Emily Blunt on How Mary Poppins’ Adventures Are ‘Like Heroin to Her’
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Emily Blunt on How Mary Poppins’ Adventures Are ‘Like Heroin to Her’

The Wrap

Mary Poppins was a part of all their childhoods. Rob Marshall remembered it as the first movie he ever saw in a theater, the one that would give the future director of Chicago and Into the Woods a lasting love for musicals. Emily Blunt recalled seeing it at the age of 5 or 6 and feeling “in safe hands” with Julie Andrews’ “practically perfect” nanny. Emily Mortimer said she watched it on BBC2 nearly every holiday. Lin-Manuel Miranda had it in one of those oversize Disney VHS boxes — but he never watched it all the way through, turning it off when “Feed the Birds” came on because the song was too sad for him to endure. “I didn’t see the end of the movie until I was in high school and could survive the musical trauma,” he said.

And Ben Whishaw said that it was the first film he ever saw, and one that consumed him. “I just watched it obsessively over and over again, rewound bits, learned all the songs,” he said. “I dressed up as her. I wanted to be her.” Mortimer, who plays the sister to Whishaw’s character in the new “Mary Poppins Returns,” laughed at this. “The first dinner we ever had, he showed me a photograph of him dressed as Mary Poppins,” she said. “It was the sweetest thing.”

“I was, like, 3, and I paraded up and down our street,” Whishaw added. “In my childhood memories, ‘Mary Poppins’ is mythically massive.”

And now there’s a new Mary Poppins movie, courtesy of Marshall, Blunt, Miranda, Mortimer, Whishaw and a great many others. All of them, from Marshall to his actors to songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, were intimidated by the thought of following the 1964 Disney classic, which landed 13 Oscar nominations and won five, including awards for Andrews and for the song “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”

“I was immediately daunted by the reality of it,” Marshall said. “But then I thought to myself, ‘If anybody’s going to do it, I want to be the one,’ because I knew how much the first film means to me. I wanted to protect that film and treat it with great care and attention to detail. For example, I didn’t want Mary Poppins to break into a contemporary song like ‘Let It Go’ or something like that, which could easily have happened. And so as scared as I was and as much as I knew how high the bar is, I wanted to invest myself in what I knew would be an incredibly long and complicated and difficult film to make.”

So he called Blunt, whom he had directed in the 2014 movie version of “Into the Woods,” and whom he thought was “the only actress” who could play the role. She said yes immediately before getting nervous. “I was like, ‘I get to do my version of Mary Poppins,’” she said. “And then I was like, ‘But everyone loves this other version of Mary Poppins!’ Never have I felt, ‘How am I going to carve out new space for myself?’ more than I did on this project.

Marshall set “Mary Poppins Returns” about 24 years after the original film, moving it from 1910 into the 1930s, when the original P.L. Travers books are set. But Michael and Jane Banks, the children that the stern but magical nanny Mary Poppins looks after, never age in the books, and Marshall changed that. “I wanted to set it after Michael and Jane have grown up,” he said. “And I felt that the Depression era feels so accessible, somehow. Struggling to make ends meet, dealing with and looking for hope in a darker time — what guided me through the process of making this film was the idea of sending a message of hope today, in this current climate. I thought Mary Poppins coming back can bring that injection of hope into people’s lives.”

For Blunt, the challenge was not only following Julie Andrews’ indelible performance, but finding the shades in a character who on the surface is not particularly nice. “That’s the delight of playing her,” she said. “When I dove into the books, I saw a duality that I was struck by and excited by. She’s fastidious and completely eccentric, and she’s grounded and yet airborne and practical and magical and stern and yet has great depth. She is someone who commands the environment she’s in but yet pretends not to. And I think that idea of how deeply she connects with people in their pain and yet holds them at arm’s length at the same time was so delightful to play.

I talked to Rob a lot about what she really feels when she goes on these adventures. And I think it should be that she’s like an adrenaline junkie. I said to Rob, ‘It’s got to be like heroin for her.’ She loves and she needs these adventures — that’s the child in her, that’s why you see her complete determination to infuse childlike wonder into people’s lives again.

While Blunt’s Mary Poppins has scarcely aged since the first film, Lin-Manuel Miranda steps into the role of Mary’s new sidekick. In the original, Dick Van Dyke played a chimney sweep (among other things) named Bert, but Miranda is Jack, a lamplighter with a similar devotion to Mary and her magical ways. And the fact that a “Puerto Rican dude” (albeit the Puerto Rican dude who created “Hamilton”) could be dropped into a movie set in 1930s London without a thought was not lost on him. “It feels significant, the same way it felt significant to me when I saw Raul Julia play Gomez Adams in ‘The Addams Family,’” he said. “That character was not a Latin guy in the original series I saw growing up on Nick at Night. Or seeing Rita Moreno on ‘The Electric Company’ when I was a kid. We’re not only playing the quote-unquote Latino roles, but also just playing great roles where race is just a part of it. It’s a step forward, I think, for representation.”

Given the film’s elaborate dance numbers and its 15-minute sequence blending live action with hand-drawn animation, Marshall knew “Mary Poppins Returns” would require meticulous planning. So he set a two-month rehearsal period, far more than usual. (“‘Hamilton’ didn’t have two months of rehearsal,” said Miranda.) And not only did he block and practice the dance routines, he reminded the cast that for a musical to work, the drama and the songs had to be seamless. “I think we were rehearsing the scene of Mary Poppins’ arrival,” Mortimer said, “and Rob kept saying, ‘You’re still in a musical even though you’re not singing and dancing.’ That was such a good note. Like, you’ve still got to keep the ball in the air, otherwise it could go flat between the songs. That was immediately the key to performing in those scenes.”

