Michael Keller, Mike Prestwood Smith Interview: ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ sound mixers
In working on “Mary Poppins Returns,” the followup to the beloved 1964 Disney classic, re-recording mixer Mike Prestwood Smith was “keen to make sure it had some of the charm and the vintage feel … of the original.” Because the film’s visuals, as directed by Rob Marshall, “had that built in already, our job was really just to make it feel as great as it looked.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Smith and fellow re-recording mixer Michael Keller above.
The film finds Emily Blunt taking over the iconic title role as the magical nanny who returns to once again give the Banks children — the now grown Michael and Jane, along with Michael’s three kids — some valuable life lessons.
Both Smith and Keller are familiar with Marshall’s specific brand of movie musicals: the duo collaborated on “Into the Woods” (2014), and before that Smith lent his talents to “Nine” (2009). Theytwo now have their work down to a science, with Smith focusing on the dialogue and music while Keller tackles the foley and effects.
But “Mary Poppins Returns” was unique in that “it’s basically three movies,” Keller explains. “You’ve got a musical where you have to understand all the lyrics, and vocals might be recorded on the set, or pre-records, or post-records.” Additionally, you have “the animated sequences,” for which sounds have to be created completely from scratch. And lastly there’s “an action set piece” that ends the film. Working with Smith on such an elaborate production was “a big knitting fest,” with each building on what the other had done.
“They’re all really reliant upon each other,” says Smith of the various sound elements. “A lot of the believability of the performances, especially in terms of the vocals,” depend on “very small, subtle components.” The same goes for Keller’s work on foley: “To get all of that acceptable, so that an audience really never questions it, is a complicated process.”
Smith received an Oscar nomination for “Captain Phillips” (2013), for which he also competed at the BAFTAs and the Cinema Audio Society Awards. Before that he took home the BAFTA for his work on “Casino Royale” (2006), and he received additional bids for “Billy Elliot” (2000), “Cold Mountain” (2003), “The Constant Gardener” (2005), “United 93” (2006), “Quantum of Solace” (2008) and “Deepwater Horizon” (2017). He contended twice more at the CAS Awards for mixing “Quantum of Solace” and “Iron Man 3” (2013).
Keller received CAS bids for “Any Given Sunday” (1999) and “Iron Man 3,” as well as Motion Picture Sound Editors nominations for “Erin Brockovich” (2000), “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (2008), and “Inglourious Basterds” (2009).