BY KRISTOPHER KYER
After a long afternoon of filming, lunch was served in the parking lot behind the El Capitan, where the base camp was filled with trailers, equipment, and the catering. The food was splendid, and by that time I was starving. Trust me when I say this: catering on any kind of a shoot, be it a commercial, film, or TV show, is usually quite good!
By this time it was evening, and it was dark outside. Victoria (“Julie”) and I walked past Tom Hanks’ trailer and found him sitting out front. He called out to Victoria, “You must be Julie Andrews!!!” Then he turned to me and said, “And you’re Dick Van Dyke!” We exchanged a few words and he said he would see us on the set. We then returned to the theater where the real excitement began outside in front of the theater. The weather was perfect, a balmy 72 degrees.
The set in front of “Grauman’s” Chinese Theater was perfectly replicated from videos I had seen of the 1960’s film premiere. A red carpet was lined with pink trees with twinkling lights. On one side, large photos from the original premiere of the entire Poppins cast were displayed. They had probably been in storage for decades. The other side had a “press” platform where our scene with Tom Hanks would be filmed. The background players were lined up along either side of the red carpet. Actors in period Disney penguin costumes danced about, along with costumed Disney characters and men in striped jackets. There was even the carousel horse Dick had ridden in the film. Hollywood Boulevard was completely shut down, and vintage 1960’s cars traveled back and forth in the background. Old limousines pulled up one at a time, with “celebrities” getting out. One had Paul Giamatti, who was playing Travers’ driver in the film.
While other parts of the scene were being shot, “Julie” and I would do take after take walking up to the actor playing Johnny Grant. We improvised our interview although this scene wouldn’t really be on camera. But we had to be in place each time, in case we might be seen in the shot. Emma Thompson got out of a beautiful sixties limo as Giamatti opened the car door for her. She slowly made her way up the red carpet, acting totally uncomfortable and frightened at the circus-like atmosphere. An actor in a vintage Mickey Mouse costume stepped in to escort her into the theater. This scene was shot over and over from every angle. As Victoria and I sat down between takes, we were bombarded by photographers.
Richard Sherman, who wrote the score of Mary Poppins with his late brother Richard was there with his wife. He lit up when he saw me, as he had seen me play Caractacus Potts on opening night in Simi Valley a year ago in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He and I and Victoria had several photos taken in front of the Mary Poppins carousel horse. Mr. Sherman recalled that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke were totally nervous during the entire evening and festivities, and when you look at the actual footage of the premiere, you can see that this was true. They really seemed uncomfortable with the whole premiere.
Emma Thompson was a delight to be around, and she remembered my real name when we had photos taken in between takes. I walked up to Paul Giamatti and told him how much I loved his work in the mini series John Adams. He thanked me and said it was difficult work; he had worked seven months on that project.
The time came for our scene with Tom Hanks on the press stand. It’s brief, and we had no lines. The director, John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) placed us and a mark was put on the ground so we would hit our spots during each take. The actor playing host Johnny Grant (Jerry Hauck) interviewed Hanks as Disney but was told not to ask us any questions, since if we answered, we we would have to be “upgraded” according to union rules. In between takes, I asked Tom about his research at a Disney museum in the Presidio section of San Francisco where he had visited in researching his role. Tom had been fitted with brown contact lenses (his eyes are blue) to match Walt’s. He appeared to be a very very nice man, and I see why people like working with him.
After about four takes, we “wrapped” at 1 a.m. and Victoria and I walked back to wardrobe, where she took off her wig and I took off my tux and we became normal people once again. Though Victoria is a tall, lanky beauty, she had “star quality” even without make up. We talked about possibly making some extra money as Dick and Julie lookalikes and might do that some time. I walked her back to base camp, because she need to have her eyebrows, which had been lightened, restored to their original dark color.
I drove to my home, five minutes away in the Hollywood hills, where my house has a view of the famed Hollywood sign. Indeed, after twenty years, I had finally arrived in true Hollywood. It’s been a long road getting there, but it was worth every minute, even though my “fame” in Saving Mr. Banks is fleeting. I crawled into bed at 2:30 a.m., now Kristopher Kyer once again. The lights and glamor are so fleeting in Hollywood, but being alone in my Kyer Kastle put things back into perspective.
Saving Mr. Banks will be released Christmas Day. People who have seen it say it is wonderful movie. Don’t blink or you’ll miss my two seconds on the big screen!
Kristopher Kyer is currently starring in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, now playing at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. For dates and showtimes, consult the VC On Stage Calendar.