There are certain stamps of approval that fans of Mary Poppins might be looking for in Disney’s forthcoming sequel Mary Poppins Returns, and the good news is they’re all there: The estate of the late author P.L. Travers, original co-composer Richard Sherman (who penned the music with his late brother Robert), and star Dick Van Dyke have all pledged their support to the long-gestating sequel.
Of course, there’s one more big question: What does Julie Andrews think? The short answer is this: The original Mary Poppins is fully on board with the sequel, but she won’t be appearing in the film come Christmas 2018.
Director Rob Marshall, who has remained friends with Andrews since choreographing her on Broadway in 1995’s Victor/Victoria, says he and producing partner John DeLuca broached the subject with Andrews at her Christmas party a few years ago. “She had known it was in the works, then we said, ‘We’re doing it,’ and she said, ‘Oh, thank God,’” the director recalls. “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.”
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Marshall recognizes that Andrews’s endorsement is a hot topic, but he insists that the 81-year-old legend is “one thousand percent” in support of the film. “Julie will always be, for me and for everybody, the most astonishing performance as Mary Poppins, winning the Oscar and bursting onto the scene so brilliantly,” he says. “But Emily is the perfect person to carry the torch, and I know Julie feels the exact same way. She loves her.”
So much so, in fact, that Andrews decided not to appear in the sequel out of respect to Blunt. (Van Dyke, on the other hand, does make a cameo—but no, not as Bert.)
Marshall explains, “Julie was incredibly gracious, and we talked about it in a very general way but she made it clear right up front. She said, ‘This is Emily’s show, and I really want it to be Emily’s show. 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.’”
Say what you will about Hollywood, but it’s a town of relationships that can turn the tide on any project—and Marshall’s involvement in Mary Poppins Returns is case in point for convincing Andrews that her legacy was in good hands. “She said it’s time and she said, ‘I know it’ll be cared for,’” says Marshall. “And that’s the thing I think about every day when I’m at work. We all do.”