Is Emily Blunt practically perfect in every way for the role of Mary Poppins? Director Rob Marshall certainly thinks so – because he approached her for the film before the script was even written.
Blunt will play the magical nanny in Mary Poppins Returns, taking on the role made famous by Julie Andrews. But her involvement with the movie goes back well before the 2016 casting announcement.
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“Rob Marshall called me a couple of years ago and pitched it to me,” the A Quiet Place actress told Variety. “The script hadn’t been written and they hadn’t written the songs, they were just crafting a narrative.
“He explained that this was much more in the same world as the books. It’s set in the 30s during the Great Depression, which is when PL Travers wrote them. It was the idea of having a darker backdrop in which hope could reappear from the skies. I loved the idea and I love and believe in him.”
Poppins and her parrot umbrella will swoop back into Travers’ world to join an A-List cast including Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda as Bert’s apprentice Jack, Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw as Jane and Michael Banks, Julie Walters as housekeeper Ellen, Colin Firth as president of the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, and Meryl Streep as Mary Poppins’ eccentric cousin.
And while Blunt made a tactical decision not to reach out to her predecessor, she was well aware of the legacy.
“Having somebody like Julie Andrews, who is iconic, play somebody like Mary Poppins, who is also iconic, it could have felt like I was rolling aside this huge boulder,” Blunt said.
“But Rob made it feel so intimate for me and empowering for me, so I could have my own version of her. I didn’t watch the original during the process. I had a memory of the movie seared into my brain from when I was a child, but I didn’t want the distraction of the amazing Julie’s version of her. I just read the books. This is my interpretation of Mary.”
And what is that interpretation?
“She’s really eccentric in the books. She’s kind of batty and vain and rude,” Blunt explained. “And she made me laugh so much. It’s hard to sum up exactly what my interpretation was, but it’s whatever leapt off the pages of the book to me.”
She added: “How ever incredible the first film is, I hope this one will be allowed to stand on its own. It’s magical, but it’s so grounded as well. There’s such a beautiful story running through it.”