saving us from sacrine. How unlikeable. How brave. 8/10

Copyrighted ©: Jayne Waterford, 2014.

Coda Kind of. There's a historical treat playing as the credits roll.


John Lee Hancock's
Release Date 13th December 2013
Category Dramatised History
Running Time 125 minutes (2 hours, 5 minutes)
Rating PG
Origin Disneyland
Director John Lee Hancock
Stars Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, Rachel Griffiths, Kath Baker
Distributor Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Australia

“Wind’s in the east, mist comin’ in.
Like something is brewin’ about to begin
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store
But I feel what’s to happen, all happened before.”
—Bert in “Mary Poppins”

Official Blurb "When Walt Disney's daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers' "Mary Poppins," he made them a promise-one that he didn't realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney's plans for the adaptation.

For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn't budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away

from his grasp.


It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history." - Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Australia PR

When the filmmakers sat down to discuss the casting for “Saving Mr. Banks,” they drew up a list of their dream cast. As fate would have it, they were able to sign the talent they wanted, who were all happy to join the production.

The first choice to play “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers was two-time Oscar® winner Emma Thompson. “When you’ve got somebody like Emma Thompson, she has a very large toolbox,” director Hancock proclaims about his leading lady and her abilities to tackle such a challenging role. “Anytime you’re taking on a character that is that complicated and that sad, there’s a weight that goes along with it. Emma confided in me that it was tough to wake up and play P.L. Travers every day. And it would be great when we were done so she would have hopefully done P.L.

proud. She is so incredibly talented.”

Emma Thompson says of the curmudgeonly P.L. Travers, “She was a wonderful case study, requiring so many different shades. She was just so complex. She’s one of the most complicated people I’ve ever encountered in biography.”

Taking on the role of the iconic Walt Disney was another American icon—Tom Hanks, who seems to inhabit the role and embody Disney. Says director John Lee Hancock, “This film portrays a side of Disney we haven’t seen before,” Hancock reveals. “It’s not the Walt we know from ‘The Wonderful World of Disney,’ which was fun to explore. But, someone had to play Walt Disney, become Walt Disney. Who would that be? There was really only one person that all of us could think of—Tom. I wasn’t trying to put a rubber mask on Tom and make him look exactly like Disney. I wanted Walt Disney to come from inside. Tom is such a fine actor that that’s where he begins his work—from the inside.

“Tom grew his own mustache,” Hancock continues in describing Hanks’ physical “transformation” for the role. “There’s a lot of voice work, the way he walks, the body position, the way he holds his hands, the way he

touches his mustache. How he phrases things and lets sentences roll off the end. He simply became Walt Disney to me and I was completely amazed.”

“I don’t look or sound anything like Walt Disney,” Hanks affirms in responding to Hancock’s comments. “In addition to growing a mustache and parting my hair, the job at hand was to somehow capture all that whimsy that is in his eyes as well as all of the acumen that goes along with that. You can’t do an imitation of Walt Disney.”

For the part of Travers Goff, P.L. Travers’ troubled father played in flashback, the filmmakers reached out to Colin Farrell. “When we got Colin Farrell to play Travers Goff, you talk about an Irish poet,” Hancock states admiringly. “He’s such a brilliant actor and so soulful and full that I knew that this aspect of our story would really come to life. When you’ve got a father like Colin Farrell, the little girl would adore him for all he does and all he is. And forgive him his sins. Giving us better insight and understanding into this father-daughter story.”

“There’s something indescribable, something tragically uncertain, about how he feels in his own life,” Farrell adds. “There’s a bit of that in Mr. Banks in ‘Mary

Poppins’ as well. And, it was a character that I felt was very different from anything I’ve ever approached or been asked to do. I would have been very upset if this one didn’t work out for me. I really love this film. I love this story; I’m so over the moon to have been a part of it. I think there’s so much heart in this film.” Versatile actor Paul Giamatti took on the role of P.L. Travers’ friendly limousine driver, Ralph, the only fictional character in the film…and the only American Emma Thompson’s character P.L. Travers liked in the film. “They have a nice relationship,” says Giamatti. “You see another side of her. You see a lot of her difficult side and you see her be less difficult with Ralph. She’s completely blunt with him but he gets right away who she is, and he understands and he’s totally cool with it. It’s easy to like him and I think she can’t resist after a while, so she comes to like him.”

