Along with Saving Mr Banks, which closes the London Film Festival on Sunday night in its world premiere, producer Alison Owen‘s credits include a lot of movies with women’s names in the title. They range from Temple Grandin to Elizabeth, Sylvia, Tamara Drewe and Jane Eyre. Many of those, Owen said in a keynote address today, she made because she was drawn to material that explored themes that she was exploring in her own life at the time. Although it’s got a man’s name in the title, Saving Mr Banks is no different. In the film, Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney as he tries to convince Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, played by Emma Thompson, to let him turn the beloved nanny’s tale into a film. Owen admitted that at first she thought she was making it because of her kids, but soon came to realize it was really a film for her dad. “As we developed the story, I remembered Hannah Minghella… telling me how Amy Pascal always used it as a trick question for prospective interviewees or writers — asking them who Mary Poppins was about. And the answer, of course, is not Julie Andrews, or Bert, or the children — but Mr Banks.”
In a wide-ranging discussion today, Owen, who is also founder and managing director of UK-based Ruby Film and Television, also touched on the importance of story and keeping movies alive. Below are excerpts from her address:
“‘After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the things we need most in the world.’ That’s a quote from Philip Pullman.
I believe that to be true. I have to, really – I’ve spent my work life so far finding stories, telling stories, making stories.
But I’ve spent my life telling those stories in the movie business. And, as we keep hearing from various dark brooding media outlets, movies are seriously under threat. There’s many a Cassandra out there touting the death of the movie industry, as we know it.