Emily Blunt shines as iconic nanny in ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

For the role of the iconic, proper, peculiar and enigmatic nanny Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns, the filmmakers had only one person in mind: Emily Blunt.

“Emily is a brilliant actress who is funny, warm, quick-witted and deeply-feeling. She can also really sing and dance,” says the film’s director, Rob Marshall, who had worked with Blunt on Into the Woods. “I get what she does, I get her humor…we’re very simpatico. She created her own version of the character in a very distinctive and special way, which focused more on the eccentric Mary Poppins from the books. I don’t know who else could have played the role besides her, to be quite honest.”

At first, Blunt was flattered and excited to be offered the role, but she felt daunted, too. “[Rob Marshall] presented me the idea of it and he was so excited about it and he really made sure I was aware this was Disney’s most prized possession in many ways, and so he just said, I really want to do it and I only want to do it with you. And I was like, oh my god, like it was just so exciting and flattering and thrilling and scary and everything that I sort of look for in taking on something new.”

The magic of Mary Poppins

Part of the pressure for Blunt was how to create her own Mary Poppins while paying homage to the original version made iconic by Julie Andrews in the 1964 classic Mary Poppins. I had these memories of [the original film] from when I was a child. More about how it made me feel than the details of Julie’s version of her, so that has always stayed with me. But then I’ve read all of the books, and the books, which are set actually in the ’30s which is when our story is set, have a darker, more profound backdrop, and she just leapt off the page. She is so enigmatic and batty and funny and vain and all of these things that were so delightful to play.”

Continues Blunt, “I think we’ve been very careful to pay homage to the original, and yet this is the next chapter and this is my version of her. I do feel that Rob Marshall very much wanted to pay respect to this film that has impacted people in such a big way.”

Blunt saw the original film when she was about six or seven years old. “I was swept away by the magic of it, and of her, and what she could do in turning the mundane into something magical and the kind of joy she infused into these children’s lives. And I think that combination of magic and reassurance has been the thing that is seared into my nostalgia when I think about Mary Poppins.”

Filming Mary Poppins Returns was itself a magical experience for Blunt, who was amazed by the passion and creativity of everyone involved, including Marshall’s decision that visual effects be practically done as opposed to the more modern way of using computers. “This was a completely, practically done, big Hollywood movie – such a throwback to those old movies where you don’t have a lot of CGI. I think we barely had any green screen other than the animation sequences. And people are on wires, we are floating around on wires, and everything from the parrot umbrella that speaks was an animatronic actual umbrella that is not CGI’d….Every set was so beautifully crafted and real and transporting, and I think it just grounded everybody, you know. We all discovered the magic in it.”

Adds Blunt, “Someone just said to me that Mary Poppins, when it first came out, was the great unifier of the time, and I think that’s probably what we need right now. We are in a fragile, disconcerting time, and I think this is a film that’s completely uncynical and as my husband calls it, it’s like a joy bomb. It’s just so moving, and I don’t think there’s anything else like it out there, and I think people don’t even realize how much they might need an experience like this.”

Mary Poppins Returns opens in Philippine cinemas Tuesday, January 8.  Join the conversation online and use the hashtags #MaryPoppinsReturns and #DisneyPH.

About Mary Poppins Returns

In Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” an all new original musical, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. Emily Blunt stars as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure and Lin-Manuel Miranda plays her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London.

“Mary Poppins Returns” is directed by Rob Marshall. The screenplay is by David Magee and the screen story is by Magee & Rob Marshall & John DeLuca based upon the Mary Poppins Stories by PL Travers. The producers are John DeLuca, p.g.a., Rob Marshall, p.g.a. and Marc Platt, p.g.a. with Callum McDougall serving as executive producer. The music score is by Marc Shaiman and the film features all new original songs with music by Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman.

The film also stars Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks; Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks; Julie Walters as the Banks’ housekeeper Ellen; Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and introducing Joel Dawson as the Banks’ children, with Colin Firth as Fidelity Fiduciary Bank’s William Weatherall Wilkins; and Meryl Streep as Mary’s eccentric cousin, Topsy. Angela Lansbury appears as the Balloon Lady, a treasured character from the PL Travers books and Dick Van Dyke is Mr. Dawes, Jr., the retired chairman of the bank now run by Firth’s character.

