When we first meet Colin Farrell’s character in John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks he seems like he is the truly ideal father figure, playing the dad of a young P.L. Travers (who, as an adult, is played by Emma Thompson). He loves his children more than anything in the universe, sees the everyday as an adventure and believes the world is meant to be explored. He’s a Disney character if there ever was one. But as the film’s story progresses we slowly begin to realize that perhaps he is not the man who we all think he is and want him to be. It’s that altering of the audience’s perception that is at the heart of the Irish actor’s performance.
Last month I had the pleasure of sitting down with the star one-on-one at a press event for Saving Mr. Banks, and in our conversation we touched on multiple aspects of his impressive performance. Read on to find out more!
This has to be kind of a strange role for you, because your part of the story is completely separate from the P.L. Travers /Walt Disney’s side of the plot. When you were filming your scenes did it feel like you were in a completely different movie?
Very much, yeah, and our movie felt like it was kind of had its own entirety. It was a three act play, and we shot it in chronological order.
I was actually going to ask about that!
We did. They did us a massive solid. They weren’t doing it as a favor to us of course. It just worked out that they, we went to Big Sky Ranch, which is about an hour and half north of here and they found this beautiful bluff, this beautiful patch of land which had rolling scorched earth hills and we built a period house. It was so idyllic and it was just us. It was myself and Ruth Wilson and Annie Buckley, and the two kids, and the rest of the crew, which felt a lot more intimate than it may have been. White horse, six chickens, and we told this play that took place in this pastoral paradise and we felt very isolated from the modern world. It was really, really cool. So, it did feel like a complete film within the film.
When you are approaching scripts, do you look at them kind of from the macro perspective, looking at the entire story, or do you more focus on your specific character?
I mean there’s no point in doing a character that’s interesting or that excites you if it’s in something that you don’t believe in, know what I mean? But sometimes it is worth your while to do a character that you might not think is the most interesting in something that you think is genius. The most important thing, I think, is you know, you best serve self by serving the story, not best serving self by serving self in a way, just looking after your own character. So, yeah, six in one, half dozen in the other.
So, where did you kind of the P.L. Travers/Walt Disney side of the story in this one affect how you approached your performance?
It didn’t really at all.
No, it’s didn’t really at all. I really felt like our storyline was exclusive of everything else that was happening, and I don’t know if the inversion of that would be true. I don’t know if the Walt Disney/P.L. Travers part of the story was affected at all by, in reading the script, by what happened between Travers and her mother, but it really felt like it existed in its own time and place, which is did of course and I felt like they could have just given me our pages and we all would have done the same performances.