LONDON, Oct 21 — The London Film Festival (LFF) closed yesterday with the world’s first screening of “Saving Mr Banks”, the humorous and moving tale of Mary Poppins’s adaption for the big screen.
The film off the film, released in the United States in mid-December, explores the stormy relationship between celebrated Hollywood producer Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, and Pamela Lyndon Travers, the Mary Poppins author portrayed on film by British actress Emma Thompson.
Having fallen under the spell of the magical housekeeper, Disney was determined to obtain rights for turning Poppins’s adventures into a film.
But his attempts to convince Travers were systematically met with scathing responses, with the British author unimpressed by the saccharine world of Hollywood and Disney.
“It’s a movie about two cultures coming together and clashing over that one iconic creation,” Thompson explained in a press conference.
“How could I refuse this role?” asked the 54-year-old actress.
“A woman of my age who can find no roles for women of my age and who suddenly lands one of the best roles she has ever been given.”
Thomson, a two-time Oscar winner for her performances in 1992 film “Howards End” and 1995 release “Sense and Sensibility”, is also a screenwriter and was responsible for bringing another housekeeping magician, “Nanny McPhee”, to cinema screens.
Throughout the film, directed by John Lee Hancock, Thompson’s prickly character rails against attempts to modifying her work and rewrite the main characters.
This obstinance is widely believed to be in tribute to her much-loved father, who is thought to be the inspiration behind the Mr Banks character.
In one scene, an angry Travers finds her hotel room invaded by fluffy Disney toys.
She takes a stuffed Mickey Mouse and sits him in the corner of the room, telling him: “You can stay there until you learn the art of subtlety.”
Annoyed by the artificial and joyous world she finds, Travers seeks refuge in the memories of her tough childhood in Australia.
Here we discover a child’s touching relationship with her imperfect but loving father, played by Irish actor Colin Farrell.
“You can be anyone you want to be,” he tells her in one scene. To which she replies: “I want to be just like you”.
Despite the humour running through the film, the flashbacks create a portrait of a vulnerable and melancholic woman orphaned at a young age.
It is only through sharing his childhood memories that Disney was eventually able to convince Travers, after 14 years of trying.
The festival opened on Wednesday with the European premiere of “Captain Phillips”, which traces the true story of the captain of a container ship hijacked by Somali pirates. — AFP