But the cast was also reminded of the spirit they were trying to achieve when a special guest came to play a small but crucial role: Dick Van Dyke, whose appearance was “a sob fest for everyone” on the set, according to Blunt. “It was so gorgeous to be around him, and he’s so sprightly and full of life and energy and sparkle,” she said. “I mean, Lin and I were there to assist him onto the desk where he’s supposed to do a tap dance, and he just waved us away and didn’t need any help. I don’t think Rob could even say cut, he was so emotional.”

Blunt’s guess about his emotional state, Marshall said, is entirely accurate. “She’s right. He is one of my heroes, and he did a beautiful monologue where he talks about Michael as a young boy and the tuppence and all of that. So there he is, Dick Van Dyke, and he’s 91 years old [at the time], and he’s talking about things from the first film and doing it so beautifully. I have ‘Feed the Birds’ in my ear, which we use as underscore. And so I’m hearing ‘Feed the Birds,’ I’m seeing Dick Van Dyke deliver this extraordinary speech, and I just lost it. Emily heard me not say cut and she knew. I couldn’t speak, it was so moving to me.”

That day, Blunt added, also gave her one of her peak “Mary Poppins Returns” moments, right up there with the sequence where she floats back into the Banks’ lives on a kite. “We all just sat around Dick Van Dyke and wanted him to tell us stories of his whole career,” she said. “Which he did, and he’d break into song all the time. It was just so terribly moving. And there was a weird moment when he finished the monologue and gave the Banks family their house back. He just sort of looked up at me with those blue eyes, and I thought, ‘Holy s—, I’m Mary Poppins!’

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Emily Blunt & John Krasinski attends the BAFTA Tea Party!
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Emily Blunt & John Krasinski attends the BAFTA Tea Party!

Emily Blunt and John Krasinski attended the BAFTA Tea Party on Saturday afternoon (January 5) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Blunt nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for her role in Mary Poppins Returns at the Globes this weekend!

Emily was wearing an Oscar de la Renta dress and Loriblu heels.

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How Emily Blunt and John Krasinski Became Hollywood’s Couple of the Year
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How Emily Blunt and John Krasinski Became Hollywood’s Couple of the Year

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – One of the defining moments in Emily Blunt and John Krasinski’s marriage happened unexpectedly during a cross-country flight in early 2017. Krasinski was on his way to meet with executives at Paramount about a script he had co-written and hoped to direct and star in — the high-concept thriller A Quiet Place. Blunt was immersed in preparations for a daunting new acting project, as the magical nanny in Disney’s sequel to one of its most beloved films, Mary Poppins. The couple had two healthy young daughters, a new home in Brooklyn and careers that were thriving — separately.

It seemed like a good idea to leave it that way. So Krasinski, after secretly writing a part for his wife, abandoned his plan to ask her to play it. “I decided the safest thing to do was just have this experience on my own,” says Krasinski of making A Quiet Place. He was afraid Blunt would say no — or, in a possibility that seemed even more mortifying, that she would say yes out of a sense of wifely duty rather than genuine enthusiasm. “I didn’t want this to be the one job that she was like, ‘Listen, I don’t know if I love this, but I love you, so I’ll do it.’ ”

Months earlier, Blunt had recommended a friend to play the part before Krasinski could even ask. “I was about to go into this enormous project,” Blunt says of Mary Poppins Returns. “I was like, ‘I can’t even.’ ” So when she finally read her husband’s script on the plane that day, Blunt’s reaction stunned them both. “I went sort of gray,” she says. “I couldn’t imagine the thought of letting someone else play the part.” Tentatively, she asked Krasinski if she could take the role, that of a pregnant mother raising her family in total silence through the apocalypse. “It was like she was proposing to me,” he says. “It was one of the greatest moments in my career. I screamed out, ‘Yes!’ I’m surprised we didn’t emergency land in San Antonio.”

It’s a Sunday afternoon in November as Blunt, 35, and Krasinski, 39, are recounting this story, a rare day of calm for a couple in the midst of a breakthrough year for both of them professionally. Besides A Quiet Place, which brought him newfound critical and commercial stature as a filmmaker, Krasinski also became an action hero on Amazon’s Jack Ryan series; and Blunt is now playing the title role in what is shaping up to be the biggest movie of the holiday season. Over eight years of marriage, the two have purposely avoided doing interviews together in order to keep their careers distinct. But today, Blunt and Krasinski have ducked out of the house to the office of his production company, an airy old building in lower Manhattan, curled up together on a velvet sofa, and begin to open up. Back home, a brisket Blunt made is roasting in the oven and their daughters, Hazel, 4, and Violet, 2, are napping, watched over by family visiting from out of town.

Blunt and Krasinski are matched in warmth and wit, and they unspool stories about their lives together at a screwball comedy pace, like the one about the discordant phase of their marriage when Krasinski was writing his horror script and Blunt was rehearsing for her Disney movie. “I’d come home and be like, ‘I just danced with 30 lamplighters,’ ” Blunt begins, in a sing-song voice. ” ‘It was beautiful!’ ” Adds Krasinski, “And I’d be like, ‘I just killed a child on page 10!’ ” Krasinski, who is from an upper-middle-class Boston family, clearly believes he has married up and enjoys sharing the detail that London-born Blunt had never seen his signature role in the American version of The Office when they met — but was a fan of the British version. Blunt responds to her husband’s self-deprecation by being a tender cheerleader for him and his career. She has called his agent to offer advice — unbeknownst to Krasinski — and pulled her husband out of an eight-hour writing haze to remind him to eat.

In A Quiet Place, they play a couple trying to teach their children to thrive in a world inhabited by blind monsters with an acute sense of hearing — an idea that so resonated with them as terrified, exhilarated new parents, they deemed it worth the risk of sharing a project. “I didn’t want it to be like, ‘Oh, how adorable. They’re working together,’ ” Blunt says. “It was the only idea that had come our way that seemed bigger than our marriage. The narrative of our marriage was not going to overwhelm this movie and this amazing opportunity for him as a director, as a filmmaker, as a writer. I knew this was a big swing for him.”

