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Rob Marshall is the Secret Magic Behind ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

photo credit: Disney

I have been in dozens of dramatic productions, and I can say without a doubt that the key to a successful show is the director. While the stars may be the ones in the spotlight soaking up all of that shine, the director is the person who sets the tone of the show. They are responsible for determining the look, the feel, and the emotion of the production. It’s like being a CEO or President. If you aren’t a good leader, your show is going to suck. Rob Marshall, director of Mary Poppins Returns, is by all accounts an excellent leader.

Every single person who talked about Rob shared about his kindness and ability to make them feel like they could fly. After meeting him for a few minutes for an exclusive interview, I get it. Rob Marshall was so generous with our group, and an a delight to meet. Get to know a little more about him and some inside info from Mary Poppins Returns!

Exclusive interview with Rob Marshall, director of  Mary Poppins Returns

Every actor we talked to from the film talked about how amazing Rob Marshall was at making them feel empowered. When asked about his process, here’s what he said:

Rob MarshallWhen I work with actors I really find they need to feel positive reinforcement, and it’s such a simple thing to do. It’s like being a really good parent you know. I try and achieve that when we’re working. For instance, I mean as an example Ben Whishaw, who plays Michael Banks, he’s never sung before you know. He was sort of nervous about how do you do that and I always feel that people can do so much. It’s just feeling that they can and knowing that they can.

I like to protect them in rehearsals when we had over 2 months of rehearsal. So it was during that time that you know you can fail and be bad you know and then learn to get better and, and not feel judged. That’s a really important thing. I like to protect actors to make them feel they can do things and try things. Everybody was so nervous on this film because we were following that extraordinary film that means so much to me and so much to so many people.

We knew we were doing the impossible. I felt like if we did it together from the right place with a great respect for the first film and found our own way at the same time then we would at least have done it in the right way you know and then you hope that it works.

photo credit: Jana Seitzer –

The music is such an important part of the film. Rob Marshall’s expertise in musicals made him a perfect fit for this film. This is what he had to say about partnering with the songwriters:

Rob Marshall: We did it together.  I mean I think I will say about an original musical is that you have to kind of actually kind of do it together.  There’s no version of of people going off.  It’s all into one sort of piece. It’s a real puzzle and but I knew that obviously you know when you hear like the strains of Feed The Birds or A Spoonful of Sugar, those mean so much to us.  So you can abuse that.

So I strategically placed them exactly like the props and things.  In fact, the majority of it happens literally in the last 15 minutes because I feel like we’ve earned it by that time.  

Mary Poppins was an important film to Rob Marshall. He talked about watching it for the first time when he was 4 years old. He shared a bit about what it felt like to be directing Mary Poppins Returns all these years later. 

I will say when Dick Van Dyke does that monologue to the kids where he tells the story about Michael as a little boy and I had Feed the Birds, the music, in my ear and I’m watching Dick Van Dyke and I have him in my ear too and he’s delivering this monologue and I honestly broke down.  I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t say cut. I couldn’t say it. Nothing came out.  I was so moved.  I mean I think Emily said cut or something. I just couldn’t believe my life had come full circle.

photo credit: Disney

Mary Poppins Returns is amazing! I’ve seen it twice and can’t wait to see it again. When asked about a sequel, Rob Marshall gave a little insight about the probability:

Rob Marshall: I think there will be talk about it ‘cause there is a lot of material.  You know we walked through it and cherry picked what we thought were the best adventures that we could musicalize and create a set piece to. I will say there was a lot left on the table as we were working through that.   

The question would be, “What’s the narrative, what’s the story” because that’s what’s not in those books. So do we go backwards?  Someone said do you wanna’ find out how she became Mary Poppins and then I thought I don’t wanna’ know about her too much.

The best thing about her is that she– we don’t know.

She definitely can visit other families and there are other stories there for sure you know.  There are a lot of Star Wars stories.  There can be a lot of Mary Poppins stories.  That’s my fill.  

About Mary Poppins Returns

Here’s more about Mary Poppins Returns straight from the Disney studio:

In Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” an all new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. Emily Blunt stars as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure and Lin-Manuel Miranda plays her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London.

“Mary Poppins Returns” is directed by Rob Marshall. The screenplay is by David Magee and the screen story is by Magee & Rob Marshall & John DeLuca based upon the Mary Poppins Stories by PL Travers.

Mary Poppins Returns arrives in theaters on December 19, 2018!