The last time we saw the Banks children, Mary Poppins had left and in Mary Poppins Returns, Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer play the grown-up siblings. Knowing that they would be playing the adult version of iconic characters as proven a task that Director Rob Marshall felt only they would be capable of fulfilling. Rob did great for these two have great onscreen chemistry and with a lot of those little nods to the original, that keep you smiling through the film. Sitting down with them during the Mary Poppins Returns Event was a treat. Take a minute to see why working with Rob was so special and just how impressed Emily’s daughter is with her in this role.
Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer Interview
Your characters have so much wonder and joy. So, how do you work joy and wonder into your life?
Emily: I’ve got two kids, and I guess cliches are true! I mean, that, that’s why they’re cliches. They are very helpful in abating the opposite of joy and wonder. The pain, the fear and the loneliness that is just sort of constantly there, you know? One of them’s is coming with me to the premier. Sam, my 15-year-old and his friend from New York. And then my eight-year-old will be going to the one in London. So I’m giving them both sort of the whole thing. It’s amazing because it’s such a treat to come to these things. But you forget, because you get stressed out about, how you look, and whether you’re sounding like an idiot 24 hours a day. And whether you even really deserve to be there at all.
Then you’re put up in these incredible, fancy hotels, and given delicious food, and get to be around all these wonderful people. However, when you bring your kids, you see it through their eyes, and, and you appreciate it.
We’ve had such a sweet time together these last few days and I just kind of look over at him, and seeing his little face. Is… just, I don’t know. It just makes it all seem okay. You know. For a second.
So did your children see the old one and now have seen the new one?
Emily: Not the new one. They love the old one. Yeah. They’re psyched! They’re totally pumped about the whole thing. We were in Barnes & Noble the other day and my daughter found the book of Mary Poppins Returns, which I didn’t realize they’d even done the book of Mary Poppins Returns. Emily Blunt was on the front. And then she found a photo of me. And she’s never been more impressed by me ever. It was so funny. She kept telling everyone we met. Mom’s in a book!
Never mind the movie you’re in, right?
Rob Marshall said last night he got his first choice of all the actors. How does it feel for him saying that, and to be in such an iconic remake of a movie?
Ben: Well, when Rob likes you, he really, really, really, really likes you.
Ben: Like, he doesn’t hold back. You feel his love. You feel his excitement about what you might bring to the table. And we’ve worked with some directors who’d don’t have that quality. I really value that. In a way that’s everything.
Emily: My dad always said that if you tell people they’re beautiful or wonderful and clever and talented and special and amazing, they are. And that’s how we feel like that’s his strategy…
Ben: But it’s not a strategy.
Emily: You do believe him.
Ben: You do believe him. Why would you not want to?
Emily: He’s so encouraging, and makes you feel special.
Karen Dotrice, the original Jane had a cameo in the movie. Did you get a chance to talk to her about taking on such an iconic role?
Emily: Well, we had, like, half a day with her. She just hung out with us and did the little scene. And we walked with her on the set. For the first time, she saw Cherry Lane since she was a little girl. She was really moved, and sort of blown away by the whole thing. We talked about how making the movie and how she was a little. An English schoolgirl and had been transported to LA ’cause they shot the original movie in Los Angeles. Unlike our movie. And so, how kind of bizarre that was. I don’t know! Yeah, it was just with her and Dick Van Dyke, it was just an extraordinary thing to have these connections to the original movie.
So, that felt so validating that they were excited about it, and into it. They felt thrilled by the whole experience was good. Obviously, there were a lot of nerves around taking on this thing.
What was the most challenging scene for you both to create?
Ben: I think that the final scene when we’re holding onto the balloons was quite challenging. I mean, everything was. But because that had to be the climactic moment, you know? And it’s weirdly much easier sometimes to play misery, and grief or whatever. But being open-hearted and happy can be quite hard.
Emily: Especially when you’ve been miserable the whole movie. But I remember feeling quite confused by how to be when we walked into the house, and it was all empty of all the furniture, and we were clearing out the stuff, and saying goodbye the house. The temptation was to say, oh my god, this is a terrible moment in their lives, and to really make a meal of it.
Emily: And Rob was really good, and he said, you’ve done your grieving. Just say goodbye to your house. The sadness is going to come from seeing people trying to be happy. Trying to do their best, and be happy and get on with it, which is what most of us spend our lives trying to do. And not kind of wallow in the pain. Then it will be more heartbreaking. As an actor, when you put this sort of sad moment, you’re tempted to really sort of milk it. I remember feeling grateful to his direction at that moment where he was like, no. You know, keep the ball in the air. Keep it optimistic and show these children that you’re trying to sort of rallying. So it was quite sweet. That “goodbye old house”.
Do you have a favorite scene from the movie?
Ben: I really love the big dance number. Trip a Little Light Fantastic. I’m just knocked out by it. Because it’s tremendous.
Emily: I’m the same. I think it’s amazing. You just kind of can’t catch your breath almost. Like I keep saying, it’s like intravenous entertainment the film. It’s like just when you think you’ve had enough, it’s like, you’ve gorged yourself. Then along comes Dick Van Dyke. Then there’s that dance. It’s amazing.
Mary Poppins Returns in theatres December 19th!
I was invited by Disney to attend the #MaryPoppinsReturnsEvent. All opinions are my own.