Ever since it was revealed last December that Dick Van Dyke would appear in Mary Poppins Returns, Disney’s revival of the Mary Poppins franchise, fans have been wondering what role he would play. Van Dyke, still actively working at the ripe age of 91, played Bert, the charming chimney sweep in the 1964 Disney classic alongside Julie Andrews’ titular character.
But what most fans don’t know is that he played another role in that film. Under heavy old-age makeup – Van Dyke was in his late 30s when the original was filmed – he played the role of Mr. Dawes, the miserly proprietor of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank. The role was originally supposed to go to another actor, but Van Dyke wanted to play the part so badly that he offered to do it for free.
Now, Van Dyke revealed in an interview with ET that, in a tip of the hat to that role, he will be playing Mr. Dawes’ son, simply known as Mr. Dawes Jr., this time presumably without the makeup. Though some fans may have been hoping that Van Dyke would be picking up his iconic chimney brush and donning his unforgettable (or unforgettably bad, depending on who you ask) cockney accent for the long-awaited sequel to the first film, the confines of the story would make that impossible.
Mary Poppins Returns will be a sequel to the original rather than a reboot, following Emily Mortimer (The Newsroom) and Ben Whishaw (Spectre) as Jane and Michael – the now-grown children from the first movie who now have children of their own. Like the first film, the siblings welcome Mary Poppins (here played by Emily Blunt) into their lives so that they all may “rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.” The relative ages of the first film’s characters means the sequel takes place roughly 20 years after the first one. In turn, that means Van Dyke has aged out of the part of Bert.
Despite his much-derided accent, Van Dyke’s performance was one of the best aspects of the original film. His onscreen chemistry with Andrews’ Mary Poppins was key to the movie’s success, instantly suggesting years of shared history whenever the two were onscreen together. His winning smile and soulful eyes that revealed a hint of sadness behind his happy-go-lucky attitude more than made up for his lack of vocal range. Indeed, it’s a testament to the lasting impression he made over 50 years ago that he’s been asked to return.
However, him not reprising his original role isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Though Van Dyke was undeniably charming as Bert, taking his place is Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda (Moana), who will be playing the similar-sounding role of the “optimistic street lamplighter” Jack. Miranda’s natural charisma and innate musical talent suggest that the sequel’s male lead will at least equal Van Dyke’s portrayal. And the plethora of big names appearing in the supporting cast, such as Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), and Angela Lansbury (Beauty and the Beast) means his relative absence won’t be as keenly felt. Furthermore, fans of Van Dyke’s particular brand of song and dance will not leave the film disappointed: The actor has confirmed that he will get to do both in his new role.
Mary Poppins Returns will be released in U.S. theaters on December 25, 2018.
Source: Entertainment Tonight