A Sit Down With Director Rob Marshall From Mary Poppins Returns

When you get a chance to be in a room with greatness, you have to take full advantage! That’s what we Disney bloggers did when we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with legendary Film Director, Rob Marshall. He directed Disney Mary Poppins Returns and many other memorable films. He was so delightful and cheerful to talk to! He talked to us about the actors in the movie, working with the legendary Dick Van Dyke and so much more! Check out what he had to say inside and don’t forget that this movie hits theaters on December 19th. 

So how do you convince your Actors that everything is possible even when they’re scared of heights?  When they don’t consider themselves Singers or Dancers in other films that you have made?


You know it’s sort of interesting when I work with Actors I really find they need to feel positive reinforcement you know and it’s such a simple thing to do.  It’s like being a really good parent you know.  And I try and achieve that when we’re working you know. 

For instance, I mean as an example Ben Whishaw, who plays Michael Banks, he’s never sung before you know.  He was sort of nervous about how do you do that and I always feel that people can do so much. It’s just feeling that they can and knowing that they can. 

I like to protect them in rehearsals when– you know we had over 2 months of rehearsal.  So it was during that time that you know you can fail and be bad you know and then learn to get better and, and not feel judged.  That’s a really important thing. 

I like to protect Actors to make them feel they can do things and try things.  And everybody was so nervous on this film because you know we were following that extraordinary film that means so much to me and so much to so many people.  I’m sure everybody in this room. 

And so we knew we were you know doing the impossible, but I honestly felt like if we did it together from the right place with a great respect for the first film and found our own way at the same time then we would at least have done it in the right way you know and then you hope that it works you know.

Did you use any other props from the first film?  Maybe like the umbrella or any like that?

Well, we you know here’s the thing, I visited the Disney archives.

They didn’t really have the archives in the 60’s, not much, there’s some.  What there is I saw so you remember the blocks from Mary Poppins?  We replicated the blocks.  They didn’t gonna’ give us the blocks, but we replicated the blocks.  They’re in the attic if you look.  Also the snow globe you know.

We replicated that as well.  So the only real thing is that table in the front hall, which I saw at Club 33 at Disneyland and I said, “That’s in the movie if the let us have it” and they did.  So that was really moving to me, but you know and the kite of course we replicated that and you know created our own version of the kite, but those very specific things from the first film that I really wanted to hold onto if I could you know and that’s for the people who love the first film who know it.  It’s those first little Easter eggs.  You know I use myself as honestly as a barometer the whole time.  What would I wanna’ see? 

I wouldn’t wanna’ abuse it too much because it’s very easy to sort of overdo it, but I wanted to specifically and strategically place things that meant something to people, yeah.

Could you please tell me how it was to work with Dick Van Dyke? 

He’s something else.  I mean there’s no one like him.  I was so excited and nervous to even call him to ask him to do this you know because he’s a hero for me you know.  I mean and that’s the Dick Van Dyke Show for me honestly. Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang you know all of it.

Bye Bye Birdie, all of it, so you know talking to him he just disarms you immediately.  He’s so joyous and it’s just sort of who he is and he said yes so quickly.  He wanted to be part, he was excited to be part of it.  

And when he came onto the set he honest to God grabbed my arm as we were walking on.  He said, “I feel the same spirit here on this set that I did you know in the first film.” And I thought okay well that’s everything.  That’s all I need to hear. That was everything for me to hear that from him.

Was it really him dancing or was that a stunt double?

Oh yes, oh yes, all of it.  In fact, I said to Lin and Emily I said, “If he falls off that desk you’re dead.” 

Well I said you’re spotting him.  I mean who else?  There’s no one there.  I said, “You are spotting him. So if he starts to wobble I want you to jump in.”  Of course he was perfectly fine.  In fact, he doesn’t even use Lin’s han do you see Lin? 

When you see it the next time, if you see it the next time [LAUGHS] every night, when you see Lin is literally standing there like okay and he doesn’t use him, he just goes right up. 

In Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” an all new original musical and sequel, 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.

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