Taking on a role immortalized by the beautiful Julie Andrews fifty-four years ago is sure to be a daunting task, and Emily Blunt – not at all presumptuous under the cap of the magical nanny - says she hesitated long before being convinced by film director Rob Marshall, whom she had already worked together with for Into the Woods.
For American musical expert Marshall, who also directed movies such as Chicago and Nine, the chameleonic Devil Wears Prada star was the only possible candidate for the role. The 35-year-old actress, who was kissed by the unexpected success of A Quiet Place, by her actor-director husband John Krasinski, is really taking off.
L'O: What are some of the challenges you faced in taking on the legendary role of Mary Poppins?
Emily Blunt: "Playing the young Queen Victoria, hunting aliens with Tom Cruise or fighting the drug cartel with Benicio Del Toro in comparison was a breeze. The idea of playing an iconic character like Mary Poppins, brought to the screen by a legendary actress like Julie Andrews, terrified me. Especially because, even if I like singing, I'm certainly not a professional dancer. But director Rob Marshall told me that we had the approval of Julie Andrews, and besides he is so kind and passionate, meticulous, refined and fun that I knew he would create a very cheerful atmosphere on the set and I could not say no to this adventure.”
L'O: How is Mary Poppins in this movie different?
EB: "It's even more eccentric. What helped me refresh the character is that our film, even if it contains many of the original songs, is not a remake. Mary Poppins Returns is directly inspired by the books by Pamela L. Travers. The children, played by Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw, have grown up and in turn have children. And, just like their parents did, they lost their boyish side. And here I am, plunged from the sky like a tornado, without ageing for a day.
I love the character’s mysterious side, but also the fact that it is so impetuous, rude, superficial, and has a fabulous sense of style. All these facets are wonderful to interpret.”
L'O: Have the costumes been helpful?
EB: "It's like fashion, the power of the costumes is enthralling. The shoes, even more than the umbrella, helped me to become Mary Poppins, even if they destroyed my feet."
L'O: Do you miss your childhood?
EB: "The nostalgia of childhood is precisely the theme of the film. I remember that as a child, when I saw the original film by Robert Stevenson, I felt reassured at the thought of a nanny who makes everything go right."
L'O: After The Devil Wears Prada and Into the Woods, how was it like working with Meryl Streep again?
EB: “Meryl, who is a great friend in life, always ends up on the screen to torment me. This contrast amuses us a lot. The whole cast is fantastic: Colin Firth, who is a dying banker, Dick Van Dyke, who also acted in the original version. But the revelation of the film is the fabulous Lin-Manuel Miranda, star of Hamilton, a Broadway musical. Mary Poppins Returns is set during the Great Depression of the 1930s and is an invitation to rediscover the joy of living, but also to find a glimmer of light in the dark times. We were all very motivated by this symbolism that is so current.”
L’O: Do you think Mary Poppins is a turning point in your career?
EB: “It's a further miracle in a career started by chance. At the beginning it was my mother, a former actress and teacher, who made me take acting lessons because I stuttered. Someone noticed me and at 18 I found myself in the theatre with Judi Dench, who took me under his wing. Then everything happened very quickly.
L’O: Currently, what is your relationship with Hollywood and with success?
EB: "I enjoy this dream job (and to be chosen to be the face of Opium fragrance by Yves Saint Laurent was magical). And I passed the most difficult test – shooting a movie with my husband without killing each other.”