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Mary Poppins Returns producer answers all of your burning questions

It’s been 54 years since Mary Poppins came into the world in movie form. And now, five decades on, we’re getting a second helping in the form of Mary Poppins Returns — a sequel to the beloved classic. 

Of course, we have many burning questions about this hotly anticipated film. But fear not: Mashable spoke to the film’s producer Marc Platt during a set visit to Shepperton Studios, near London. Here’s everything you need to know about the new Mary Poppins movie. 

Is Mary Poppins Returns based on a book? 

Marc Platt: We went right to the source. We went to P.L. Travers. And, it turns out that P.L. Travers wrote eight books, and the original film really capitalises on only one of the books. And what we found in her books was really a treasure trove of new characters and episodes. We realised that we could bring the sequel our own version and our own story. An original story of Mary Poppins all these years later in a very exciting way, but that we could draw upon the original source, P.L. Travers.

When is the sequel set? 

MP: She wrote her books in 1934 and 1935. Our film, Mary Poppins Returns, is set in those years, which is the Depression Era in England. So, it takes place about 25 years after the original film took place. We went after David Magee who was an Academy Award winning screenwriter — he also notably wrote Life of Pi, Finding Neverland —  to work with us on the screenplay. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack.

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack.

What is the plot? 

MP: Our story is, as I said, set in the 1930s. Michael Banks — the young boy from the original film — is now a father of a family and he’s living in Cherry Tree Lane in the house and he has children. There’s been a loss in the family, and so there’s a need for Mary Poppins to come back into their world and to the world of these new children, and to the world of Michael Banks and his sister Jane, to see if she can bring joy back into their lives. 

How did they decide who to cast as the new Mary Poppins? 

MP: When it came to casting, really, we could only think of one person to step into the shoes and to own the role of Mary Poppins and that was Emily Blunt, an actress who we’ve worked with on Into the Woods and most recently we did Girl on the Train with her. 

She’s not only a consummate actress, who possesses a tremendous craft as an actress, she sings beautifully. By the way, she dances magnificently, you’ll see in the film, which was a big surprise. But she’s also instantly authentic as the role of Mary Poppins. She’s very related to it, she grew up in this world. And she has a way, and has found a way, to make the character her own. It’s her own interpretation. She’s quite sublime in the role. Hopefully we’ll have a few moments to chat with her a bit later. 

Mary Poppins is 25 years older in the film. Why hasn’t she aged? 

MP: Mary’s a character who lives outside time. She’s magic. And so she is the one character who actually doesn’t age. So she is as ever as we know her and as she will be forever, that character.

What does Lin-Manuel Miranda’s character do? 

MP: Jack in our film is an adult protégé of the original character Burt. But he’s not a chimney sweep, he’s a leerie. Back in the day the leeries were those who rode around on bicycles with ladders and climbed up to the lamp posts and lit the street lamps on the streets of London, and then doused them in the morning when the dawn would rise.

To play that role we got the exciting performer, most notable from Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Wonderful song and dance man, wonderful actor, which is what he’s doing in this film. And he inhabits the role of Jack and creates a wholly original character, playing this leerie. And he gets to do all the things that you want to see Lin do. He gets to be charismatic. He gets to bring light into the world. He sings. He dances. And, believe it or not, 1934 music hall style he even gets to do a little rap. It’s quite extraordinary.

Who else is in the film?

MP: Our other cast members include: Colin Firth, who plays the head of a bank, the antagonist in the piece. The brilliant Ben Whishaw — you might know him in James Bond movies — plays Michael Banks grown up. Brilliant actor, I might add. Emily Mortimer plays his sister. Meryl Streep joins us again and she plays a relative of Mary Poppins, a distant cousin. [She] kind of lives in an upside down world. 

And we also have an appearance by Angela Lansbury, who plays an original character from the P.L. Travers books, which we’re very excited about. 

Who is Dick Van Dyke playing?

MP: Also joining us for the film, from the original, is Dick Van Dyke, who plays a similar character to the original.  You know, he played two characters in the original film. He played Burt and he played the old banker, Mr. Dawes. 

Well, in this film he actually plays that old Mr. Dawes’s son, who now is the same age as Mr. Dawes. So he looks kind of the same as in the original film, he just doesn’t have to wear much make-up. But it was a quite an exciting moment for all of us when he did his couple days of shooting. His spirit, his generosity, his joie de vivre was just ever present, and so he created a wonderful role.

Mary Poppins Returns will hit cinemas in the UK on December 21, 2018, and in the U.S. on December 19, 2018.

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