Mary Poppins is a big character to fill, and Emily Blunt was prepared for the job. From the moment the project got the green light, Rob Marshall had his eyes set on Emily Blunt to play the practically perfect nanny.
Emily Blunt was an absolute joy to interview. She is super sweet, and after seeing her a handful of times, I think we are totally BFF’s.
Listen to the full interview with Emily Blunt here.
*The written interview below has been edited from its original format.
Emily walked in wearing a stunning color blocking dress. So naturally, we started with the amazing costumes designed by the Academy Award-winning Sandy Powell.
What was your favorite costume and why?
Emily Blunt – I have to say I really loved the red suit with the skirt that kind of flowed out when I danced with 30 lamplighters. I remember Rob Marshall really wanted like a Ginger Rogers type of look to that and it’s not actually accurate for the time period to have a skirt that opened up like that. So that’s where Sandy Powell, the great Sandy Powell created all those very tight pleats so that it looked very chic and sort of straight-lined. And then when I turned, the whole skirt kind of opened up and she’s just so exciting to work with, Sandy Powell.
Was that also your favorite scene in the film or did you have a different one?
EB – “God, there were so many that I loved. I mean, I love the poignancy of the ballad that I sing to the kids because it’s sort of her revealing her most tender side. She’s such a weird, eccentric lady, and she’s stern and shows great humanity. She shows great depth because she comes into their lives to heal and to bring order to chaos and reintroduce the idea of Magic, but she doesn’t let you know that so it’s sort of exciting to play someone who’s in command of the environment and yet pretends kind of not to be.
And expects nothing in return. So I would say that the scene with the kids was really moving. And then I loved that big, “The Cover is Not the Book” number, with Lin, it was like wild. That was really fun.”
What was the moment where you were like “holy smokes I’m Mary Poppins?”
EB – “I would say the arrival scene where I am dangling 60 feet from a crane and Rob Marshall played the amazing orchestral music from the speakers, like blared it from the speakers so that it was very transporting and really exciting, but I was kind of terrified at that. I thought I was alright with heights and then I was up there and like ‘I’m not.’
But I think that was the moment because I had the coat, the hat, the umbrella, the feet, the kite. It was one of the only moments I allowed myself cause and I kind of had to block out the fear of how iconic she was in taking this on for most of the shoot. And then I remember I landed and we did the scene, and one of the crew guys came up to me and he goes, ‘I’ve got to say I got really emotional watching that!’
It’s like ‘she’s back.’ And we’ve waited 54 years and people have told me that, people who, some of the most cynical people I know were like, ‘I cried when she came and I didn’t realize how much I wanted her to come back until I saw her, saw your feet coming out of the clouds.’ It was so cool.”
Emily Blunt shares what her kids think about her being Mary Poppins
Describe the impact of Mary Poppins for you being a Mother.
EB – “I feel my whole household is full of imagination and childlike wonder cause my kids are so young and so I do feel like I’ve sort of rediscovered life through their eyes really. Hazel is a bit disappointed that there aren’t dolphins in her bathtub, so I feel like in a way, Mary Poppins has kind of shot me in the foot. I know I’m only going to be less than. All of their friends are going to be like, ‘your Mum’s Mary Poppins, that’s so cool,’ and my own kids would be like, ‘she is so not Mary Poppins!'”
Emily Blunt on becoming Mary Poppins
What was your biggest challenge?
EB – “The dancing was a bit daunting because I’d never done those sort of big show-stopping Hollywood numbers. The great Rob Marshall and he is an incredible choreographer as well as incredible Director. So we were in safe hands. I feel like Lin Manuel and I were sort of on par with dancing abilities. If I had been dancing with Justin Timberlake, that would have been really embarrassing.
But on a deeper note, I think the initial idea of taking her on because she is so iconic and Julie Andrews is so iconic and the character has this searing imprint on people’s lives. It’s often the first movie that anyone ever saw. I needed to get over myself I think and sort of approach her as I would any other role and allow everyone’s sort of gasping reaction when I said I was gonna take on Mary Poppins. So I think it was the initial overcoming of that and then I just completely fell in love with her. I was just so mad about her by the end. I just loved it.”
It’s your version of Mary Poppins, how do you feel about that?
EB – “Well I think she’s much closer to how she is in the book. That’s how I played her. And in the book, she’s incredibly rude and vain and funny and enigmatic and weird. She’s sort of bizarre and layered.
I said to Rob Marshall, I said the sternness, I really want all the sternness and this sort of imperious quality to her to drop when she goes into these fantasies. She should be an adrenaline junkie and that sort of duality of the character.
When she goes into these adventures, you’ve got to see her childlike wonder and her thrill and enjoyment of it. And then when it’s over, she pretends none of it happened and she had nothing to do with it. So it’s so cool playing someone with that duality to them.”
Emily Blunt on what it was like working with Dick Van Dyke
EB – “Oh My God. It was so overwhelming I have to say because he’s so sprightly and cool, just what a gorgeous human and he walked on set and he just said, ‘I feel the same spirit here that was there on the first movie,’ and of course, we all wanted to cry. And we’d sit around him and just want him to tell us stories about the original and he sang “Jolly Holiday” to me. I was just like that’s it, I could die now. I could die and be happy. It’s just lights out, awesome moment.
And I think probably my other moment of Oh My God, I’m playing Mary Poppins was in the scene with him where he has that beautiful monologue that was so gorgeous to Michael Banks and we’re all crowded around him and the music starts, and he finishes the monologue and in the scene, he crosses his arms and he looks up at me like that. And I just remember looking at those iconic blue eyes and I was like ‘Wow,’ that was so wild.”
Make sure to check out the adorable Mary Poppins Returns Pop Funkos from Entertainment Earth. I brought home the animated scene one because it is my favorite in the whole movie.
Get the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack!
Mary Poppins Returns is in theaters December 19!