To play famed “Mary Poppins” composers Richard and Robert Sherman, the filmmakers tapped Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak. Novak notes, “People were excited when I told them that Jason Schwartzman and I play brothers in the film. I think there’s something in temperament and in looks that feels compatible. I will also say that I am by nature a bit of a serious, more introverted guy, like Bob. Much more so than Jason, who is such a pure sunshine individual. I think

it’s pretty funny that we played brothers of that exact dynamic.”

“Jason Schwartzman is already a musician; he plays the piano,” comments director Hancock. “I knew that would be helpful for us because we played a lot of the music in the rehearsal room scenes. And, he learned to play like Dick Sherman by spending hour after hour after hour with Dick, learning to play in that jaunty fashion that Dick does.”

“They were up against a real force of nature in this woman, P.L Travers,” Schwartzman says of the brothers’ relationship with the obstinate author. “Sort of a mysterious woman who had very specific ideas about her work, how it should be handled. She was very protective of it when she came to L.A. She meets the Sherman Brothers and the first thing she says to them is ‘I don’t think this should be a musical’.”

Playing screenwriter Don DaGradi is Bradley Whitford, who gives some insight into the man he plays in the film, who was formerly an animator. “This was a huge shot that Walt gave him, promoting him from simply being an animator to being co-writer of the script,” explains Whitford. “It was a huge break for him, and that’s part of what was so excruciating for Don and the

Sherman brothers when they were confronted with this brick wall called P.L. Travers.”

Hancock did an extensive search to find the child actress to personify the young Pamela Travers, calling it “a difficult bit of casting. We were looking for the young version of Emma Thompson. You want someone that looks somewhat like her if possible. More importantly, this little girl is in every flashback scene and has to kind of carry the day.”

Finally they settled on 11-year old Australian actress Annie Buckley. “There was something about Annie, so natural and unspoiled, so guileless and innocent, that I felt if we could capture that quality on screen, the audience would forgive the older Pamela Travers everything. To see such openness, trust and hope let down by those she loves, and watch as she puts an iron case around her heart to never get let down again, would make us weep for Pamela instead of judging her.”

Ruth Wilson came on board to play Margaret Goff, P.L. Travers’ mother in the flashback story. Explaining her character, Wilson says, “Margaret perhaps married below her station. She married this very poetic, charismatic guy who offered her the world and

promised every dream. However, reality hit hard and life with Travers turned out harder than she ever imagined.”

Rachel Griffiths, with whom Hancock had worked on “The Rookie,” takes on the role of Aunt Ellie, Margaret Goff’s sister and the model for P.L. Travers famous nanny. Kathy Baker rounds out the cast playing Tommie, an associate and sounding board for Walt Disney at the studio.

L-R Robert Sherman (B.J. Novak), Richard Sherman (Jason Schwartzman), Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) in Disney's "SAVING MR. BANKS", releasing in U.S. theaters limited on December 13, 2013 and wide on December 20, 2013

Photograph: François Duhamel
© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), left, and P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), right, in Disney's "SAVING MR. BANKS", releasing in U.S. theaters limited on December 13, 2013 and wide on December 20, 2013.
Photograph: François Duhamel
© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
SMB_05582FD.Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) shows Disneyland to "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) in Disney's "SAVING MR. BANKS", releasing in U.S. theaters limited on December 13, 2013 and wide on December 20, 2013.
Photograph: François Duhamel
© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Robert Sherman (B.J. Novak), left; Richard Sherman (Jason Schwartzman), right
Photograph: François Duhamel
© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
• Walt Disney began his quest to get the rights to P.L. Travers’ book “Mary Poppins” in the early 1940s. Although it took nearly 20 years to obtain the rights, when “Mary Poppins” was finally made, it won five awards of its 13 Academy Award® nominations: Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Effects, Best Film Editing, Original Score and Original Song. Among the nominations were Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film also won a technical Oscar® for Petro Vlahos, Wadsworth Pohl and Ub Iwerks for conception and perfection of techniques of color traveling matte composite cinematography.

• Richard and Robert Sherman composed the original score and wrote the 1964 Oscar®-winning song “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” They are portrayed in the film by Jason Schwartzman (Richard) and B.J. Novak (Robert).

• “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers’ father, Travers Goff, was a banker and is the basis for the “Mary Poppins” story’s patriarch, Mr. Banks—the character in the book whom the famous fictional nanny comes to aid.

• "SAVING MR. BANKS" is the first feature-length, theatrical drama to depict the iconic entrepreneur Walt Disney, with two-time Academy Award® winner Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia,” “Forrest Gump”) stepping into

the major role.

