The sweet story behind Dick Van Dyke’s cameo in ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

How many of you consider the classic 1964 musical “Mary Poppins” to be one of your favorite childhood films? We wouldn’t blame you. After all, at its heart, the movie is about holding onto playfulness and imagination and childlike wonder, no matter your age — a sentiment we can all get behind.

We think you’ll agree that, among all the cast members, no one in the original film typified this message more than actor Dick Van Dyke. He played bank director Mr. Dawes, Sr., but also, more memorably, Bert the chimney sweep. The movie hummed with his endless energy and enthusiasm.


But did you catch his appearance in this year’s sequel, “Mary Poppins Returns?” When the 93-year-old entertainer first learned about the sequel, he was immediately interested. That came as a delightful surprise to the film’s director, Rob Marshall, who calls himself Van Dyke’s “biggest fan.”

“I was so shocked that Dick Van Dyke wanted to do this,” Marshall told Entertainment Weekly. “I was so nervous talking to him because, I mean, it’s Dick Van Dyke!”

Marshall says he considers Van Dyke a personal hero and has seen all of his work, including each episode of his eponymous 1960s television show. Having him on the set of the sequel meant the world to the director, and Van Dyke did not disappoint.

In “Mary Poppins Returns,” Van Dyke plays Mr. Dawes, Jr., the son of his character in the original movie. Back in the day, playing Mr. Dawes, Sr. was a bit of a stretch, considering his age. But although the role was now age-appropriate, Marshall says that Van Dyke still had to call upon his considerable acting chops to pull off the role of an elderly character, because he himself has such a youthful spirit.

“Here he was playing a dual role in the first film and basically playing this old man, and now he is quote-unquote ‘that age,’ but you know what? He still had to play it old because he’s not that at all. He’s so youthful!” Marshall told the publication.

In fact, Van Dyke did all his own stunts and also danced in the new movie. His co-stars were impressed, and also overcome by the momentousness of acting alongside such a legendary man. But they weren’t the only ones who were carried away by the magic being made.

In a video for IGN, Marshall shares a moment in which Van Dyke paid him and the film what he felt was the ultimate compliment:

“He grabbed my hand as he walked onto the set for the first time,” says Marshall, “and he turned to me and he said, literally, ‘I feel the same spirit here as I did on the first film.’ Which was such a beautiful moment personally for me to hear that because that was the goal.”

“He is such a joy and so charismatic and I think people were very emotional that entire day he was on,” added Emily Blunt, who plays the titular character in the sequel. “There was a lot of ugly crying.”

Have you seen his turn in this continuation of the beloved story?