Their creative partnership helped deliver a winning movie: A Quiet Place collected $341 million at the worldwide box office and is in serious conversation for Oscar recognition. Krasinski’s rise as a filmmaker comes as Blunt’s star as an actress is ascending, too. When Mary Poppins Returns opens Dec. 18 on the steam of her charismatic lead performance and Disney’s marketing muscle, she’ll enter a new realm of fame, the kind where strolling their Brooklyn neighborhood, occasionally recognized but rarely disturbed, will likely get harder. In December, she collected Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for A Quiet Place (supporting) and Mary Poppins (lead) as well as a Golden Globe nom and two Critics’ Choice noms for Poppins.

Professionally, Blunt and Krasinski have risen on roughly similar timelines from their breakout roles, he as deadpan everyman Jim Halpert on The Office, she as Meryl Streep’s wicked, scene-stealing assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. They agree on only some details of their origin story as a couple, like that they were introduced by a mutual friend at a restaurant in 2008 while Krasinski was dining with Justin Theroux. As for who asked whom out, “Probably me, I think,” Blunt says. At this, Krasinski pivots from his wife to me, affecting the look of Jim deadpanning to the camera in the offices of Dunder Mifflin after someone has said something stupid. “Yeah, right,” he counters. She insists: “I think it was me.” “No,” he fires back. “It was me asking for a while and you took some time, and then we finally had a date.” Their first evening together involved pizza and his apartment in West Hollywood, and, based on the amount of time Krasinski is taking to answer this question, something else that he isn’t sure if he’s allowed to share. During his long pause, Blunt pulls a strand of her blond hair off Krasinski’s sweater, calls him “Kras,” and declares, “It’s so precious, I don’t want to talk about it. Is that all right?”

As working parents, they rely on a magical nanny of their own (theirs is Irish) and various strategies for maintaining sanity, including some that they readily acknowledge are the good fortune of being extremely well-paid people in a gig-based business. “I have a minimum of a five-month rule between projects, other than A Quiet Place,” she says. “I broke the rule for him and him alone.” Working in the same industry brings other perks, like a shared understanding of how all-consuming Hollywood careers can be, particularly during production. “There’s a large fraction of stress that is taken out by someone who’s so supportive,” Krasinski says. “Meaning, ‘You are directing this movie, so when you reach for your phone, I know you’re not trying to isolate me as your wife. You actually have something to do.’ I don’t have any of that pressure of, 15 percent of my day is explaining to my wife that I have a job to do.” Blunt is nodding. “We’ve always allowed and rejoiced in each other having a very full life outside of the other one,” she says.

As Blunt’s Mary Poppins director Rob Marshall explains it, “Neither of them has a jealous bone in their body. People think marriage is looking deep into each other’s eyes. No, it’s looking out and seeing the same life. Emily and John see the same life.” Marshall calls them “old souls,” and other stars, like Matt Damon, Jimmy Kimmel and Chris Pratt, who befriended them when he made The Five-Year Engagement with Blunt, have invited them into their inner circles (they’ve vacationed with Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Aniston and Kimmel). “They are a down-to-earth couple, both really fun and funny,” Pratt says. “They’re caring and kind. They’re always doing bits and making themselves and other people laugh.”

As an actor, Blunt relies on instinct, which is how she settled on how to portray Mary Poppins. While heavily pregnant with Violet, “I was waddling around the house trying to figure out how she moved and spoke,” says Blunt, who settled on a version of the character closer to the imperious, slightly vain woman first created by author P. L. Travers. “What’s the point of playing Mary Poppins if you’re just going to try and do an impersonation of Julie Andrews?” It was only after she began to tell people that she had the role that Blunt felt the immenseness of it. “Friends of mine, they almost started to well up talking about her and what the film had meant to them, and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, fuck. What have I done?’ I had no option but to Zen it out, because I’d taken this on.” Blunt has steadily worked toward this high-stakes role, in parts as disparate as a futuristic military mascot nicknamed “Full Metal Bitch” in Edge of Tomorrow, the warm-hearted, Stephen Sondheim-singing Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods and the broken-hearted alcoholic hot mess in The Girl on the Train. “She’s ready for it,” Marshall says, of Blunt’s Poppins pressure. “It’s happening at age 35, not age 25. This is her time. She knows how to protect herself and when to step away.”

Krasinski’s acting career since The Office has attempted to leverage his mix of smarts and relatability in roles like the hipster dad in Away We Go, or aimed at action heroics, as when playing a former Navy SEAL in Michael Bay’s largely overlooked Benghazi movie, 13 Hours. He’s never broken out as a leading man on the level of his buddies Damon and Pratt and — as with many actors who emerge playing hit TV characters — never had a role that eclipsed the one that made him famous. Still, he recently learned to put his own spin on another memorable character, in his case, Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst Jack Ryan, who has been played by Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin and Chris Pine in films and whom Krasinski portrays in an Amazon series that just finished shooting its second season. The couple try to trade off who is working when, so the family can be together, but it doesn’t always happen.

