Emily Blunt was more than a little nervous about stepping into Julie Andrews’ laced-up boots when all the world knows her Mary Poppins was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But just like the miracle-working nanny, the British actress who takes up Poppins’ talking umbrella in the new Disney sequel to the children’s classic, comes equipped with an unwavering stiff upper lip.
“I was a bit trepidatious,” Blunt said, using a word that might have escaped from a Poppins’ song.
So much so that she tried to put Andrews’ Oscar-winning 1965 performance out of her mind entirely by refusing to watch the original film.
‘Eccentric and very funny’
So Blunt went back to P L Travers original books where Poppins is “very different, more eccentric, more rude actually and very funny and weird.
“After reading the books I found her so delicious to play because she is so mysterious as well,” said Blunt, who is best known for “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”.
“Mary Poppins doesn’t reveal her inner workings to anybody. She doesn’t want to,” said the actress, who ramps up the nanny’s buttoned-down Britishness in the new film, “Mary Poppins Returns”, which is set in the 1930s, two decades after the original.
For Blunt, Poppins is not only “superhuman” and super-capable but also full of contradictions — kind yet aloof, strict and yet free-spirted, she is “an adrenalin junkie going into all these adventures. She loves it”.
But you also see “these private moments of compassion and empathy and where you see just a little crack in the armour of her stern” rather prim exterior, Blunt said.
Blunt believes Poppins is a mystery wrapped in an enigma who lets people believe that she is some kind of distressed gentlewoman to “keep everyone guessing”.