'Saving Mr. Banks' Bradley Whitford tries to capture Don DaGradi's 'sense of joy'
"I had a latitude and a freedom that you don't have like with what Tom is doing," says the "Trophy Wife" star, "which is playing someone who is as familiar as Walt Disney."
"I think what Tom does is such a great example of somebody playing someone who is familiar and iconic and finding the resonances within himself for that character," Whitford adds. "Walt's sense of possibility, Walt's constant awareness of his good fortune, Walt's never-ending hunger to keep going creatively. I was really impressed with that."
In the film, Whitford works primarily with Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak (pictured above), who play song-writing duo and brothers Richard and Robert Sherman. Both Mr. DaGradi and Robert are now deceased, but Richard was a constant set presence, helping the actors bring these men to life.
"I was incredibly lucky to have Richard Sherman with us daily because Richard was there [when they created 'Mary Poppins']. Richard knew Don, loved Don and I could always check in with him," says Whitford.
"I also did a lot of archives research -- I looked at all [DaGradi's] drawings from the period, I listened to the very harrowing tapes," he adds. "And I looked at hundreds and hundreds of pictures of him and honestly, I couldn't find one where he wasn't smiling."
DaGradi's seemingly perpetual happiness was something Whitford worked hard to bring to the role.
"In talking with Richard, he feels so lucky he got to spend his life writing these wonderful songs," says Whitford. "Don was certainly in Richard's camp -- he loved what he did and was aware of how lucky he was. ... I wanted underneath Don just this sense of joy that I think this guy had."
"Saving Mr. Banks" opens nationwide Friday, Dec. 20.