• In order to achieve an authentic look for her portrayal of “Mary Poppins” author, P. L. Travers, Emma Thompson chose to have her own hair permed in tight curls for the film and did not don a wig. Tom Hanks also grew his own mustache to match Walt Disney’s.

• Actor Jason Schwartzman, at 32, is the same age as his character, songwriter Richard Sherman, was when this story takes place in 1961; and, actor B.J. Novak, at 34, is the same age as his character, sibling songwriter Robert Sherman, was at the time.

• "SAVING MR. BANKS" marks the first time that paternal half-brothers John (director of photography) and actor Jason Schwartzman (playing composer Richard Sherman) have ever worked together. The offspring of industry lawyer and producer Jack Schwartzman, Jason’s mom is Oscar®-nominated actress Talia Shire (“Godfather,” “Rocky”), making Shire John’s stepmom (and making both guys nephews of Francis Ford Coppola).

• Playing an extra in the film was Leigh Anne Tuohy, the heroine of the book and movie “The Blind Side,” coincidentally directed by John Lee Hancock. In “Saving Mr. Banks,” she plays a Disneyland visitor who

asks Walt Disney for his autograph just after the arrival of “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers.

• "SAVING MR. BANKS" filmed entirely in the Los Angeles area, with key locations that included Disneyland in Anaheim, TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly called Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) in Hollywood (where the 1964 premiere of “Mary Poppins” took place), the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank (which opened in 1940 and where the 1964 movie filmed in its entirety) and the 10,000 acre Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley (which doubled for the film’s early 20th-century Australian landscape).

• "SAVING MR. BANKS" was only the third feature film to ever shoot scenes at Disneyland. The last feature to film at the park was Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, “That Thing You Do,” with only one other film before that to shoot inside the 58-year-old theme park—Norman Jewison’s 1962 directorial debut, “40 Pounds of Trouble.”

• The Walt Disney Studios’ lot is home to one of Los Angeles’ largest sound stages (Stage 2), now christened the “Julie Andrews Stage” because the 31,200 square foot building housed much of the filming of “Mary Poppins” in 1963.

• Director John Lee Hancock needed a vast landscape of rolling hills and shrubbery to duplicate the remote Australian outback of a century ago. Veteran location manager Andrew Ullman found sites at the 10,000-acre Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, Calif., that were so impressive that young Australian actress Annie Buckley’s father, Dean, thought he was actually back in his homeland.

• During casting trips to Australia, director John Lee Hancock and producer Alison Owen went to Maryborough, Queensland, to get a firsthand look at where P.L. Travers had once lived as a child.

• The filmmakers were able to access a wonderful resource in making "SAVING MR. BANKS": The Walt Disney Family Museum in The Presidio of San Francisco. Opened in October 2009, the museum was co-founded by Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and grandson, Walter E.D. Miller, and is owned and operated by the nonprofit Walt Disney Family Foundation. The 40,000 square foot exhibition facility features the newest technology and historic materials and artifacts to bring Disney’s achievements to life.

• Before filming the Australian flashback scenes, actor Colin Farrell, who plays P.L. Travers’ father, realized he would not get a chance to meet the other cast

members who populated the 1961 portion of the story. Since Farrell admired the work of his fellow cast members, he hosted a dinner at his Hollywood home that included a screening of “Mary Poppins” as well. About 25 people showed up and had a fun evening getting to know each other and watching the timeless film.

• In the film, P.L. Travers, played by Emma Thompson, opens her hotel suite door in Beverly Hills to find her room cluttered with Disney memorabilia (courtesy of set decorator Susan Benjamin, who stuffed the suite with everything from a six-foot stuffed Mickey Mouse to balloons). Disney’s current president of production, veteran filmmaker and executive Sean Bailey, was inspired to turn the tables on Emma Thompson. He decorated Thompson’s hotel room in Los Angeles with as much Disney memorabilia as he could fit into her room. About a week later, Bailey received a note of thanks from Thompson, in which she asked if they had a video camera planted somewhere in her suite to capture her reaction!

