×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Listen: Director Rob Marshall Wanted ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ to Send a Message of Hope

PLAYBACK is a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. New episodes air every Thursday.

A film like “Mary Poppins Returns” is sure to connect this holiday season. Why? Because there are so few films this year that make you feel the way it does. And that’s not to say it’s simplistic pablum. No, it’s a meticulously crafted movie musical of the classic mold, brought to vibrant life by Broadway choreographer-turned-filmmaker Rob Marshall. The film received four Golden Globe nominations Thursday, including best picture, musical or comedy, so that’s perfect timing to dive into its making with the Oscar-nominated director.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

Click here for more episodes of “Playback.”

“This idea that there is a ray of light that can come and help you move through a darker time was something that was very personal to me,” Marshall says. “Our film is set in the Depression Era in London and it felt very connected, to me, to today. I feel a lot of people are struggling in life to make ends meet, to bring up a family. I also felt this idea of loss, of not only the wonder and joy you have as a child, but compounded with this idea that there is a loss of the mother [in the film]. It was about a family that needed to heal. So I wanted to send a message of hope. I really thought it’s kind of what we need right now.”

It also marked the first time Marshall served as a writer on a film project. Along with producing partner John DeLuca and screenwriter David Magee, he helped conjure the story almost from whole cloth, as the P.L. Travers books on which the famed property is based have very little narrative drive.

“When you do an original musical, the only way I feel it can be done is if a director is involved literally from the very beginning, because you’re shaping the whole piece,” Marshall says. “It’s not just something that people go away and do. It has to be a real collaboration. This is such a complicated film in many ways because it’s this grand balancing act, so to actually be part of the writing process was a big part. For me the most important thing was to forge new territory. That all came together when I chose to place it in the ’30s. It was so easy to send it up or wink, and I thought, ‘No. We have to be so, so careful to really play the truth of this, to really feel connected to this family, to understand this is a real dilemma for these people so you can be invested in these characters.'”

After his Broadway days, and with 15 years of producing movie musicals behind, from “Chicago” and “Nine” to “Into the Woods” and “Mary Poppins Returns,” Marshall is the person to ask about the genre’s future on the big screen. Will it evolve? Will it remain embedded in traditionalism? Where can it go?

“I feel it depends on the property,” Marshall says. “With ‘Chicago,’ for instance, I knew I needed a really strong concept to make that work. And it was sort of chancy, obviously, because here I was creating two realities. One was on a vaudeville stage and one was in the reality of the ’20s in Chicago and mixing those two back and forth throughout the film. But that piece called for that. I think the thing to do is make the piece that you’re working on come to life. And there are no rules. You just have to find what’s at the essence of it and always think story. What is the story? How are you telling the story? People will accept any way to tell a story as long as you’re consistent with it and you really set the rules up at the beginning.”

For more, including discussion of the many crafts elements on the film, from the costumes to the production design to the animation, and what’s happening with Marshall potentially taking on a live-action version of “The Little Mermaid,” listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link below.

iHeartRadio
Hear more episodes of “Playback” at iHeartRadio.
Subscribe via iTunes.

More Film

  • Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    Film News Roundup: 'Lawnmower Man' Director Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    In today’s film news roundup, “Elijah” gets a director, a French fry documentary starts shooting and “Uglydolls” moves its release date forward. PROJECT LAUNCH Brett Leonard, best known for directing ”The Lawnmower Man” and “Virtuosity,” will direct the supernatural feature film “Elijah,” based on the Old Testament prophet. The project is set up at Winter [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Commercial Negotiations Set for February

    With no fanfare, SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have set a mid-February start for negotiations for a successor deal to the union’s master contract, Variety has learned. The current three-year deal — which covers about $1 billion in annual earnings — expires on March 31. SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee of the ad industry [...]

  • SONDRA LOCKESONDRA LOCKE - 1986

    Oscar Nominee Sondra Locke Dies at 74

    Actress and director Sondra Locke, who received a supporting actress Oscar nomination in her first movie role for “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” died Nov. 3 at 74. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department confirmed her death. She died due to breast and bone cancer, according to Radar Online, which reported that she [...]

  • Clint Eastwood and Alison Eastwood'The Mule'

    Clint Eastwood: Why Alison Eastwood Came Out of Acting Retirement for Her Dad

    Clint Eastwood’s daughter Alison Eastwood was done with acting after appearing in 2014’s “Finding Harmony.” Or so she thought. It was a Friday night and she and her husband were heading to dinner when her father’s producer Sam Moore called. “He [says], ‘You know, your dad wants you to do this film,” Alison recalls. “I [...]

  • 'Dead Women Walking' Review: Uncompromising, Powerful

    Film Review: 'Dead Women Walking'

    The sober and gripping “Dead Women Walking” focuses on the final days of a series of female inmates facing the death sentence. Divided into nine chapters, each inching its way inexorably closer to the moment of execution, the drama turns the fragmentation of its approach to a powerful advantage. Not only do the individual stories [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Sam Mendes' World War I Drama '1917' Set for Awards-Season Launch on Christmas 2019

    Universal Pictures has given an awards-season release date of Dec. 25, 2019, to Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1971.” Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners is producing “1917” through its DreamWorks Pictures brand. “1917” will open in limited release on Christmas Day then go wide two weeks later on Jan. 10, 2020. Mendes wrote the script [...]

  • Ventana Sur Queer Latin Film Panel

    Ventana Sur: Panel Talks Merits, Setbacks in Latin Queer Cinema

    BUENOS AIRES — Four venerable professionals from the cinema world joined on Monday evening for Queer Cinema In Latin America, a frank discussion on Latin America’s role within the queer filmscape for Ventana Sur’s Industry conference series held at the UCA campus in Buenos Aires. Touching on advancements in character arc and notable achievements in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content