Audiences loved Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins.” But here’s a little-known fact: the duo almost co-starred in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” as well.
Julie Andrews Ultimately Turned Down ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’
After “The Sound of Music,” Andrews was afraid of being typecast. So when filmmakers offered her the role of Truly Scrumptious in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” she said no, according to Newsmax.
In fact, Andrews had been reluctant to play Maria in “The Sound of Music.” At the time, she had just played a nanny in “The Americanization of Emily.”
“It would be my second nanny role, almost on the heels of my first,” Andrews wrote in her second autobiography, “Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years,” per Forbes.
However, her agent kept at her. And finally she accepted what would turn out to be her iconic role as Maria.
“Arthur [Park] very much encouraged me to accept the job,” she added. “And I’ll be forever grateful for the nudge over the fence that he and Bob [Wise] gave this nervous and insecure young woman.”
As for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” Dick Van Dyke starred in the movie as Caractacus Potts. And even without Andrews, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” was a “Mary Poppins” reunion of sorts. The same composer and lyricist, Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, respectively, worked to adapt the movie from the children’s book by Ian Fleming.
Actress Sally Ann Howes had already replaced Andrews once – in the Broadway production of “My Fair Lady.” So after Andrews turned down the role of Truly Scrumptious, the filmmakers offered it to Howes, and she accepted.
Dick Van Dyke Also Said No to the Movie At First
When he first had the chance to join “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” Van Dyke rejected it. But the filmmakers kept coming back to him with a higher offer. Finally, they offered him a seven-figure sum and a percentage of the profits, according to IMDb. At that point, Van Dyke accepted.
“I can’t speak for Julie’s reasons, but both of us turned [producer Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli] down,” Van Dyke wrote in his autobiography “My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business,” per The Sun. “I thought the script had too many holes and unanswered questions. However, each time I said no, Cubby came back with more money. I’m talking serious money.”
But after he signed on, the actor found the experience of making the film highly unpleasant. Van Dyke’s first wife, Maggie Willett, started having health problems during the filming of the movie. She returned to California. Van Dyke, who had been moving between London and the South of France for the film, went back to America to be with her for a few days.
“I jetted back to Europe, only to have my agent inform me that Cubby had docked me $80,000 for missing work,” Van Dyke recalled. “Furious, I didn’t want to talk to him after that, which wasn’t good since I was already unimpressed with the director, Ken Hughes. Quite simply, I thought he was wrong for the picture. One day I heard him grouse that he had to rewrite Roald Dahl’s script. Who rewrote Roald Dahl?”
Van Dyke concluded that “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” “lacked the magic” of “Mary Poppins,” and some critics seemed to agree. Julie Andrews has said she regrets turning down certain roles, but Truly Scrumptious wasn’t one of them.