Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The Blind Side helmer John Lee Hancock is in early talks with Disney to direct Saving Mr. Banks, the Kelly Marcel-scripted saga of how Walt Disney waged a 14-year courtship to persuade Australian author P.L. Travers to sell him rights to make a film out of Mary Poppins. Disney is near a deal to acquire the Black List script, which is set up with producer Alison Owen of Ruby Films. 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. This is a hot project — names like Tom Hanks to play Disney and Meryl Streep to play Travers have been in the wind — and Disney’s intention is to put it into production this year.

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.

Hancock recently attached himself to write and direct The Partner at New Regency, based on the John Grisham bestselling novel. He is repped by CAA.

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