Wigs & More Wigs: All The Hair & Makeup Secrets Behind Mary Poppins Returns

We all know the 1934 story by P.L. Travers: An English nanny named Mary Poppins magically descends on a London family and uses kindness, discipline, and an odd sense of adventure to change the lives of the Banks family forever. Thirty years after Mary Poppins was first published, the fictional icon came to life on the big screen, and in Technicolor, with the help of Walt Disney, Julie Andrews, and Dick Van Dyke. Now, Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Van Dyke (!) are back to reprise the beloved roles in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns.

When the first teaser for the film’s second act premiered during the Academy Awards in March, longtime fans of the fantastical story were immediately curious and, admittedly, concerned about whether or not this would exceed the high marks of the original — could it do Andrews and Van Dyke’s version justice? Turns out it does, but, surprisingly, not because it tried to replicate what’d already been done. Blunt recently told Refinery29 that she didn’t want to one-up the story’s legacy but create her own version of Poppins while still paying homage Andrews’ award-winning role.

Modernizing a classic character is no easy feat, which is exactly why the producers locked down Hollywood hair and makeup veteran Peter King to design a Poppins fit for Blunt. And when we asked if he secretly did watch the ’64 version ahead of shooting (or least print out some photos for inspiration) he firmly replied, “Not at all.”

With nothing but a distant childhood memory in his mind, King set out — collaborating with costume designer Sandy Powell, director Rob Marshall, and the stars of the film — to make sure the newest Poppins is just as memorable as the last. So, we asked him to tell us everything: How Blunt’s Poppins resembles the original, why Meryl Streep’s hair is cut into a trendy orange bob, and exactly how Van Dyke felt about playing one very familiar character. His answers, ahead.

Mary Poppins Might Not Age, But Her Makeup Evolves
The sequel picks up 20 years after where the previous left off. While the Banks children, Jane and Michael, are now full-grown adults, Poppins looks as “practically perfect” as ever, which King did on purpose. “[Blunt] and I knew what we wanted to do with the character from the first time we spoke about it,” King tells us. Specifically, he didn’t want the audience to see Poppins in cakey makeup or heavy lipsticks. Instead, he chose to use lightweight products, like Chantecaille foundation and a cream blush for her lips and cheeks, to get that visible glow.

Although Blunt’s skin looks otherworldly on screen (again, totally intentional), King assures us that he simply told Blunt to keep doing whatever she was regularly doing to her skin — it already looked that good. “She’d come every morning to set with her skin already prepped and moisturized. She had a whole regimen that worked for her already, so I suggested she stick to it,” King recalls. “But she’s also not one of those people who makes a big fuss about an eight-product routine. She just does what she does and it works.”

One product King does credit to creating a healthy radiance is the DHC Cleansing Oil. “I like using it a lot and I know [Blunt] likes it as well,” he says. “It’s fantastic because it doesn’t ever dry the skin out while a lot of other products out there can be quite astringent to try and remove makeup.”

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, $14, available at DermStorePhoto: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

The Most Iconic Part About Poppins Didn’t Change
Although King didn’t look to the original to design Blunt’s version of Poppins, he did have one rule: The nanny’s hair color would not change. “Of course, I saw the movie when I was a kid and I knew that Mary Poppins had brown hair,” he recalls. This contributed to King’s vision that Poppins’ softness and warmth would translate on screen.

Instead of dyeing Blunt’s sun-kissed, blonde lob back to her former shade of brunette, King decided a wig would be the best option. “I prefer creating custom wigs for the actors because if you dye their hair for a role, you’ll be back touching it up and re-dyeing it a week or two later,” King explains. In other words, nobody has time for that, okay? Throughout the movie, Blunt wears three different wigs, all designed for different scenes. She has her wavy bob, a chin-length, straight bob, and a Victorian updo.

Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

The Orange Wig Was Meryl Streep’s Idea
If Poppins exists “outside of time,” then her distant cousin Topsy (played by Streep) lives in an alternate universe where everything that’s wrong is right, up is down, and wildly bizarre is completely normal — which is exactly why you see Streep in green makeup and a tangerine wig.

Topsy’s look came only after King sat down with Powell, Streep, and Streep’s longtime makeup artist J. Roy Helland. “We saw [Streep’s] costume and noticed lots of lime greens that we thought would look quite nice on the eyes,” King recalls. As for the hair, the cut came before the color. “We knew she’d be wearing a turban, so someone suggested we do this geometric, curly bob,” says King. But that color was all Streep’s idea. Her inspiration: Powell — and her outrageously orange hair IRL.

Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

Dick Van Dyke’s Return Was Easier Than The First Go-Round
Did you know that Van Dyke played two characters in the original movie? Famously, the hoofer portrayed Bert, the chimney-sweeping jack-of-all-trades, but he also played Mr. Dawes Sr., the director of the London bank whose infectious laughter killed him. In the sequel, Van Dyke returns as Mr. Dawes Jr., the son of his 1964 character.

According to Entertainment Weekly, 93-year-old Van Dyke insisted that he didn’t need extensive hair and makeup this time around because of his age. “I thought, ‘Well, this is handy. I’ve grown into the part. I won’t need any makeup!’” the actor said in a press interview with Disney. “They put mustaches and wigs and muttonchops and everything, and I said, ‘You guys realize you’re making up a 90-year-old to look like a 90-year-old? He actually, for me, looked too good. Mr. Dawes in the first one was kind of scruffy. This guy was pretty well turned-out!”

“Yes, we had to put [Van Dyke] in some hair,” King recalls. “I spoke to [Marshall] about that because we had to have some continuity for the character.” In the first Mary Poppins, Van Dyke was in his 30s, so he had to wear a lot of prosthetic makeup, a bald cap, and a wig to turn into the weathered Dawes. King assures that, this time around, all Van Dyke needed was a white wig and fake facial hair to complete the look. His appearance is brief — two minutes tops — but, of course, he manages to turn a quick cameo into a legendary moment.

Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

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