Here's a bit of casting that doesn't need a spoonful of sugar to go down nicely: Variety is reporting that two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks is close to signing on to play Walt Disney in the upcoming film Saving Mr. Banks. Based on true events, the movie chronicles Disney's 14-year effort to convince Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers to allow him to adapt her novel for the big screen. Emma Thompson, who has two Academy Awards of her own, will reportedly play Travers, while John Lee Hancock, who directed the Best Picture-nominated The Blind Side, will direct. The film's script appeared on 2011's Black List of best unproduced screenplays. Can you say "Oscar bait?"
This is tailor-made for Oscar: Judging by the cast and creative team being assembled for Saving Mr. Banks, says Angie Han at Slash Film, "we might as well pencil it now for the 2014 Oscar race." If there was a checklist of elements a film must include to win an Oscar, Saving Mr. Banks would cross off each one: "Bittersweet real-life drama… Best Picture-nominated director… Oscar-kissed stars." Hanks, Thompson, and company should start rehearsing their acceptance speeches.
"Tom Hanks to play Walt Disney in Mary Poppins making-of drama Saving Mr. Banks"
But the film may not be what we're expecting: It's hard to shake the feeling that Saving Mr. Banks will play "relatively fast and loose with its true story subject matter," says Sandy Schaefer at Screen Rant. This is a Mouse House production, so expect a romanticized version of the story, à la Finding Neverland. It also doesn't bode well that John Lee Hancock, who upped the Kleenex factor while helming the "based on real events" films The Blind Side and The Rookie, is directing. That's not to say that Saving Mr. Banks won't be a good movie, but it won't be that seminal Walt Disney biopic many are clamoring for.
"Tom Hanks to play Walt Disney in Mary Poppins film Saving Mr. Banks"
And, whatever some critics say, Hanks is terrible casting: "I feel like a Grinch when I say this," says Drew McWeeny at HitFix. But Tom Hanks is "almost completely wrong for the part." Though one of the greatest living movie stars, "he has such a different energy than Walt Disney." Casting Hanks instead of an actor more suited to mimicking the "grandfatherly" Disney's distinctive mannerisms suggests that producers are "more worried about the box-office clout he brings than the accurate portrayal of Disney." Incidentally, if they were looking for a physical match, Nicolas Cage would be a better option.
"Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson team for real-life backstory to Mary Poppins"