During the first season of Jack Ryan, which shot in Montreal, Krasinski flew weekly to London, where Blunt was shooting Mary Poppins and staying with their children. “When I got there, I was so destroyed from time zones and not sleeping and all that and was so excited to see my kids, it didn’t matter I had no sleep,” Krasinski says. “On top of it, there was nothing from Emily but love and support.” She adds, “I just felt so bad for him that he was the one having to be away. Because I’m usually the one being like, ‘You need to be with me.’ ”

On A Quiet Place, which cost $17 million to make, Krasinski was working in new terrain in both scale and genre. His previous films as a director have been the much smaller 2016 family drama The Hollars and the 2009 David Foster Wallace adaptation Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, neither of which grossed more than a hair over $1 million nor established him with film critics. Smart but “straight out of the old-school Sundance manual,” as THR critic David Rooney wrote of The Hollars. A Quiet Place producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller had sent Krasinski a spec script with the original idea by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck in hopes that he would play the father role, nothing more. It was on a Skype call with the producers that Krasinski expressed his grander ambitions. “I’m sure that he could see the fear in our eyes when he came back and said, ‘I’ll play the dad, but I also want to write and direct,’ ” says Fuller. “When someone says that, you think, ‘Oh boy, this is going to be a problem, because he doesn’t do all of that stuff.’ ”

Krasinski won them over with the detail and energy of his pitch, and ultimately with an unorthodox, nearly dialogue-free, 67-page script. In an industry that runs on pre-existing intellectual properties, it was a wholly original idea and a family drama Trojan-Horsed into a horror movie. It’s notable that in a film with blind, shrieking monsters, most of the memorable scenes involve plain old human beings. In one, Blunt and Krasinski, as husband and wife Evelyn and Lee, dance to Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” with a shared pair of earbuds, wordlessly communicating a wistfulness for a time before their trauma. In another, shot in one take, Blunt portrays Evelyn giving birth alone in a bathtub, trying not to make a sound before unleashing an unholy howl. “It was the most intense and intimate we were on the shoot,” Blunt says. “Truly the air changed in the room,” Krasinski adds. “What do you say after someone gives a performance like that? I said, ‘That’s lunch.’ She goes from the depths of that hell to, ‘Yeah, what is for lunch? Is it fajitas?’”

The couple discovered some professional differences in style on set, as in a moment when Krasinski pitched Blunt a new idea for the ending that (spoiler alert) called for her to cock a gun at a monster, rather than leave her daughter, a deaf girl played by Millicent Simmonds, to vanquish it alone. “I discovered I have a very impassive face when somebody is pitching me an idea,” Blunt says. “I basically just stare and nod as I take it in, and he’s like, ‘She hates it.’ ” In the moment, she sort of did hate it, but Krasinski won her over, and that’s the crowd-pleasing ending in the film.

When making career decisions, Krasinski is ruminative — so much so that Blunt called her husband’s agent to warn him about that trait as Krasinski was weighing his post-A Quiet Place options. He has signed on to write A Quiet Place 2, but not yet to direct it. Of the sequel, due in 2020, Krasinski hints that the family he built the story around in the original will be less central this time. (Neither Blunt nor Krasinski will reveal whether her character returns.) “A lot of times a sequel is either a hero returning or a villain returning,” he says. “In our circumstance, the thing that the audience loved most was the world. That’s the cool thing that you could explore on and on.” As a filmmaker, Krasinski clearly values Blunt as a sounding board. “I could hear from every single studio head that that is the best idea they’ve ever heard, and until I hear it from her, I won’t do it,” he says. As an actress, Blunt admits, “I don’t care what anyone thinks.”

On the weekend A Quiet Place opened to an astounding $50 million domestic box office in April, setting a record for an original horror film, Krasinski says he was glad he no longer lives in Los Angeles, where theatrical grosses are regular dinner party conversation. Instead, he got feedback from a garbage collector who drove by as the couple were walking Hazel to school Monday morning. “The guy was riding on the truck, jumped off the truck, grabbed a bag, and as the truck was pulling away threw the bag on and he was like, ‘Saw it on Sunday. Scared the shit out of me,’ and drove away,” Krasinski says.

In the immediate aftermath, as Krasinski was feeling pressure to pick his next job, he traveled to Hawaii, where Blunt was shooting her next film, Disney’s Jungle Cruise, with Dwayne Johnson, their daughters in tow. She encouraged him to wait. “The business is like, ‘You have this moment, so capitalize,’ And you’re like, ‘Right. That makes sense,’ ” he says. “What she reminded me of is that the only reason why A Quiet Place is any good is because it came from every fiber of your being. So don’t let them convince you to go do the next movie.”

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Emily Blunt at TimesTalk with ‘Mary Poppins Returns’
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Emily Blunt at TimesTalk with ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

On December 03, Emily alongside director Rob Marshall and Lin-Manuel Miranda attended the TimesTalk with ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Cast in New York.


Logan Hill, veteran New York Times contributor, hosts an advance screening of the all-new original musical “Mary Poppins Returns,” followed by a conversation with Academy Award-nominated director Rob Marshall and Academy Award-nominated stars Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. In this sequel to the beloved Disney classic, Mary Poppins returns to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss.

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Emily Blunt on motherhood, magic and taking on Mary Poppins for Harper’s Bazaar UK
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Emily Blunt on motherhood, magic and taking on Mary Poppins for Harper’s Bazaar UK

Despite her childhood stutter and shyness, Emily Blunt has shone throughout her career with a series of show-stopping performances. Now she’s reaching her highest heights, taking on the iconic role of Mary Poppins in the sequel to Disney’s classic. The actress speaks to Lydia Slater about motherhood, marriage and the magic of soaring through London skies.

Emily Blunt gazes quizzically at the camera. Perching jauntily on the brim of her black hat, George the robin does exactly the same, apparently unfazed by the flashes and clicks. “Sit! Good lad!” coaxes his handler.

Bazaar cover shoots are always exquisite, but this one seems particularly magical, inspired as it is by the world of Mary Poppins in honour of Blunt’s latest starring role. The weather has been horrible for the past few days, but now the sky is a limpid blue. Assistants on ladders throw artificial blossom that falls like pink snow, a carousel has been temporarily set up in the garden, and we have been joined by a pack of a dozen dogs, ranging from a tiny chihuahua called Manuel to a colossal Great Dane named Parker. To add to the fairy-tale surrealism, just across the street from our location, hundreds more dogs are gathering with their owners for an anti-Brexit ‘Wooferendum’ march, a scene of cheerful chaos itself worthy of Cherry Tree Lane, the setting for the original Mary Poppins stories.

But there is no doubt that George is the star of the show. “Oh my God, the robin!Blunt cries. “I want one! Every girl needs one!

