Saving Mr. Banks

Even when it just had a director and two principal actors in place, Disney’s upcoming Saving Mr. Banks already seemed like it was the perfect storm of mainstream appeal. Take director John Lee Hancock, who made mountains of money and received boatloads of acclaim for his sugary sweet The Blind Side, give him two of the most universally loved actors working in Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, and put them to work on subject matter involving one of the biggest legends in entertainment history, Walt Disney, and one of the most enduring children’s stories of all time, “Mary Poppins,” and you have to imagine this film’s potential for box office dollars and warmed hearts is unprecedented. It turns out Saving Mr. Banks isn’t just content to get our attention and then sit back and coast on a winning formula though. Variety has a new report that a trio of actors have just signed on to the film in supporting roles, and they’re three of the best supporting players studio dollars can buy. Joining Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers will be Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, and Ruth Wilson.

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Saving Mr. Banks is a Kelly Marcel-penned Black List script that details the 14 years it took Walt Disney to convince author P.L. Travers to give him the movie rights to her Mary Poppins character. The result of the lengthy courtship was, of course, the Julie Andrews-starring 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins. That movie has made Disney a whole lot of money over the years, so it makes sense that they would be looking to produce any sort of acclaimed script that manages to cash in on Poppins’ mainstream name recognition; especially one that features their company’s founder, Walt Disney, as the main character. To that end, Disney has acquired Marvel’s script and hired The Blind Side helmer John Lee Hancock to direct. That’s all old news though. The new news about this project is that casting has started, and they’re looking at some pretty huge names to play Disney and Travers. According to Variety, Hancock and company are talking to none other than Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson to fill the roles. Just let that sink in for a moment — Tom Hanks may play Walt Disney in a movie about the making of Mary Poppins. Have you ever heard of anything that will make a more violent grab for the hearts and wallets of everyone’s parents and grandparents than that?

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Despite heavy popular and critical love toward The Blind Side, director John Lee Hancock has been cautious to start a new project. He’s signed on for several, including a Denzel Washington-starring uplift-fest called American Can, but he’s been too busy sharing his insights and tips on the festival circuit to get behind the camera. He also typically takes a few years between projects, so it isn’t surprising. However, it’ll be a surprise to see which of his potential films ends up becoming more than kinetic energy, especially now that he’s added another. Deadline Debenhams is reporting that the American popular auteur is close to signing on for Saving Mr. Banks, the script from Kelly Marcel which chronicles Walt Disney’s fruitful attempt to secure the rights for the P.L. Travers book that went on to become Mary Poppins. Yes, Disney is going to make a movie about Disney. Hancock is a great choice here, especially with as saccharine as something like this could be. He’ll no doubt lend is unique ability to shovel down sweetness without causing diabetes if he gets the gig.

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