Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak were dispatched to Disney’s D23 event on Saturday to help launch based-on-truth drama Saving Mr. Banks to an appreciative crowd. Instead of simply greeting the audience, they showed up to sing Mary Poppins standard ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ live, and were joined by real-life composer Richard Sherman, who Schwartzman plays in the movie. Meta!
The film finds Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, trying to convince Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to let him turn her beloved children’s tome into a film. The recalcitrant author is having none of his overtures, so he decides to bring her to California, and Disneyland, to make his case in person. The rest is cinematic history...
After the presentation, Schwartzman and Novak talked up the challenge of playing the brothers. Or Richard, at least. “I think we just wanted to do it right,” said Schwartzman, clearly thrilled that he’s getting to play a living legend. “Richard Sherman is a great person, very much an active part of the Disney world still, and I just wanted to do him and his brother and their music justice. Everyone knows the songs, so it was great to be writing and figuring them out, because we all know where they get to. It was fun to show the music in its infancy.”
“When I met for this part, Jason was already cast,” added Novak, who plays the other Sherman brother, Robert, who died last year. “And everyone was so excited that a real musician was going to interpret this character. When we started, Jason would talk about and demonstrate the different styles the songs could be played and how Richard would do it.” Enthused Schwartzman: “I went to Richard's house and he gave me music lessons."
Novak had a little less to worry about. “It was easy for me, because Bob doesn't really sing at all. So I could only overachieve!”
Saving Mr. Banks is out on January 17. For our recent chat with the actual Richard Sherman, head here.