‘The Possession of Hannah Grace’ out to terrify audiences

A pulse-pounding horror-thriller, Columbia Pictures’ The Possession of Hannah Grace starring Filipina-Canadian actress Shay Mitchell, is sure to terrify audiences when it opens in Philippine cinemas January 23.

The Possession of Hannah Grace came to life when producers Todd Garner and Sean Robins began brainstorming for inspiration for a one-of-a-kind premise that could anchor a truly terrifying horror film. “We began to develop ideas and settings that we thought were scary—this particular movie actually came from an article we read about someone who had to do community service in a morgue,” Robins says.

“This is a story about a woman confronting her own mental health and being stuck in a really harrowing situation of a very lonely, scary, creepy job,” adds Garner. “She’s not sure at first if it’s her own mental health or if it’s something more supernatural happening to her.”

Megan (Shay Mitchell) realizes that something is not right in Hanna Grace’s cadaver drawer in Screen Gems’ THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE.

Screenwriter Brian Sieve—whose resume includes MTV’s Scream TV series, Boogeyman 2—sparked to the concept immediately. “I’ve always gravitated to horror movies that are more psychological in nature where you’re questioning the protagonist’s sanity—and the protagonist is questioning his or her own sanity.”

Sieve embarked on a period of intense research. He watched documentaries about the experiences of Emergency Medical Technicians tasked with delivering bodies to morgues, and he interviewed experts at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office. Keeping the telling, real-world insights he had gleaned firmly in mind, Sieve sat down to write a character-forward psychological thriller, drawing from and updating classic horror themes. Even as he ratcheted up the supernatural scares, he rooted the screenplay in the experiences and perspective of an emotionally damaged but imminently resilient former cop, played by Mitchell.

To helm the film, producers Garner and Robins turned to Dutch writer-director Diederik van Rooijen. “Diederik was actually the first person I met with on this film, and I immediately fell in love with the things he said about the script and the way in which he wanted to shoot it,” says Robins. “Jump scares are great, and blood, guts and gore are typically part of the vernacular, but because the psychological was much more interesting to us, with Diederik we achieved a great balance of the two.”

As a child, van Rooijen grew up watching such classics as The ShiningHalloween and Hellraiser. “I’ve seen them all, and far too young,” the filmmaker, whose crime thriller and suspense credits include the Dutch-language features Taped (2012) and Daylight (2013), says with a laugh.

To get this project, van Rooijen made a five-minute short film that encapsulated his creative approach to the project, using movement, sound design, and the claustrophobia of the setting to amplify the tension inherent in the nail-biting premise. He even shot the short inside a morgue in Amsterdam for an added sense of authenticity. “What I really love about the premise is having somebody stuck down there having to face her own demons—and the real demon,” the director says. “I wanted to capture that loneliness. Time ticks by very slowly when you’re alone in that kind of situation. You’re always waiting for something to happen. That’s half the ride. Then, of course, you have to scare the hell out of them, which we will.”

The Possession of Hannah Grace, is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Use the hashtag #PossessionMovie 

BTS: Director Diederik Van Rooijen and Shay Mitchell on the set of Screen Gems’ THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE.
About The Possession of Hannah Grace

In The Possession of Hannah Grace, a shocking exorcism spirals out of control, claiming the life of a teenage girl. Months later, ex-cop Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) is attempting to get her life back on track after failing to prevent her partner’s murder and turning to drugs and alcohol to manage her grief. Working the graveyard shift at the morgue in the Boston hospital where she got sober, Megan finds an unlikely peace in the extreme solitude of the cavernous facility.

But one night, after she takes delivery of a horribly disfigured body, things begin to change. Locked alone inside the basement corridors of the morgue with the mutilated cadaver, Megan begins to experience horrifying visions. Questioning her own sanity, she fears that the cadaver is possessed by a ruthless demonic force and is ready to spring back to life—to kill.

The Possession of Hannah Grace stars Shay Mitchell, Stana Katic, Grey Damon, Nick Thune, Jacob Ming-Trent, Max McNamara, Louis Herthum, James A. Waston, Jr and Kirby Johnson. Diederik van Rooijen (Daylight, Taped) directs from a script by Brian Sieve (Scream: The TV Series, Boogeyman 2).