• Before production began, director John Lee Hancock brought some of the cast over to the legendary Capitol Records Building, at the famous crossroads of Hollywood and Vine, to pre-record tracks of some of

the Sherman Brothers’ songs from “Mary Poppins.” The session was for playback purposes on those days when production staged the scenes with the Sherman Brothers and screenwriter DaGradi singing for P.L. Travers. The group spent a fun-filled afternoon in one of the Capitol sound studios singing snippets of such songs featured in "SAVING MR. BANKS" as “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds,” “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”

• Richard Sherman, who with his brother Robert, wrote the now-classic songs for ‘Mary Poppins,” was a consultant on "SAVING MR. BANKS" and his insights into the era and his engaging anecdotes were highly regarded by cast and crew alike. He recalls that Walt Disney was very fond of the song “Feed the Birds,” which apparently touched him with its message that it doesn’t take much to give love. Disney would call the Sherman Brothers up and ask them to come play the song, so they would go to Disney’s office and play it for him. It became a regular almost-every-Friday ritual.

• As the 150 or so cast-and-crew members gathered around when production wound down in the Rehearsal Studio set, Richard Sherman, unbeknownst to most everyone gathered, took a seat at the piano and began playing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” asking everyone there to

join in a sing-a-long. Instantaneously, dozens grabbed their cell phones and began recording this spontaneous music video—a once-in-a-lifetime moment in the presence of a living legend.

• The Walt Disney Archives provided the actors and production team with more than six hours of audio recordings from story meetings between P.L. Travers and the original “Mary Poppins” creative team. In the recordings, taped at the insistence of Travers between April 5 and 10, 1961, we hear the author share her strong opinions and suggestions with the Disney staff: songwriters Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, writer Don DaGradi, and story department head Bill Dover (who also served as Travers’ host during her visit).

• "SAVING MR. BANKS" co-writer Kelly Marcel, director John Lee Hancock, and actors Jason Schwartzman (Richard Sherman), B.J. Novak (Robert Sherman) and Bradley Whitford (Don DaGradi) made visits to the Walt Disney Archives in early 2012, several months before filming “Saving Mr. Banks.” The actors and Archives team discussed the relationship between “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers and the Disney staff, pored over photographs of the Disney Legends the actors would portray and watched footage from the production of “Mary Poppins.”

• After acquiring the script for “Saving Mr. Banks,” the Disney Studio referenced 500 pages of documents from the development of “Mary Poppins”–from drafts of film treatments and scripts to correspondence between key players in the production of the film.

• In order to match Richard Sherman’s unique style of playing piano, Jason Schwartzman was provided with close-up footage of Richard’s hands playing the keys of Walt Disney’s office piano—the same instrument on which the Sherman Brothers played “Feed the Birds” for Disney a half-century earlier. Schwartzman also spent countless hours at Richard Sherman’s house learning the proper techniques and enjoying the company of the venerable composer.

• In order to visually recreate the Disney Studio lot, Disneyland® Park, and the “Mary Poppins” premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre as they appeared in the early 1960s, the "SAVING MR. BANKS" production team examined more than 500 photographs from the Disney Photo Library collection (part of the Walt Disney Archives), including images of Studio building hallways and offices, Disneyland storefront windows and aerial photography.

• The "SAVING MR. BANKS" art department was invited to “D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum,” where Walt Disney’s actual formal office furnishings were on display. The art department team measured and photographed original objects and furniture pieces from the office for reproduction, including Walt Disney’s desk, side tables and shelf units. The Archives staff even provided era-appropriate signage from the Disney Studio’s Animation Building, which the art department referenced when recreating the building hallways.

• In the Archives, the "SAVING MR. BANKS" art department studied detailed photographs of Walt Disney’s formal and working offices as they appeared in the late 1960s, when Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith took measurements and a detailed inventory of the historic offices.

• The Walt Disney Archives digitized more than 150 pieces of ephemera, including era-appropriate Disneyland souvenir guides, postcards, posters, merchandise catalogs, memo paper and premiere invitations for use by the filmmakers.

• 124 pieces of artwork created between 1961 and 1964, including storyboard sketches, concept paintings, set drawings, costume designs and promotional art, were shared with the "SAVING MR. BANKS" production team.

• The Archives supplied actor Tom Hanks with reference footage of Walt Disney, including a 1963 interview with Fletcher Markle for the Canadian Broadcast Company. The interview is arguably one of the most accurate depictions of Walt Disney describing his work and philosophy.

• The Walt Disney Archives was on hand seven days a week to answer questions from filmmakers and actors. Questions included, “What soft drink companies had placement deals at Disneyland in 1961?”; “What was the orientation of dining and shopping locations along Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland?”; and “On what date did Walt Disney appear in the television show, ‘An Adventure in the Magic Kingdom’?”

• Some of the Disney Academy Awards® were loaned from the display at Walt Disney World® Resort to adorn the set of Walt Disney’s office in “Saving Mr. Banks.”