December 13, 2013 2:43pm PT by Scott Feinberg
'Mary Poppins' Star Julie Andrews Goes to Bat for 'Saving Mr. Banks' (Exclusive Video)
It has been a rollercoaster of a week for the team behind Disney's Saving Mr. Banks, which the Mouse House hopes will become its first live-action best picture Oscar nominee since the film that inspired it, Mary Poppins (1964), nearly a half-century ago.
The low points came in a very public way: On Wednesday the film registered only one SAG Award nomination and on Thursday it scored only one Golden Globe Award nomination, both of which went to lead actress Emma Thompson. Unexpectedly, SAG passed over the film's ensemble, the Globes opted not to nominate it for best picture (it was probably a mistake to push it in the "drama" instead of "musical or comedy" category) and neither group acknowledged its supporting actor Tom Hanks.
The high points, though, were less visible to most people yet very noticeable to people who actually have Oscar votes. And both came thanks to a woman who, in the parlance of the film and quite literally, flew in from the East: Mary Poppins star Julie Andrews.
On Monday night, before the SAG and Globe snubs but after a full day of granting select interviews in conjunction with Saving Mr. Banks, the 78-year-old New York-based legend and her 88-year-old Poppins co-star Dick Van Dyke attended the L.A. premiere of Banks on the Disney lot, which was attended by a considerable number of Academy members. They smiled, they took pictures, and they even joined the cast in a prescreening rendition of "Let's Go Fly a Kite," altogether charming people who either grew up watching them or worked alongside them during Hollywood's Golden Age.
Then, on Thursday night, after the SAG and Globe slight, Andrews hosted another, more intimate screening of Saving Mr. Banks at UTA for some of her family, friends and another batch of Academy members -- including actor Robert Loggia, producer Walter Mirisch and ubiquitous Poppins co-composer and Banks consultant Richard Sherman -- before graciously spending a few moments with anyone who wished to talk or take a photo with her at a reception at the Montage Hotel.
At the top of this post, you can watch THR's exclusive footage of Andrews' prescreening remarks on Thursday night, during which she offered the following ringing endorsement of Saving Mr. Banks:
"Hello! Hello, Hollywood people! I just wanted to say welcome, thank you for coming, and I'm delighted to be hosting this evening. This is a movie that I find so enchanting and, for me, such a personal revelation, because it's about the backstory of the wooing of P.L. Travers, who wrote Mary Poppins, and how Mary Poppins even got to be made as a movie. It's a wonderful story, the performances are marvelous, and I only wanted to say I'm so glad you came. I'm honored to be hosting this evening. I will see you all later and, in the meantime, have a fabulous evening. You're going to love the performances!"
At the postscreening reception, I sat down for a few minutes with Andrews, who was interrupted and had to stand up for photo requests so many times, we agreed that she was essentially doing aerobics. I asked her how familiar she was with the story recounted in Saving Mr. Banks back when she was making Mary Poppins. "I knew that she was tough," Andrews said of Travers, who died in 1996. "I had met her in London. [Then] I came out [to the U.S. to make the movie]. And we did correspond, she and I. But I never knew all the details; it's a revelation to me! I never knew her history in terms of her early days. And I never knew Walt's, either, of course, because all one would see is Walt Disney."
It remains to be seen if Banks will ultimately be able to rebound from its SAG and Globe snubs and score some major Oscar nominations beyond one for Thompson. I, for one, think it deserves to and will. But what is certain is that Andrews' strong endorsement, like a spoonful of sugar, can only help.