Disney is delving into its own history with Saving Mr Banks, looking at Walt’s difficulties getting the rights to Mary Poppins from author PL Travers. The film has now started shooting, with Rachel Griffiths and Kathy Baker joining the cast.
Tom Hanks is playing Walt Disney (it’s the first time the entrepreneur has ever been depicted in a dramatic film) alongside fellow double Oscar-winner Emma Thompson in the role of prickly novelist, Travers. The film follows how, before signing away the book’s rights, Travers’ demands for contractual script and character control circumvent not only Disney’s vision for the film adaptation, but also those of the creative team of screenwriter Don DaGradi and sibling composers Richard and Robert Sherman.
When Travers travels from London to Hollywood in 1961 to finally discuss Disney’s desire to bring her beloved character to the motion picture screen (a quest he began in the 1940s as a promise to his two daughters), Disney meets a prim, uncompromising sexagenarian not only suspect of the impresario’s concept for the film, but a woman struggling with her own past. During her stay in California, Travers’ reflects back on her childhood in 1906 Australia, a trying time for her family which not only molded her aspirations to write, but one that also inspired the characters in her 1934 book.
None more so than the one person whom she loved and admired more than any other – her caring father, Travers Goff, a tormented banker who, before his untimely death, instills the youngster with both affection and enlightenment. He became the muse for the Mary Poppins story’s patriarch, Mr. Banks. While reluctant to grant Disney the film rights, Travers comes to realise that the acclaimed Hollywood storyteller has his own motives for wanting to make the film – which, like the author, hints at the relationship he shared with his own father in the early 20th Century Midwest.
Colin Farrell will play Travers’ doting dad, with Ruth Wilson as his long-suffering wife, Margaret. Rachel Griffiths will play Margaret’s sister, Aunt Ellie (who inspired the title character of Travers’ novel). Kathy Baker will be Tommie, one of Disney’s trusted studio associates. The cast also includes Bradley Whitford as screenwriter Don DaGradi; Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak as the songwriting Sherman Brothers (Richard and Robert, respectively); and Paul Giamatti as Ralph, the kindly limousine driver who escorts Travers during her two-week stay in Hollywood.
Saving Mr. Banks will be directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) based on a screenplay by Kelly Marcel (creator of FOX-TV’s Terra Nova), from a story by Sue Smith (Brides of Christ, Bastard Boys) and Kelly Marcel. Saving Mr. Banks will film entirely in the Los Angeles area, with key locations to include Disneyland in Anaheim and the Disney Studios in Burbank. Filming will conclude around Thanksgiving, 2012, with no specific 2013 release date yet set.