Mary Poppins, of course, has one. In the original film, starring Julie Andrews, the magic nanny makes a confidant of an oversize (American) robin, to which she sings ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’. For Mary Poppins Returns, this robin has been stuffed and added to her hat, a neat device that instantly prepares you for a less saccharine interpretation of the childhood classic. “It’s a dark time, the Thirties, isn’t it?” says Blunt.

A few days after the shoot, she and I meet at the Olympic, a former recording studio turned café and private members’ club in west London, near where her parents are based and where she was brought up. Blunt, who is slender, and blonder than I am expecting, has a face that radiates amusement and intelligence as well as the rose-petal beauty of a Fragonard painting.

She is now dressed in a Dior Tarot sweater, grass-green trousers adorned with large pearls, scarlet Louboutin shoes and a Dior patchwork handbag, an ensemble that strikes me as faintly Poppins-esque in its colourful quirkiness. “Why not, right? I like mixing patterns and styles,” she says.

It wouldn’t be surprising if a little Poppins has rubbed off, for Blunt immersed herself in the world of PL Travers’ bossy heroine, basing her interpretation solely on the books. “Even though I’d seen the film as a child, I decided not to watch it when prepping,” she says. “She was so clear to me from reading that I decided not to be intimidated by the iconic Julie Andrews in the iconic role, and just approached it as I would any other part.

“Because I couldn’t speak fluently as a child, I watched and I’d wonder about people”

Blunt plays Poppins as satisfyingly vain, capricious, enigmatic and occasionally alarming, with a fruitily refined accent that periodically slips into broad Cockney. “She thinks she’s better than everyone – which she is… I think the pace at which she speaks and the way in which she speaks is a way to hold people at arm’s length and not over-sentimentalise moments.

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Her other source of inspiration for the role was Rosalind Russell’s fast-talking journalist in the 1940 screwball comedy His Girl Friday. “She’s like a tornado. I went, ‘That’s it!That’s the pace!‘”

The Mary Poppins sequel is set in the mid-1930s, during the Great Depression. Michael Banks, now grown-up and recently bereaved, is struggling to cope with financial travails and three children. Enter Mary Poppins at the end of a kite, descending through the grey clouds that cover London like a pall. “I was about 50 feet in the air, hanging from a crane, having to look effortless…” says Blunt, appearing a little queasy at the memory.

“But then one of the camera guys came up to me and said [she slides into Estuary], “It was really emotional, seein’ ’er come back.”’ Sitting in the darkened auditorium, I had felt the same thrill of childish hope watching the navy-coated silhouette with its primly turned-out feet descend: would she be in time to bang a few politicians’ heads together and send them to bed until they’d agreed to behave sensibly? Even if not, the film itself is an antidote to current national gloom, as Mary once again catapults the Banks family out of their dismal reality into a world of glorious Technicolor.

There are dancing lamplighters, cartoon elephants, upside-down houses and even Dick Van Dyke, playing the bank owner Mr Dawes Jr, and performing a creditable tap dance on top of a desk. “Yes, he’s 92 years old, but the eyes, and the smile, are seared into your memory,” says Blunt.

“It was terribly moving having him there. Obviously he’d be exhausted by the end of the day, but between takes, he’d put his hand on my arm and sing, “It’s a jolly holiday with Mary”.”

I wonder if Blunt had a Mary Poppins in her own life? She was born into that sort of upper-middle-class English milieu where nannies are commonplace: her grandfather was a major-general, her father is a QC and her uncle is the Eurosceptic MP Crispin Blunt. But she says her maternal grandmother came closest. “She was so magical! She’d make up wonderful stories, and she was a beautiful artist – we have her water-colours and pastels and acrylics all over my mum’s house and all over my apartment. She could whip up something fanciful and fab from a few things in the fridge – she was such a presence in all of our lives.

Blunt was the second of four siblings; she’s especially close to her elder sister Felicity, a literary agent married to Stanley Tucci (Blunt’s co-star in The Devil Wears Prada). “There’s only 17 months between us, so we really grew up together, we have a secret language.” Her brother Sebastian, an actor, and Susannah, now a vet, were born several years later.

She was a quiet, bookish child with a stutter. “Because I couldn’t speak fluently, I watched and listened. I’d be on the Tube, and I’d wonder about people and invent back stories for everyone. There’s always been a natural desire to walk in the shoes of others.” Moreover, only when she was playing a part did she find herself able to speak freely. “It started quite young, because it was the only tool I had to speak properly,” she reflects. “I was that kid, upstairs in my room, trying out stuff in the mirror. But I’d never tell anyone about it. It was always very private.

Consequently, it never occurred to her to dream of being a professional actress; instead, she wanted to read languages at university with the aim of becoming an interpreter. But while studying for her A levels at her co-ed boarding-school, Hurtwood House, she was picked for a school production that then went to the Edinburgh Festival.

One of her fellow actors was a supply teacher, Adrian Rawlins (who played Harry Potter’s father in the films). “It was a rock opera called Bliss and it was incredibly intense,” says Blunt. “There was this horrifying scene where I had to do a makeshift abortion with a coat hanger, while singing a ballad.” She bursts into an infectious guffaw. “Maybe 30 people saw it in the entire run!

Fortunately, one of those 30 was Rawlins’ agent, who immediately signed up Blunt too. “I didn’t have a desire to pursue acting and I wouldn’t have, if I hadn’t fallen into it,” she admits. “Crazy, isn’t it? But that’s probably why I ended up booking jobs, because I didn’t have any nerves. It was very charmed – rather embarrassingly, in fact.

And so it has continued. Blunt’s first professional stage performance, opposite Judi Dench in Peter Hall’s production of The Royal Family, won her a Best Newcomer award, while her film career seems to have been a continuous string of highlights, from her debut in Pawel Pawlikowski’s poignant coming-of-age romance My Summer of Love, which was swiftly followed by a show-stealing turn as a fashion-obsessed personal assistant in The Devil Wears Prada, to acclaimed roles in period drama, science fiction and most recently, the stylish horror film A Quiet Place.

