Cast member Emily Blunt reacts on the red carpet at the world premiere of Disney's movie Mary Poppins Returns in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 29, 2018.
Cast member Emily Blunt reacts on the red carpet at the world premiere of Disney's movie Mary Poppins Returns in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 29, 2018.

NEW YORK - She takes on a beloved movie character and dances with penguins, but what really terrified British actress Emily Blunt was descending slowly from the clouds as the new Mary Poppins.

More than 50 years after it first charmed audiences worldwide, Blunt stars in the sequel "Mary Poppins Returns" as the magical English nanny with a no-nonsense demeanor but a twinkle in the eye.

The Walt Disney movie, starting its global roll-out this week, is set 20 years after the musical fantasy that made Julie Andrews a star.

Despite new music, a new cast and new director Rob Marshall, "Mary Poppins Returns" pays homage to the original 1964 film, including the arrival of the singing nanny from the skies above London.

This time, however, Poppins floats down holding a battered kite rather than her parrot umbrella but with her signature carpet bag still in hand.

Blunt said she was "terrified" filming the scene while hoisted high up on a crane. "It's very high. Rob (Marshall) wanted to do one shot where I start in the air and I come down and the cameras are here and I walk straight into my close-up."

Cast member Lin Manuel-Miranda, Emily Blunt and di
Cast member Lin Manuel-Miranda, Emily Blunt and director Rob Marshall pose at the world premiere of Disney's movie "Mary Poppins Returns" in Los Angeles, Nov. 29, 2018.

?"We did about four takes and then I was like, 'Rob - please say you have it now. Have you got it? Just say you have it,'" said the actress, best known for her roles in thriller "A Quiet Place" and comedy "The Devil Wears Prada."

Like the original, "Mary Poppins Returns" features fantasy sequences, dance numbers, animated dancing penguins. There's even a cameo for a tap-dancing Dick Van Dyke, 93, who played Bert, the cheery London chimney sweep, in the 1964 film.

However Andrews, 83, who won an Oscar for her performance as Mary Poppins, has placed herself outside the spotlight, with no role in the sequel and no appearances at red carpet events.

Blunt, 35, said Andrews has been supportive of her taking on the role.

"I was very moved that she wanted this just to be my version of Mary Poppins and embraced as that, rather than her coming in at some point and being a distraction," she said.

"I hear she's just seen the film and loved it, so that means a lot to us," Blunt added.

"Mary Poppins Returns," which has been nominated for four Golden Globe awards, also stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, British actors Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw, and Meryl Streep in a cameo role.