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December 2018

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Page 13 of 43 12 POST DECEMBER 2018 DIRECTOR'S CHAIR ob Marshall was probably des- tined to direct the new Mary Poppins film, a sequel to the 1964 Disney classic. After all, the former dancer and choreographer's name has virtually become synonymous with the movie musical, and over the last two decades he's single-handedly done more than anyone else to revive the long mori- bund genre, which was once the crown jewel of Hollywood's Golden Days. He made his feature directorial debut in 2002 with Chicago, which won the Best Picture Oscar and a Best Director nomination, and since then has brought two other hit Broadway musicals to the big screen, each with large ensembles of high profile stars — Nine and Into the Woods. For Mary Poppins Returns, he took on an even bigger challenge — creating an all-original musical from scratch that combines live action and animation, big production numbers, dancing and sing- ing, practical and stage locations, and a ton of VFX. The film stars Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins, supported by a huge cast that includes Lin-Manuel Miranda and Meryl Streep (who both know a thing or two about musicals), Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Colin Firth, the legend- ary Dick Van Dyke, who starred in the original film, and Angela Lansbury (who also knows a thing or two about musi- cals). Marshall also assembled a stellar team behind the cameras that included his longtime Academy Award-winning cinematographer Dion Beebe, editor Wyatt Smith, and co-writers John DeLuca and David Magee. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Marshall, whose credits include Memoirs of a Geisha and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, talked about making the film, and everyone's need of a little Mary Poppins in their lives. How nervous were you taking on this iconic, much-beloved project? "Incredibly nervous, to be honest. But I was also so excited as I loved the orig- inal film so much and it was so deep inside me. It was the first film I ever remember seeing and I felt a great deal of responsibility about it. But I knew they'd do this film eventually, and I felt, if that's the case, I'd like to be the one doing it, as I'd approach it with great care and great passion and great atten- tion to detail — all of that." This has been called 'a remake,' but that must be very irritating as it's definitely not. (Laughs) "You're right, it is irritating. It's a sequel, not a remake. People forget that P.L. Travers actually wrote eight books, so there's a wealth of material there, though it's mostly adventures, and none of the books have any real narrative at all. But I felt there was a lot to work from, and I just felt it was time to do it." What sort of film did you set out to make? "I wanted to create a completely new, original Mary Poppins story, but one that really honors and respects the original. And because of the times we live in, I wanted to create something uplifting and inspiring, to send out a message of hope, joy, wonder and magic — some- thing life-affirming, I guess. And that was deeply personal to me and why I was so excited about the idea of returning to this wonderful world again, and making this companion piece to the original." What were the main technical challenges in pulling it all together? "I've done some big, complex films and shows, but this was easily the most chal- lenging thing I've ever done, because it's this big mix of live action and animation, with big production numbers full of ROB MARSHALL ON DISNEY'S MARY POPPINS RETURNS BY IAIN BLAIR CREATING A SEQUEL WHILE PAYING HOMAGE TO AN ICONIC FILM R Rob Marshall on-set with Emily Blunt.

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