Perhaps it is precisely because her success seems to have come so naturally that she manages to carry it off with élan. She herself credits Dench for setting her the perfect example of good leading-lady behaviour. “She taught me everything about how to be gracious and graceful and not take it seriously; she showed me how I wanted to be for the rest of my career. It just takes one person to toxify everything, and those are the movies you can’t wait to see the back of.Blunt is delightful, un-starry company – today feels like having lunch with a friend – and she seems to have made allies of most of the Hollywood A list.

It’s very rare I meet someone I can’t get along with. I’ve been warned about working with certain people, and then I have a great time with them. I like the different, weird, idiosyncratic personalities that you meet – you get a fresh injection of new people all the time.

All the same, she manages to stay below the radar, no small achievement especially given that in the US (where she now lives) her spouse is as famous as she.

“I rediscovered how much I adore London, the general irreverence and authenticity”

She first met John Krasinski, the actor, director and screenwriter, in 2008, and they married two years later, in an intimate ceremony held in their mutual chum George Clooney’s villa on Lake Como. “John’s known George for a long time, they did Leatherheads together, but I can’t believe he offered us his house, actually. I’m still rather shocked about it. We thought he was joking the first couple of times he said it.

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They have two daughters, Hazel, who is four, and two-year-old Violet, whose births have prompted a move from LA to Brooklyn, which felt closer to Blunt’s own London upbringing. “There’s a multicultural, villagey feel, we don’t have a car, we walk everywhere and people are cool, they leave us alone.

She revels in the ordinariness of domestic life, using her slow cooker and doing the school run. “We are both massively hands-on, and we love it,” she says of parenthood. “I’m so lucky with John. But I was colossally unprepared for how life-changing it is. Like all mothers, I think, “What was I doing with my day before I had children?” It’s so full-on and they need you so much; I do find myself in a perpetual state of distraction.”

For her, A Quiet Place, in which she and her husband starred together (Krasinski also directed) is less a horror film than a homage to parental love, and the sacrifices we are prepared to make for our children. The world has been invaded by spidery aliens that hunt by sound. Total silence is the only way to avoid being eaten – as one of their offspring finds out the hard way.

It’s probably the most painful role I’ve played – the most personal, the hardest to shake off, because it was so close to home.” The couple have a rule that they won’t spend more than a fortnight away from their children; which in practice often means the two girls accompany their parents on set.

Today, the whole family is in London because Krasinski is filming the TV drama Jack Ryan here; and they all spent almost a year living in Richmond for Mary Poppins Returns.

I rediscovered how much I adore it,” she says of her native city. “I love the attitude here, the general irreverence and authenticity. I love being back and seeing my friends and going to all the familiar places. When you grow up, it sometimes feels that version of yourself is slipping through your fingers. To rediscover something is really special.

It’s a sentiment that’s sure to be echoed by any fan of the original film who goes to see this sequel, me included. For Emily Blunt’s Poppins is practically perfect in every way; just the tonic to lift our spirits, despite the bluster, Brexit and bad weather.

Mary Poppins Returns’ is released in cinemas on 21 December. The January issue of Harper’s Bazaar is on newsstands from 4 December.

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Emily Blunt for Vogue Magazine!
Filed in Articles Gallery Update: Interviews Mary Poppins Returns Movies News & Updates Photoshoots

Emily Blunt for Vogue Magazine!

After confirmation of her cover for the magazine, we finally have our first look at Emily Blunt’s Vogue US shoot for the December issue. Co-star Lin-Manuel Miranda also features in the editorial, which shows both in character for their upcoming project  Mary Poppins Returns.

PRECISELY WHAT IS MARY POPPINS? We know her to be a humanoid who does not age, is capable of tele­kinesis, is not constricted by the ordinary bounds of time, space, and gravity, and flies through the air with the aid of an umbrella, albeit in upright, duck-footed fashion. She is stern, fastidious, and speaks with a posh accent, but enjoys vaguely romantic relationships with common laborers. She is beloved by children and former children the world over, yet is, when contemplated at an intellectual distance, utterly unknowable, even bizarre.

She’s a superhero,” says Emily Blunt without hesitation. “You could say she’s some sort of angel. She recognizes what people need, and she gives it to them, yet they discover something about themselves in the process.” With a rather Mary Poppins–like firmness, Blunt concludes, “I don’t think she concerns herself with what she is. There’s nobody else like her—which she quite likes.”

In ripped vintage blue jeans and a ruffled black velvet blouse by Frame, her hair blonde, Blunt does not bear much physical resemblance to Mary Poppins when I meet with her in early autumn, at a loft in lower Manhattan that she and her husband, the actor and director John Krasinski, use as an office. But in her rapid yet thoughtful response to my question, Blunt reveals how much consideration she has given to her starring role in next month’s Mary Poppins Returns.

And no wonder: Blunt has her work cut out for her. From the moment in the film when the character hovers into view—“As I live and breathe!” says an awed Lin-Manuel Miranda, playing Mary’s lamplighter friend Jack, admiring the supernormal caregiver’s emergence from the parting clouds—there has to be instant buy-in, not a moment of disbelief. The person portraying Mary Poppins in 2018 has to be—oh, what was that phrase on the magic tape measure?—practically perfect in every way.

This is because, for most of us, Mary Poppins has always been Julie Andrews, who made her screen debut in the 1964 original, winning an Oscar in the process. That film remains a canonical piece of American popular art, visually extravagant and full of unforgettable songs by the brothers Richard and Robert Sherman (“A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds [Tuppence a Bag],” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”). It’s a hell of a legacy to contend with—and Blunt knew that she was in for something big when she received a phone call of an uncommonly “ceremonious nature,” as she puts it, from Rob Marshall, the sequel’s director, in the summer of 2015. The two had worked together a couple of years earlier on Into the Woods, Marshall’s film adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim–James Lapine stage musical, and had developed an easy rapport.

