The 57th BFI London Film Festival is going all in on Tom Hanks this year, as he stars in both the opening night film “Captain Phillips” and the closing nighter on October 20, Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks.” The European premiere is at the Odeon Leicester Square; the world premiere of the film has yet to be announced. This battle of the Titans stars Hanks as studio mogul Walt Disney, struggling to wrest control of the movie version of “Mary Poppins” from dyspeptic London-based author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), who hated animation and wasn’t even invited to the premiere. She showed up anyway, and wound up a very wealthy woman.
Based on the 2002 Australian documentary “The Shadow of Mary Poppins” and financed by Disney, this UK/Australian/US co-production is directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”) and is expected to be a factor this year’s Oscar race. Early word has two-time Oscar-winning writer-actress Thompson as a strong Best Actress contender.
The story flashes back to Travers’ childhood in Australia with her beloved father (Colin Farrell), a failed banker, and unhappy mother (Ruth Wilson). Paul Giamatti and Jason Schwartzman co-star. Travers’ past unlocks the key to the film, as Disney figures out that this semi-autobiographical nanny who flies into 17 Cherry Tree Lane comes to save the banker father of Jane and Michael Banks.
After developing the film, Australia’s Essential Media and Entertainment brought the script by Sue Smith to Britain’s Ruby Film (“Jane Eyre,” “Elizabeth”), whose Alison Owen enthusiastically took it on, adding co-writer Kelly Marcel (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) to the mix. BBC Films also came on board.
Hancock, Thompson and Hanks are all expected to attend the Closing Night Gala on October 20. The festival opens stateside on December 20.
“’Saving Mr. Banks’ is very much about British manners versus American values, as Pamela Travers and Walt Disney battle over the rights to Mary Poppins,” says producer Alison Owen. “So it feels absolutely fitting that the LFF Closing Night should be our European Premiere, and we feel very honoured. We hope Pamela Travers would approve wholeheartedly. We filmed the London sequences in the street where Pamela lived, and London was both the start of the journey for Mary Poppins and for our movie, so we feel like we’re beginning in the right place.”
Clare Stewart, BFI Head of Exhibition and Festival Director calls the film “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”