What’s the best antidote to the political division roiling the United States? Try a very proper British nanny best known for coining the phrase “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
At least that’s what “Mary Poppins Returns” director Rob Marshall and star Emily Blunt claimed during a panel discussion at the Producers Guild of America’s Produced By: New York conference on Saturday.
“It’s a divisive time,” said Blunt. “Here’s a film that could be a great unifier.”
“This is what the world needs,” she added. “You can feel the acrimony and the bitterness and here’s the opportunity for hope to reappear literally from the skies.”
Marshall said he purposely set “Mary Poppins Returns” during the Great Depression because he sees parallels between that period of economic instability and the current social climate.
“It’s a message of hope in a very dark time, which is what I feel we’re in these days,” said Marshall.
That doesn’t mean that the filmmaker and the actress, who previously collaborated on “Into the Woods,” didn’t have some trepidation about revisiting a magical world that was put so brilliantly in celluloid with 1964’s “Mary Poppins.” One of Blunt’s friends was particularly candid when she learned the actress would play the role made famous by Julie Andrews.
“Dude, you’ve got balls of steel,” Blunt’s friend said. But the actress said she’s found her own way into the part and welcomed the challenge.
“It’s the most delicious character I’ve ever played,” she said.
The panel included several filmmakers and producers from “Roma,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” and “BlacKkKlansman,” Many of the panelists argued their films had an added resonance in the age of Donald Trump. “BlacKkKlansman,” for instance, documents the police’s infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s, but closes with images of last year’s Charlottesville riots.
“The message is racism is stupid and racists are stupid,” said producer Jason Blum.
“Crazy Rich Asians,” is a romantic comedy, but it became a cultural touchpoint as one of the only major studio films to feature a predominantly Asian cast.
“It’s about time,” said star Ronny Chieng. “It’s about time we had a movie about rich people…Their stories are undertold…They’re 1% of the population, but represent 99% of the power.”