This time, Blunt felt a different energy coming from Marshall, as if he were building up to a marriage proposal. Which he sort of was. After a long preamble in which he explained that he and John DeLuca, his partner in both his personal and professional lives, were closing in on an opportunity to work on a dream project—all the while withholding what the project was—Marshall finally let drop what he was talking about: another Mary Poppins. The original was the first film Marshall ever saw, with his parents at a theater in downtown Pittsburgh, when he was four years old. For the better part of his adult life, he had harbored a fantasy of making a sequel to it.

Rob basically said, ‘If you don’t want to do this with us, we are going to find something else, because we won’t do it if you don’t want to,’ ” Blunt says.

For me, there was no one else but Emily,” Marshall confirms. “There wasn’t even a possible other choice. She’s rare in this world because she’s incredibly warm and funny, and has a great deal of vulnerability as well. And at the same time, she’s British and can sing and dance.

Blunt agreed on the spot. Only later did she consider the risks involved. Actually, there was a bit of a prompt for this: She told a friend about the pending project, and the friend remarked, “Oof, you’ve got balls of steel!

And then I remember a feeling of slight panic creeping in,Blunt says.

AND WHAT OF MIRANDA, for whom Mary Poppins Returns would be his first major undertaking after departing the Broadway cast of his own Hamilton, the show that seismologically changed his life? And whose new character, Jack the lamplighter—or leerie, to use the Anglo-Scottish term preferred in the film—bears the weight of being both a protégé and heir to Dick Van Dyke’s beloved, chim-chimneying Bert?

Were you leery of playing a leerie?” I ask Miranda in a Brooklyn café.

I was not leery of playing a leerie, nor was I weary of playing a leerie. It was eerieto play a leerie,” Miranda replies.

But did it get teary, playing a leerie?

It did,” Miranda says. “There are dreams you have when you’re a kid, and then there’s the notion that Mary Poppins would have a sequel someday and you could somehow possibly be in it. And if I had said that this was a dream of mine, you’d have been like, ‘What are you on?

I have a nod to the Sherman brothers in Hamilton, actually,” Miranda goes on. “In King George’s song, there’s a moment where he sings ‘Oceans rise, empires fall,’ and that’s a very Shermanesque move, to have the note go down on rise and up on fall—just like how the note goes up on the down in. . . .” He sings the line “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Miranda began his Poppins prep by watching the ’64 movie for the first time since his boyhood. “It’s so timeless and weirdly resonant,” he says. “I mean, one of the first numbers is ‘Sister Suffragette,’ a men-are-stupid, voting-rights-for-women song”—sung by Glynis Johns as Mrs. Banks, the mother of the children to whom Mary Poppins ministers—“so that’s fantastic. And then the visual and musical sequences are as magical as anything you’d see in a movie today.

Blunt took a different tack. Banishing her self-doubt, she made the executive decision not to rewatch the ’64 film, which she, too, had last seen in childhood. “I knew that if I watched Julie Andrews’s version, maybe I would take the edge off of what my instincts were telling me to do,Blunt says. “Also, I didn’t want to be completely intimidated by the brilliance of her voice.

Before Into the Woods, Blunt had done little in the way of professional singing, though she was not unmusical growing up. She played the cello as a child, and at Hurtwood House, the boarding school that she attended in her teens in England, she starred as Adelaide in a production of Guys and Dolls and performed in a four-girl vocal group. “We’d sing things like TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’—crushed it,” she says.

Still, there was some collective nervousness to be overcome. The film’s composers, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (HairspraySmash), grappled with how “certifiably insane” it was to try to measure up to the Sherman brothers’ work. “And then, on top of that,” Shaiman says, “what could be more wonderfully torturous than ‘Let’s write songs for Lin-Manuel Miranda’?

Blunt, Miranda, Shaiman, and Wittman all happen to be based in New York, and so, in the spring of 2016, the four regularly convened in a Chelsea studio. “We got to tailor the songs for Emily and Lin, make them bespoke,” Wittman says. For instance: The songwriters came up with a comic duet titled “A Cover Is Not the Book” that gives Miranda an extended moment to spit rhymes in the breakneck style for which he is known—“For it’s not so cut and dried/Well, unless it’s Dr. Jekyll/Then you better hide, petrified!”—albeit not, thankfully, in the form of an anachronistic rap. Among the conventions of the British music-hall genre is the patter song, a Gilbert and Sullivan–style demonstration of vocal dexterity, “so we felt we could deliver that kind of moment for Lin without compromising the style of the movie, or its time and the place,” Shaiman says.

For Blunt, these sessions served a therapeutic purpose. She was in the process of finishing up The Girl on the Train, in which she played a depressive voyeur, and was also heavily pregnant with the second of her two daughters with Krasinski, Violet, who is now two. (Their older girl, Hazel, is four.) “It was medicinal, singing these happy Mary Poppins songs after what I’d been through every day,” she says. “Poor Violet; she’d been rattling around inside me while I played this alcoholic train wreck. But then I think she benefited from all the singing.

SIX WEEKS AFTER VIOLET’S BIRTH, Marshall arranged for Blunt and Miranda to workshop the new songs for a week opposite trained Broadway actor-singers in a mid-Manhattan rehearsal space—with Blunt ducking out every so often to pump milk. (“Mary Pump–ins; that’s what I felt like,” she says. “It was ridiculous.”) Next up was three months of rehearsals in England before filming would begin. Blunt, who moved her whole family to London for the shoot, told Marshall she needed some time off. “I said, ‘You’ve got to give me four or five months before I’m ready to crack on with the rehearsals, for the baby.’ ”

The downtime allowed Blunt to immerse herself in both films’ original source material, the eight children’s books by P. L. Travers, the series’ Australian-born, London-based author (who was so notoriously protective of her literary creation that Disney devoted an entire feature film, 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks, to the difficulties the studio had in securing Travers’s blessing to make the original picture). In the books, the title character is severe and forbidding, with some antiheroic traits, such as overweening vanity (“Mary Poppins was very vain and tried to look her best. Indeed, she was quite sure that she never looked anything else”) and a steadfast refusal to discuss her inner life (“Mary Poppins never told anybody anything”).

