Tom Hanks read newspapers in Walt Disney's voice
05:00 AM, Nov 08, 2013
HOLLYWOOD So far, it’s a feel-good fest.
That was the spirit at the premiere of Saving Mr. Banks, which kicked off AFI Fest in Los Angeles on Thursday night. The Disney film (in theaters Dec. 20) chronicles the two arduous weeks Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and his creative team spent convincing unenthused English author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to relinquish rights to her novel Mary Poppins in 1961.
At a cocktail party held before the film’s opening night gala, Hanks and Thompson mingled with guests at the Roosevelt Hotel, including co-stars Colin Farrell, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak.
To master Disney’s voice, Hanks said he worked with his longtime vocal coach, studying audio tracks of the famed studio head. “I would just listen to it in the car absentmindedly, or sitting at home,” he said. “I started reading anything in his voice. I read the newspaper as Walt Disney would, I read books, just to try to get the cadence of (his voice).”
And he’s still got it. “I could probably start talking like him right now, and it would sound like him,” the actor said.
Production was overseen by composer Richard Sherman (also in attendance at the party), who famously dreamed up songs such as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
“He was sitting in the room every day,” said Schwartzman, who portrays him. “Singing at the table read, having to sing in front of all these great actors, and also in front of Richard, it one of the most horrific, most frightening things of my life,” he added.
Farrell met most of the cast when he invited them over to watch Mary Poppins before the shoot. “Everyone came over to my house,” he said. “That’s how I met the cast. We put on Mary Poppins and had some dinner.”
“It’s very different than you assume or remember,” said Novak, who plays Sherman’s brother and songwriting partner, Robert, who died last year. “It’s extremely long. It’s extremely complicated. And it has very dark, unexpected twists that I assume kids are fine with or just ignore. It was awfully interesting.”
And surely the cast was showered with Poppins-style swag? “Not a lick!” Farrell said, laughing. “I’m not big on swag, but when it’s for (my) kids, I’ll say yes.”
AFI Fest will continue through Thursday, with premieres including Lone Survivor, Inside Llewyn Davis and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.