To prepare for his role as studio head Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks,” a new film about Disney’s efforts to persuade prickly author P.L. Travers to make her “Mary Poppins” novels into a movie musical, Tom Hanks did considerable research into Disney’s life, including visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
At a recent installment of the Envelope Screening Series, Hanks talked about how biographical details about Disney helped illuminate his performance.
Disney came from “a very tight family,” Hanks said. “A very Midwestern farming [family]. His father could not get any sort of career going, so it was a very hardscrabble life.… It was a tough life, but one that [Disney] felt secure in, in all ways but the financial one, I think.”
He added, “I think there’s a definitive reason why so many of the movies that Walt Disney really poured himself into [are] about creating a perfect yesteryear: Whether it’s ‘Pinnochio’ or [the theme park attraction] Main Street, USA, it’s a version of the joy I think that he always found, both in his imagination and the world that he lived in, and also the books that he read.”
Disney remained close with his parents and his siblings throughout his life and had “a very different sort of family from what P.L. Travers came from,” Hanks said.
Indeed, Travers’ unresolved family issues from her past, including her relationship with her charming but alcohol-dependent father, drive much of the film. Colin Farrell, who plays Travers’ father, described the father-daughter relationship as “probably one that was very gentle and very beautiful, and also very destructive and very painful, and cut a deep canyon into her heart that then became that distressed, seemingly megalomaniacal but just broken, fearful child in the body of a very erudite, very strong-willed woman later on in life.”
For more from the cast and crew of “Saving Mr. Banks,” watch the full clip above, and check back for daily highlights.