Dick Van Dyke 'still gets kidded' about his “Mary Poppins” accent

Dick Van Dyke 'still gets kidded' about his “Mary Poppins” accent

"It didn't seem to harm anyone's enjoyment of the movie," the legend, tells EW, looking back on his 98th birthday special.

Dick Van Dyke may be 98 years old, but he still gets teased about an acting choice from over 60 years ago.

The legend, who celebrated his banner birthday with the CBS special Dick Van Dyke: 98 Years of Magic, tells Entertainment Weekly that he still catches flack for his cockney accent in 1964's Mary Poppins.

"I still get kidded about it," he says. "But it didn't seem to harm anybody's enjoyment of the movie. But I do get kidded about it. The people who don't kid me are the British. They never mentioned it — and they're the ones who should be making fun of me and don't."

Van Dyke is beloved for his portrayal of chimney sweep, Bert, who joins Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) in her efforts to alter the hearts and minds of the Banks family. But his accent has also long been the butt of jokes, even landing second in Empire's 2003 poll of the worst movie accents.

<p>Silver Screen Collection/Getty</p> Dick Van Dyke in 'Mary Poppins'

Silver Screen Collection/Getty

Dick Van Dyke in 'Mary Poppins'

Related: At 98, Dick Van Dyke becomes the oldest Daytime Emmy nominee: See the full list of nominations

Still, as he says, it hasn't stopped generations of families from falling in love with the movie — and with Van Dyke. That love was abundantly evident in Dick Van Dyke: 98 Years of Magic, which aired back in December and featured Van Dyke reminiscing about his career, while other performers paid tribute to some of his best work in The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins, and more. Jason Alexander opened the show with a performance of the title song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Skylar Astin and Amanda Kloots gave us Bye Bye Birdie's "Put On a Happy Face;" JoJo Siwa led a high-energy rendition of Mary Poppins' "Step In Time;" and Alexander returned to close the show with "Let's Go Fly a Kite" from Mary Poppins.

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EW called up Van Dyke to get his take on the special, as well as to reminisce about some of his most memorable titles (with added contributions from his wife, Arlene Silver).

<p>Monty Brinton/CBS</p> Arlene Silver and Dick Van Dyke at 'Dick Van Dyke: 98 Years of Magic'

Monty Brinton/CBS

Arlene Silver and Dick Van Dyke at 'Dick Van Dyke: 98 Years of Magic'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the special, you kept saying you thought you would just do some interviews. So what were you told about the event, and how different and surprising was everything the night of? 

DICK VAN DYKE: Everything was. Because I thought it was going to be just some reminiscences and maybe a few pieces of footage. I didn't know it was going to be a full-out special as it was, so I was really entertained. It was quite a night for me.

Was there a performance or moment that was particularly meaningful to you?

VAN DYKE: Probably "Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious."

You've also received a tribute at the Kennedy Center Honors, and that had a lot of performances as well. How did this evening compare? 

ARLENE SILVER:  The birthday special had more people that he knew, even though it's very hard when you're 98 to find people because so many have passed away. I felt like the birthday special was more personal. The Kennedy Center was really people he didn't know doing tributes. But it's nice to get love any way you can get it, but it is sad that the people he worked with aren't here to do it.

Mary Steenburgen talked about how you always elevated the women in your work. Was that something you did consciously or were looking for in projects? 

VAN DYKE: Actually, the women elevated themselves. I just paved the way and left the room to do it. Mary Tyler Moore was great from day one. She just had it, so she elevated herself. If you give them the time and the space to do it, they'll elevate themselves.

<p>Everett</p> Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh in 'Bye Bye Birdie'


Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh in 'Bye Bye Birdie'

Do you have a particularly cherished memory of doing Bye Bye Birdie, either on stage or screen?

VAN DYKE: Broadway was superior to the movie. The movie was altered to the point that they took out some of the songs, wrote new ones, and it ended up being a vehicle for Ann-Margret. I wasn't as happy with the movie as I was with the original, but the original was a romp for me. It was my first Broadway show, and the first time I had ever danced professionally, and I couldn't wait to get to work every night.

With both Birdie and Mary Poppins, how do you go from never taking a dance lesson to this stellar final product?

VAN DYKE: I was always pretty light footed. When I auditioned for Bye Bye Birdie, [director] Gower Champion said, "You have the part." And I said, "Mr. Champion, I don't dance." He said, "I'll show you." And he did. He saw that I had the physical ability to do it, and it was like learning to fly.

Related: All the stories behind Dick Van Dyke's emotional Mary Poppins Returns cameo

Was it even more challenging to learn the Mary Poppins dances?

VAN DYKE: Oh, boy. You said it. The toughest dance of all was "Me Ol' Bamboo" in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, jumping over the stick. Oh my God, I think we did 25 takes of that. I was twice as old as all the other dancers.

Do you have a favorite number from Mary Poppins?

VAN DYKE: The Sherman brothers wrote all the music for Mary Poppins and for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and there's not a bad one in there. They're all wonderful songs. "Supercalifragilistic" was the most fun to do with the dance number.

How did you build your bond with Julie Andrews?

VAN DYKE: During rehearsal, the day we met was on the rehearsal floor. We shook hands and went to work, and they worked us pretty hard, but we had so much fun doing it. Some of the moves we made up. We became good friends during the rehearsals.

<p>Mary Evans/DRAMATIC FEATURES/WARFIELD/Ronald Grant/Everett</p> Sally Ann Howes and Dick Van Dyke in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'

Mary Evans/DRAMATIC FEATURES/WARFIELD/Ronald Grant/Everett

Sally Ann Howes and Dick Van Dyke in 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'

It's not a musical, but I love What a Way To Go! Do you have any particular memories from that experience?

VAN DYKE: Shirley MacLaine was such a brat. We'd be out on location and when the makeup man wanted to touch her up, she would run and he'd have to chase her and tackle her and hold her down. She was like a little kid. She was a real character.

Did you choreograph a lot of the silent movie sequence with her? I know Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin were great inspirations for you.

VAN DYKE: Right. Yeah. They were probably spinning in their graves as I'd steal all their bits. But yes, they let us play with it a bit.

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This special really showcased the fact that you've brought so much joy to so many people over the years. Is there something you're proudest of?

VAN DYKE: Oh, god, that really is a difficult one. What I'm proud of is the fact that I'm now getting fan mail from the third generation — the grandparents, the parents, and now, little kids are writing me and I'm over the moon about that. That I had such a good impression on so many.

You're 98 and have an incredible body of work to your credit. Is there anything you still want to do?

VAN DYKE: I've got so much experience and so many wonderful memories that I was thinking of doing a one-man show, just kind of reminiscing. 

Dick Van Dyke: 98 Years of Magic is available to stream on Paramount+.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.