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LONDON – The world premiere of John Lee Hancock‘s Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell and Jason Schwartzman, brought the 57th edition of the BFI London Film Festival to an end on Sunday, Oct. 20.
The movie tells the tale of Walt Disney‘s battle to persuade P.L. Travers to bring her much-loved Mary Poppins tales to the big screen via his studio.
The modern-day Walt Disney Company, which bankrolled the Ruby Films, Essential Media and Entertainment production in association with BBC Films and Hopscotch Features of Saving Mr. Banks, “entrusted” the movie to the BFI LFF organizers to mark its world debut in the British capital.
Hanks, whose films bookended this year’s shindig (the festival opened with Captain Phillips) again took to the red carpet to support a movie’s debut on British soil. He was joined by fellow castmembers Thompson, Farrell and Ruth Wilson and British screenwriter Kelly Marcel.
At the closing ceremony, which was beamed around the U.K. to 20 screens in the Odeon exhibition chain live from London’s Odeon Leicester Square, autograph hunters gathered to cheer Hanks and the other attending celebs.
BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill welcomed the guests and thanked sponsors for their financial support for the festival and said the close of the festival marked the start of a year of movie programming for the BFI.
Clare Stewart, marking the end of her sophomore term as the BFI’s head of exhibition and distribution, took to the stage exclaiming that the only way to make the close of the festival bearable was with the honor of hosting the world premiere of Saving Mr. Banks.
Stewart thanked Disney for supporting the premiere and the producers before introducing the film’s director Hancock.
Hancock brought his cast and crew to the stage to cheers and whoops with big adulation reserved for Hanks, Farrell, Brit lead producer Alison Owen and Emma Thompson.
Thompson leaped across the stage armed with her own microphone and did a two-minute humorous turn to the audience.
She suggested London should put Hanks on “the fourth plinth,” asking anyone from the British capital to explain the reference to the Trafalgar Square statue spaces to Americans. She drew laughs for saying that even for someone “unsentimental,” this film had “made my eyes itch.”
She also noted that Disney seemed to have brought “the entire corporation” to the British capital for the event.
She said that despite the anticipated difficulty of making a “rather independently minded film about an old lady” with the “behemoth” corporation Disney, they all had an amazing time doing it.
Thompson said no one in the audience was to worry over the sight of her with a microphone promising not to waste any time thanking endless people because she was excited to see the film in London.
She then leaped off the stage to huge applause with the rest of the talent and Stewart in tow.
The gala event for Hancock’s film marked the end of Stewart’s vision for the festival, complete with her introduction of an Official Competition section now bedded down in her second event in charge.
On Saturday night (Oct. 19), organizers garnered headlines and a coup of sorts with the surprise appearance of Johnny Depp at the event’s standalone film awards ceremony to present Sir Christopher Lee with his BFI Fellowship, the highest honor the British Film Institute can bestow.
The second Official Competition lineup designed to recognize “inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking” saw the best film nod Saturday night go to U.K.-based Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski‘s Ida.
The BFI London Film Festival, in partnership with American Express, drew more than 670 industry guests for the 12-day event, including more than 150 directors and over 110 actors, for the 235 feature films plus screenings, master classes and events. The screenings attracted 150,000-plus attendees.
Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Jason Reitman, Tom Hiddleston, Jesse Eisenberg, Alex Gibney, Greg Wise, Robin Wright, Alex Gibney, Anna Kendrick, Emily Mortimer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Charlie Cox, Jodie Whittaker, Christian Cooke, Annabelle Wallis, Tahar Rahim, David Thewlis and Terry Gilliam have all been spotted around town at various events.
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