Emma Thompson: I found the story wonderful. I thought, “How many roles do 54-year-olds like me get? Please let me do it.” I love the Poppins books, and I love the  film. In Saving Mr. Banks, she comes off as prickly and unglamorous. Travers herself said that women’s lives tend to divide into three parts: nymph, mother, and crone. And that you look forward to [being a] crone because that’s when you’ve acceded to wisdom but still have enough energy to get about. I’m still in the mother bit, but when Travers went to Disneyland, she was in her 60s, in the crone stage. I had to have my hair permed for the movie.
No, it was my hair! It was a nightmare. People would bleat in the streets as I went by. I didn’t have sex for six months!
I don’t think she ever found lasting happiness. She was in pain all her life. It often happens, of course, that people who had traumatized childhoods turn into very good children’s authors.
Absolutely. And it’s so moving. An awful lot of people have experienced absence or abandonment. My father died at 53, which was terribly difficult to accept. It’s a part of our lives, but we don’t have many films about that. Instead we like to make films that celebrate a romantic ideal.
No, it’s not a negative word.
It’s a good question. Taking it back a little, if we assume—correctly, I think—that things like abandonment … For instance, my mother was a child of the Second World War; she was evacuated at the age of 7, after which she didn’t see her parents much. Her father left the family when she was 12, and she assumed it was something to do with her mother and that women were perhaps not as interesting as men. She would say that now. How much of that did I ingest? That sense of having to be as terribly interesting as I could possibly be? My mother did have a wonderful relationship with my father, and I think I idealized that to a degree.
I don’t feel anger or depression about it now. I think we place a lot of pressure on ourselves and our relationships. We have this romantic idealism that we should all really have a little think about. We want things to last forever, and we’re very keen on the notion of betrayal, which is a strong word to use. Yes, it was very painful, but it was also something that happens between people a lot. Sometimes things go wrong and it doesn’t last, and that seems to me perfectly reasonable.
No, not at all. You want that, don’t you? Sorry.
Oh, it does happen. But I wasn’t really up for it. With love at first sight you’ve got to be quite whole in yourself.