After all these decades, Dick Van Dyke apologized for the famously bad Cockney accent he used for the lovable chimney-sweep named Bert in Walt Disney Pictures' 1964 classic, Mary Poppins. Last Thursday, BAFTA Los Angeles named the recipients for its annual Britannia Awards, and Van Dyke was among them. The 91-year-old acting legend is being honored with the Britannia Award for Excellence in Television. Though the ceremony won’t take place until October 27 at the Beverly Hilton, Van Dyke did release a statement (via Deadline) – which pokes fun at his Cockney miscue - coinciding with the BAFTA announcement:
To be fair, Van Dyke has always admitted that he missed the mark with the accent that’s traditionally spoken by working-class Londoners. However, he often passed the blame onto his dialect coach J. Pat O'Malley, an Irishman who was no better at it than he was. Aside from blaming O’Malley, he even tried lying about the origin of his accent. He explained to late night host Conan O’Brien in a 2012 interview:
“If someone from the UK sees me, they're on me like a pack of wolves. I mean, it was the worst Cockney accent ever done. The guy who taught me was an Irishman: Pat O'Malley. So I made up a story: 'It wasn't Cockney. It's from a little obscure county in the north of England. A few Cockneys moved up there, you know, in the 1800s. And you'd probably never hear it again.’”
Van Dyke will appear in Mary Poppins Returns – the upcoming sequel that stars Golden Globe Award winner Emily Blunt in the title role first-made famous by Academy Award winner, Julie Andrews. He will be portraying a character that is related to one of the two roles that he portrayed in the original. No, it’s not someone related to Bert. He’s playing Mr. Dawes Jr., the chairman of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank and the son of the villainous old bank president from the first movie. However, this time, Van Dyke didn’t undergo a two-hour makeup process to appear elderly.
As for Mary Poppins Returns, it’s set 20 years after the original and focuses on the adult Banks’ children, Michael, played by Ben Whishaw, and Jane. played by Emily Mortimer. After his wife dies, Michael struggles with grief and raising his three children, so his childhood nanny returns to Cherry Tree Lane to bring back optimism – with help from street lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) - and put a smile back on the faces of the Banks family.