Disney's Smoking Ban Means No Puffing for Walt Disney in 'Saving Mr. Banks'

The filmmakers reveal the predicament at a gala screening of the film at the 2013 Napa Valley Film Festival; Disney's fierce tobacco habit isn't omitted entirely, however.

NAPA, Calif. -- The late Walt Disney was a notorious chain smoker, but his empire's modern-day prohibition on smoking means not even his character could be seen lighting up in Saving Mr. Banks, the whimsical comedy-drama about the making of Mary Poppins.

Director John Lee Hancock and producer Alison Owen discussed the restriction at the 2013 Napa Valley Film Festival, where their biographical film is one of the gala screenings. Saving Mr. Banks stars Tom Hanks as Disney -- who died of complications from lung cancer in 1966 -- and Emma Thompson as Australian-born British author P.L. Travers.

FILM REVIEW: Saving Mr. Banks

Following the screening, Owen told festival attendees she was somewhat nervous about working with Disney on the project, considering how close the subject matter is to the giant conglomerate. However, she and Hancock said the only ask Disney made was regarding the smoking, since the company has a blanket policy against showing lit cigarettes in its movies.

"They told us there could be no smoking," Owen said.

The filmmakers, however, don't ignore Walt Disney's unhealthy habit altogether. In one scene, as Thompson's character enters Disney's office, Hanks' character is seen putting out a cigarette (the cigarette and smoke are obscured, however).

The well-reviewed Saving Mr. Banks already is viewed as an awards contender. The movie, opening in select theaters on Dec. 13 before expanding nationwide a week later, is one of several high-profile films playing at Napa, now in its third year. Other titles include Nebraska, Philomena, Osage: August County, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Out of the Furnace.

Napa, running Nov. 13-17 and imbued with plenty of wine and culinary events, hosted its celebrity tribute Friday night, where Hancock and Saving Mr. Banks co-star Colin Farrell, who plays Travers' father, were both honored, alongside rising stars Dianna Agron and Miles Teller. Access Hollywood's Billy Bush hosted the event for festival founders Brenda and Marc Lhormer.