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Emily Blunt discusses her upcoming movie, ‘Mary Poppins’

Updated December 16, 2018 - 3:38 pm

To quote a certain umbrella-riding nanny from beyond: “Anything can happen if you let it.”

Who knew Mary Poppins was a self-help guru for 2018? She certainly pushed actress Emily Blunt in the right direction when she was offered the legendary role made famous by Julie Andrews. “I was filled with an instantaneous yes but also some trepidation, which was all happening simultaneously in the moment because she is so iconic,” Blunt said.

“She left such a big imprint on my life and people hold this character so close to their hearts,” added the 35-year-old British actress, who is married to actor/director John Krasinski and best-known for her roles in “The Devil Wears Prada” and “A Quiet Place.” “My big question was: How do I create my version of Mary Poppins?”

Audiences will find out when “Mary Poppins Returns” opens on Wednesday.

Review-Journal: What is a great Sunday in the Blunt/Krasinski household?

Emily Blunt: It’s all about our daughters, Violet (2) and Hazel (4). A great Sunday means we’re in our pajamas and just playing for a while. Of course, these days, my daughter Hazel says, “Mummy, you be Mary Poppins.” We’ll go the playground, too, which is so much fun. We want our children to be interested in life, which means we’re going out there to have adventures.

What is it like having Mum as Mary Poppins?

It’s so funny because I remember as a kid being traumatized by the fact that Mary Poppins goes away at the end. I just showed my 4-year-old my version of Mary Poppins, which was a bit scary because she’s a die-hard Julie Andrews fan. I thought, “Will she hate my version?” She loved it but was really nervous (as we were) driving to the film and kept asking, “Are you going to have to leave the children?” We got to that point in the movie and my daughter is going, “No, no, no!” Traumatized like me!

What was it like to get the call for this film?

My agent called first and said, “Something big is coming down that’s perfect.” Then I got a voicemail from director Rob Marshall. He has this amazing energy and I felt it through his message. He said, “I need to talk to you.” I kept thinking, “Oh, my God. What is this project?” When he finally said Mary Poppins, I swear the energy in the room changed. It was such an extraordinary moment for me.

You did not watch the Julie Andrews version again before filming?

No. No one wants to see me do some cheap impersonation of Julie. (Her) Mary Poppins should be preserved and treasured for all time. But I wanted to take a big swing at this and make it my version, and I knew I was in safe hands with Rob. That’s why even though I saw the movie as a child, I didn’t watch the original so close to shooting our version. Julie is so beautiful and extraordinary that maybe I might have tried to bring in what she did or let it bleed into what I wanted to do. I decided that if I’m going to do this, I will go on my gut instincts and read the books again. I was going to carve out a new space for myself.

Did you watch the original after filming?

After we wrapped, I showed it to my daughter and kept saying, “Oh, my God. Julie is so amazing.”

What is the appeal of Mary Poppins?

She’s complicated and nuanced — how stern, how rude at times and even vain, but funny. Deep down, there is this childlike wonder in her that she infused into these children’s lives. There’s this generosity of spirit to fix and heal. She’s also an adrenaline junkie. She loves these adventures. She was such a delicious character to play. I loved her.

And she’s selfless.

She’s the most empathetic character I’ve ever played. She comes in, recognizes what you need and gives it to you. And she takes no credit. It’s completely about you.

What was it like to make your flying entrance?

I was way up in the air on wires and terrified. It’s one shot with me flying all the way down, ending in a close-up. I was like, “I’ll do it!” But then later, I looked at the ground and Lin Manuel (Miranda) looked like an ant. We had the music playing, and after I did the flying scene four times, I saw one of the grips wiping his eyes. He said, “I got really emotional watching that because this was my favorite movie as a child.” I said, “I completely understand.”

There’s a beautiful song called “The Place Where Lost Things Go.” Why is this song touching people so deeply?

I was incredibly moved by the song and found it impossible to get through it the first few times. It was so emotional for me because I kept thinking of my own children. Then I thought about the children in the film and their sense of loss. In the movie, these children are trying to hold their father together after something so agonizing, which is losing their mother. They’re so young and have lost so much. Oh, my God, I’m going to cry now!

What is the message here?

It’s about walking through loss and remembering that nothing is gone forever. So beautiful. So, so hopeful.

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