No surprise then, that the Mary Poppins that emerged from Blunt’s preparations is more tart, clipped, and expressly comic than Andrews’s—“closer to Dorothy Parker, or Katharine Hepburn in those thirties screwball movies, with a bit of Gene Wilder’s Wonka in there,” as Miranda puts it. Blunt says she drew inspiration from Rosalind Russell’s rat-a-tat speech cadences as the bulldog reporter Hildy Johnson in Howard Hawks’s screwball masterwork, His Girl Friday, and from the peculiar, frozen-in-the-thirties locutions of Princess Margaret, which she describes as “incredibly posh and quite strange, yet very light and well placed.”

The thirties, it so happens, were when the first two Poppins books were published, and there are glancing allusions within them to the financial hardships of “the Great Slump,” as the Depression was known in Britain. Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, home to the Banks family, is the only house on the street “that is rather dilapidated and needs a coat of paint.” Walt Disney chose to transpose the first film’s action to the more manifestly merrie Edwardian era, circa 1910. But Marshall and the new film’s screenwriter, David Magee, decided to stay true to the author’s 1930s setting.

Their big departure was to leap ahead into the next generation. Jane and Michael Banks, played with tender sincerity and maximum adorableness by the moppet actors Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber in 1964, are now played by Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw. While Jane retains her spark, picking up her mother’s activist mantle (though her cause is organized labor), Michael is in the dumps. He is the father of three little Bankses, Annabel, John, and Georgie, but he is a recent widower, an unfulfilled bank employee, a creatively stunted artist, and a man so hopeless with finances that the very bank where both he and his father have worked is now threatening to repossess Number Seventeen—a suite of unfortunate circumstances that serves as the magical-nanny equivalent of a Bat-Signal.

All that said, what Marshall and Magee have not done is go down the well-trod path of the dark, dystopian franchise reboot; this is not Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Nanny. If anything, Mary Poppins Returns is remarkably faithful to the spirit of its predecessor. “The sequel sort of rhymes with the original,” says Miranda.

There is, once again, a bravura animated sequence, executed in the vintage hand-drawn Disney style, for which Marshall coaxed some veteran animators out of retirement. There are vibrant costumes, this time by Sandy Powell, that stand out against the London gray: caped, fitted overcoats in red and blue for Mary; knits in bright lime and Kelly green for Jane and Michael; bankers’ suits in irregular chalk stripes for Colin Firth (the film’s villain, devilishly cunning and wearing a Snidely Whiplash mustache) and his flunkies.

There is a visit by Mary Poppins and the children to a daffy relative of Mary’s, though this time it’s not Ed Wynn as Uncle Albert, whose levity literally made him levitate, but Meryl Streep as Cousin Topsy, done up in carrot-colored hair and chartreuse eye shadow, madly gallivanting about her fix-it shop, sometimes while upside down. There is—!!!—a hoofing 92-year-old Dick Van Dyke, echoing not his role as Bert but his other role, as the elderly banker Mr. Dawes. And Shaiman and Wittman have provided Miranda with his own “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” a gambol across London’s rooftops called “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.”

BY THE TIME filming began in London, in February of last year, the world was suddenly quite different from the one in which the plans for Mary Poppins Returns had been excitedly hatched. The unsettling outcomes of the Brexit referendum and the 2016 U.S. presidential election placed the making of the movie in a new perspective for its creators.

It took on a new poignancy because of how volatile the times felt,Blunt says. “I remember Meryl commenting on that, saying that coming in to work took on much more depth once things really started becoming more incendiary out there.

I couldn’t believe that, given all that was going on, this is what we got to put into the world,” says Miranda. “It’s so clichéd, but we got to make this enormous present, this beautiful, uplifting, joyous family movie that makes you cry, that made even my stone-hearted-scientist wife cry when she saw an early rough cut of it. I feel really grateful that that’s what we spent our year doing.

LATE IN THE FILM, a character utters the words “I never thought I’d feel this much joy and wonder ever again”—about as unabashed a statement of a sequel’s intent as you’re ever likely to come across. To Marshall, I raise the question of whether such a sentiment will resonate with kids growing up in times like these—and whether they will be as responsive to Mary Poppins Returns as 1964 kids were to its forebear.

“It’s more important than ever that this film is out now,” he says emphatically. “Because kids are more cynical, and people are more cynical.” For the director, the lessons imparted by the Mary Poppins books and now the two movies amount to something resembling a wellness regimen, and one that bears propagating. “To be able to understand that the only way to get through life is to find, deep inside, that childlike wonder—I mean, that’s how I live,” Marshall says. “Without that, I would find the world an incredibly dark place. And I don’t feel old-fashioned saying that. To me, it’s a life choice.

With the seal now unbroken, and the sacrosanctity of the ’64 film unviolated by its sequel, could this be the start of more Poppins screen adventures? The source material is not unlike that which fuels the James Bond movie franchise: a stack of lively books by an ornery British author concerning an iconic British character who neither grows old nor dies. So would the applicable parties be amenable to a return after Mary Poppins Returns?

Marshall, for now, is eager just to get the film out. “But I do know,” he adds, “that there’s a lot of material there and it’s very rich with all kinds of adventures and ideas. It’s certainly ripe for the picking.”

Blunt doesn’t hedge for a moment. “Oh, I would pay Rob to do it again with me. Yeah, I would. Definitely,” she says. “More stories left to tell.” There always are for superheroes.


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