After another year of endless film sequels and reboots, Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns has hit the nail square on the head. The film acts as a sequel to 1964’s iconic Mary Poppins, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. There has been endless excitement surrounding the film, even though very few details were out there before release.
One detail that made the highly-anticipated film that much sweeter was the knowledge the everyone’s favorite chimney sweep, Dick Van Dyke, would make a cameo appearance. He was thrilled to join the film’s stars, Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda onscreen. Van Dyke himself revealed that, upon hearing the news of a sequel, his first thought was, “Can I be in it?”
Director Rob Marshall was giddy to hear that Van Dyke wanted to be a part of the film. Mary Poppins Return was a true passion project for the director, as the original Mary Poppins was the first film he ever saw. Including Van Dyke in the project was a no-brainer: “He’s a hero of mine,” Marshall gushed. “I just was a humongous fan. And so hopefully he felt that support and love immediately over the phone, because he said ‘yes’ right away. That was an amazing thing.”
Being that this is a sequel and not a remake, Marshall was tasked to figure out where best to put Van Dyke. Early on in the film, the audience learns that Bert is “traveling the world, off to parts unknown.” So, where does Van Dyke come in? As Mr. Dawes, Jr., of course. Fans of the 1964 film may remember that Van Dyke also played Mr. Dawes Sr., the grouchy boss of Mr. George Banks.
Van Dyke said he thought the part was a perfect fit. “I’ve grown into the part. I won’t need any make-up!” he joked. Jokes aside, Van Dyke makes a wonderful transformation into the role of Mr. Dawes, Jr., dance break and all!
Van Dyke’s cameo comes during the film’s climax, and it does not disappoint! Neither, apparently, did Van Dyke’s time on set. Cast and crew alike were spellbound by Van Dyke during his one-day set visit.
Marshall recalled filming Van Dyke’s scene, which involves dancing on a desk: “He just jumped up. We were like, ‘What did he just do!?’” Another highlight for Marshall was an improvisation from Van Dyke, in which he recited a joke about “the wooden leg named Smith,” a nod to the 1964 film.
Blunt recalls that Van Dyke’s day on set was, “the day the Rob cried, hard. I knew that Rob was struggling to hold it together because Dick finished his speech and there was a huge pause and no one was saying ‘Cut.’” Van Dyke’s monologue left Marshall speechless and brought him to tears. Still unable to fully put it into words, Marshall said, “It was him, in this film, in my film, playing this character, in Mary Poppins, still [being] here, plus he’s so good…it was all that.”
Blunt and Miranda each keep their own special memories close to their hearts when they think of working with Van Dyke. For Blunt, it was a quiet moment she shared with him. “We were sitting on set,” she said, “and we were chatting about the original, and there was a little lull in the conversation and he just leaned over and held my hand and [sang], ‘It’s a jolly holiday with Mary.’ It was so special.”
Miranda’s special moment came in watching Van Dyke on set. He notes that the song “Feed the Birds” is very personal to him, and Van Dyke made it all the more personal. “He has this beautiful monologue, but then he also sang ‘Feed the Birds.’…To have Dick Van Dyke beautifully performing this incredible monologue and then those notes, which still wreck me to this day…it was very tough holding it together.”
Having seen the film, I am happy to report that Van Dyke is as enchanting as ever. The film was wonderful and his cameo made the film feel full-circle and, truly, practically perfect in every way.
Mary Poppins Returns is in theatres now! You won’t regret it!
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