If you hadn’t realized that Dick Van Dyke is American before you saw Mary Poppins, his British accent was probably a clear indication! In fact, the actor recently apologized to the English people for the “atrocious” accent he used playing chimney sweep Bert in the beloved 1964 musical.
That mea culpa came last July, after the British Academy of Film and Television Arts picked Dick for its 2017 Britannia Award for Excellence in Television. “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,” he said, per The Guardian. But Chantal Rickards, BAFTA’s LA chief executive, was gracious about Dick’s Cockney cock-up. “We look forward to his acceptance speech in whatever accent he chooses on the night,” she said. “We have no doubt it will be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
At a 2014 red carpet event, the actor said he’ll never be able to live down his Mary Poppins performance. “People in the UK love to rib me about my accent,” he said, per the Irish Independent. “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.”
He explained that he thought his accent was fine since the cast and crew, Julie Andrews included, said nothing. “I was working with an entire English cast and nobody said a word, not Julie, not anybody said I needed to work on it,” he said. “So I thought I was alright.”
Luckily for Dick, the gaffe doesn’t seem to have affected his career, which is nothing short of illustrious. Over the years, he has starred in the films Bye Bye Birdie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the TV shows The Dick Van Dyke Show and Diagnosis Murder. And he’s won five Emmys, a Tony, and a Grammy.
And the 92-year-old acting legend will have another shot at redemption this December with a cameo in Mary Poppins‘ sequel, Mary Poppins Returns. He’ll play Mr. Dawes Jr., the son of Mr. Dawes Sr., his other character in the original film. Sounds like a spoonful of sugar to make that memory go down!