John Lee Hancock Saving Mr. Banks

You had access to a lot of information for the P.L. Travers/Walt Disney side of the story, but the story of Travers’ childhood in Australia, that’s not as well known about. When you were approaching that half of the story, did you feel you had a bit more freedom?

Yeah, you do, because I think the idea behind it, I mean, we know that these things happened. The father is an alcoholic and died and the mother tried to kill herself in the river and on and on and on. We have all of these basic facts. They moved from Maryborough to Allora and Aunt Ellie, when you read about her, she does seem like, well that’s the origin story for Mary Poppins, so that’s kind of loosely there, but the idea for this, that Kelly wrote and that we continued to talk about was that P.L. Travers, you want to get to a place where she’s not necessarily a reliable narrator, because the Sherman brother’s lyrics are entering her father’s mouth, and so it’s very much about not too different planes of 1906 and 1961 going along like that, but kind of strands of that DNA just crossing over and over again and hopefully adding up to more than the sum of their parts. So, you know, and then it allows you to have a little more stylized version of childhood memories, because mine certainly are. You remember an uncle which you swear was 6’ 7" and then you meet him and he’s 5’9" and you go, that’s not what I remember.

That’s the emotional truth.

It is, and also I love the idea and it saddens me in a great way from a character standpoint that she, as a child, who wouldn’t want someone to come and fix my family, and sometimes families can’t be fixed, and so what do you do with that. You turn it into a book where somebody can come in and fix this and then for 20 years, not only Disney, but other studios, trying to buy the rights and there’s a part of you where you’re saying no, no, no, no, no and deep down it’s because you don’t want to go there again, because I already took care of that problem. You’re asking me to open up that box again and I have no idea what’s going to come out.

Where does objectivity enter into it, from your perspective? Do you have to free yourself from judgment of these people, being that they’re real and this is their story?

That’s a really good question. I think there’s a certain responsibility to real characters, no doubt about it, but, and being, you don’t have to be sympathetic to them. You just have to, you do have to be, how can I put this? You don’t have to be sympathetic to them, but you have to be sympathetic to their plight in a weird way, and what they’re going through. It was funny. I had a long conversation with Vince Gilligan about characters that are created that refuse to come to you as an audience. They refuse to bend towards you to become more likable, more accessible and over time, you find yourself leaning toward them, and in P.L. Travers and Walter White and it was like, that’s really interesting, because she doesn’t change a bit, but by the end, hopefully, because we’ve seen this journey and we understand it more, we don’t have to love her, we just have to be fascinated by her complexities.

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