Sunday, 7 August 2011

MARY POPPINS AND THE CAPTAIN

So, I was telling about how I wrote what might have been a film sequel to Mary Poppins...

Every now and again, during the process, there were stray conversations about who might play Barney – the ice-cream seller in the park who was to replace Bert as the leading male character in the film.

One such exchange was quintessentially ‘Hollywood’, by which I mean that it was so typical of Moviedom that it may easily have betokened a genuine cast-iron idea or nothing more than a wild and passing whim...

Anyway, this is what happened...

I'm taken to lunch by a Studio Executive at a ritzy restaurant on Rodeo Drive and, during the meal, I am suddenly confronted with a totally unexpected question:

“So," begins the Exec, "is it essential for Barney to be ‘Caucasian’?”

I look blank…

“I mean, does he have to be white?” he translates.

My failure to instantly respond is, of course, not because I don’t know the meaning of the word 'Caucasian', but simply because I can’t imagine why I am being asked…

For one thing, black people in Edwardian London were far and few between and whilst it was just possible, perhaps, to find a black footman serving in some big household,meeting a black ice-cream seller in a London park would have been an extremely unlikely occurrence.

And – apart from anything else – Barney is supposed to pass for Dick Van Dyke's younger brother!

Why do they want to know, I ask.

"Well,” comes the reply, “it just so happens that Michael is very keen to work with the Studio on a project..."

I interrupt: “Michael…?

"Yes!" responds the Exec, as if dealing with a complete idiot, "Michael JACKSON! Having made Captain Eo for Disneyland, he's now a part of the Disney family..."

I can't help it – I laugh!

Exec is not amused. He becomes emphatic: "Look! He sings! He dances! He'd be PERFECT!"

I stop laughing: he's in earnest!

What's more, he's still enthusing: "Listen! Just think of the marquee-billing: JULIE ANDREWS -- MICHAEL JACKSON -- MARY POPPINS! It’s a BRILLIANT line-up --- AND a hands-down BOX-OFFICE CERT!"


As it turned out, Mary Poppins never did come back - not, at least, on film - but if she had, then it's anyone's guess whether we might also we have seen Captain Eo selling strawberry ices in Cherry Tree Lane…

4 comments:

Davelandweb said...

It boggles my mind the things that Studio Executives think of all in the interest of the cash register!

Anonymous said...

In showing the film Mary Poppins to a group of college students a year or two ago, the thing that seemed contrived to them (and left them incredulous) was that Mrs. Banks would just give charge of her children to some sketchy and random chimney sweep! Imagine how much more unsettling those feelings would be in a sequel in which the "Burt character" had been Michael Jackson! It's the stuff of Saturday Night Live skits!

Dean Brinkerhoff said...

That is extremely disturbing...

Anonymous said...

Affirmative Action, Entertainment Industry Division. There is no limit to how far it will go.