'Mary Poppins Returns': Emily Blunt's revival is the perfect homage to Julie Andrews' timeless character
Turns out, Julie Andrews herself couldn't be more thrilled about Emily Blunt carrying on her legacy as the iconic character that Andrews herself had made timeless.
Simplicity is timeless, and on the brink of the release of 'Mary Poppins Returns,' Julie Andrews' iconic rendition of the lady with sharp quips and a spoonful of sugar in the original, is living proof of that. Simple, sweet, easy to sing melodies and several other technical geniuses might have helped the Sherman brothers turn the original 1964 classic 'Mary Poppins' into a masterpiece with awards for the best original music score and also the best original song (“Chim-Chim Cher-ee”), along with three others, making it the most Oscar-decorated film in Disney history, but what one cannot deny is Andrews' evident contribution as the titular character which elevated it to such high ranks.
When the revival film's director Rob Marshall had approached Andrews with the idea of her doing a cameo in the upcoming film, the Oscar-winning actress had very politely refused, with the most gracious reason ever. "This is Emily’s show, and I really want it to be Emily’s show," she told him, as reported by Entertainment Weekly. "I don’t want it to be, 'Oh, here comes that Mary Poppins.' I don’t want that. I really want her to take this and run with it because she will be brilliant.'"
And that really brings back memories of her as Mary Poppins, also subtly pointing out just why her role will forever stay iconic. The original character was pretty much every English nanny stereotype. She was stern and strict, as she took the Banks children under her wing. But as the magical English nanny blew in on the East Wind to take care of everything under the sun, Andrews blew in a breath of fresh air to a character brimming with stereotypes, in a manner that had only been seen in 'The Sound of Music' before, and that's no surprise because Andrews had played the role of the nanny in that too!
In Andrews' rendition of the character adapted from P. L. Travers' novel of the same name, she knows just where to draw the line without blurring out her principles. Andrews' Mary had that expression of gentle sternness - that is she was just the right amount of strict, with a dash of gentleness and a generous amount of nurturing kindness, much like the spoonfuls of sugar she sings about. She pretty much portrayed the concept of a professional taking care of someone else's children in a way that the world can relate to today more than ever - with everything going on in this planet.
Given that Andrews' nanny was far gentler with the children than the book's version of the character, but in a certain way, she had restored faint bits of the book. For instance, the scene depicting Mary's vanity and her 'practically perfect' reflection. She changed the wall mirror into a more elegant one and then proceeded to sing a duet with her own reflection. With similar instances sprinkled throughout the film like toppings on a dessert, Andrews' Mary somehow revolutionized the idea of being a nurturing figure one could relate to, despite being aware of one's own excellence and self-importance.
And that is exactly what has made Andrews' rendition of the character so loved; the children see a nurturing figure, the caring mothers see a strong example of someone who still values themselves enough despite taking care of another, and men are left in awe of her abilities to firmly shut things down, yet be the source of strength and constant support, despite being a woman of that age. In its own simplistic way, Julie Andrews' Mary Poppins upheld the ideals of modern-day feminism better than most characters could and that's why - even after over 60 years of her gracing the screens - she is still such a relatable character to turn to on days the world gets too unbearable to deal with.
Probably why reviving the character through Blunt was also one of the smartest decisions the directors could ever make. We have seen Blunt as the no-nonsense assistant of Miranda Priestley in 'The Devil Wears Prada' - where she pretty much validated the passion of people working behinds the scenes in the fashion industry. And then we saw her as the broken, distressed woman in 'The Girl on the Train' - desperate for a past and a future - neither of which could ever exist. The versatility with which Blunt had graced our screens is remarkable, and luckily, Andrews herself thinks the same.
As revealed by Marshall to EW, Andrews couldn't be more thrilled that Blunt was being the torchbearer, carrying on her legacy as the iconic character. "She had known it was in the works, then we said, ‘We’re doing it,’ and she said, ‘Oh, thank God,'" Marshall stated. "Then we said, ‘And we’re thinking of Emily Blunt,’ and she just threw her hands up in the air and said yes. I think a lot of people feel that way about Emily’s work." And when you have Andrews' blessing and excitement about Blunt playing the role, what better confirmation could there really be that Blunt is the perfect fit for a newday Mary Poppins!