EXCLUSIVE: The Walt Disney Company is near a deal to acquire Saving Mr. Banks, the Kelly Marcel-scripted saga of how Walt Disney persuaded Australian author P.L. Travers to sell him the rights to make a film out of Mary Poppins. That courtship took 14 years. Disney seems a natural place for the script, considering the studio owns many rights from making the 1964 classic film that starred Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and David Tomlinson, the latter of whom played Mr. Banks in the film. Also, what studio is better equipped to make its founder, Walt Disney, a major character in a feature film?
The heart of this script comes from how close Travers felt to her story of a nanny with magical powers. Mary Poppins was highly personal, and reflected hardships in her own life and her relationship with her father, who died when she was 7. Disney finally persuaded her to let him make the film, but she was prickly all the way to the end. While Mary Poppins was lauded immediately, she hated the animated sequences in the film so much that she refused to sell any of her other works to Disney. The script made the 2011 Black List, and is set up with producer Alison Owen at Ruby Films. Disney has been working on this for awhile, and the expectation is that it will be star cast. There have been rumors of the script being considered by Tom Hanks (for Disney) and Meryl Streep (for Travers). All this will unfold once the deal closes. The scribe’s repped by WME and Casarotto in the UK.