Dick Van Dyke is so popular in the entertainment industry he can likely be recognized by just his voice, whether he’s singing or talking.
Van Dyke was in several musical movies like “Mary Poppins,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” His appearance in “Mary Poppins” is what Van Dyke calls his favorite role. However, fans adore his character in the movie, just not his voice. More specifically, his accent.
When he was given the lead role in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” he shared one condition he had with the director.
Dick Van Dyke’s One Condition
Dick Van Dyke isn’t considered a showbiz diva. However, he did say that there was one condition when it came to his lead role as Caractacus Potts. That is, he refused to even attempt a British accent at any point in the film.
The filmmakers agreed and Van Dyke got the lead in one of his most infamous roles.
After his disastrous British accent in “Mary Poppins,” he could never live it down. No casting director would ever consider placing him in a film as a British character.
In fact, according to IMDb, on “Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show” in 2009 Van Dyke was offered the role of James Bond by Albert R. Broccoli. When offered Dick Van Dyke asked if he had ever heard his British accent. To which Broccoli immediately rescinded the offer and said, “Oh yeah, that’s right.”
His accent has become classic in its own right. Songs like “Chim Chin Cher-ee” are marked by his enthusiasm and unique voice. According to Insider, his accent is still being considered the worst in film history. A 2017 Babbel poll put his accent as the winning loser.
In 2012, he said in an interview with Conan, “If somebody from the UK sees me, they’re on me like a pack of wolves. It was the worst Cockney accent ever done, but the guy who taught me was an Irishman.”
He jokingly said he would make up a story and say it was an accent from an obscure part of northern England.
Jokingly Apologizes for Accent
Van Dyke never took the criticism for his accent seriously. He formally addressed it more than half a century after his role as Bert in “Mary Poppins” in 1964.
According to The Guardian, he formally “apologized” to the film world for his accent. He said, “I appreciate this opportunity to apologize to the members of Bafta for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema,” while receiving the Bafta for the Britannia award for excellence in television.
Despite the accent, the “Mary Poppins” community continues to love Van Dyke. Since then, he has also had the small role as Mr. Dawes Jr. in “Mary Poppins Returns” in 2018.
Dick Van Dyke has spoken about his time on set for the original film in the past. He was surrounded by other English cast members, yet no one seemed to mention his accent was incredibly cringe-worthy.
“People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down. They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio. I was working with an entire English cast and nobody said a word, not Julie [Andrews], not anybody said I needed to work on it so I thought I was alright,” he said.