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Dick Van Dyke and his outrageous accent made the original Mary Poppins an absolute joy to behold. He always seems to be having the most fun possible on screen. However, it sounds like his performance in Mary Poppins Returns may leave the audience feeling entirely different emotions. Specifically, it may leave theaters in tears. Emily Blunt says Van Dyke will have a powerfully emotional monologue as part of his role as Mr. Dawes Jr. in the new movie and the scene was apparently so overwhelming for those that witnessed it on set that director Rob Marshall was in tears and was apparently unable to end the scene. According to Emily Blunt...
That was the day that Rob [Marshall] cried, hard. I knew that Rob was struggling to hold it together because Dick finished his speech and there was a huge pause and no one was saying 'cut.' That was when we all realized that this really was the next chapter and what an honor it was to carry this on.
The scene was over and Rob Marshall was apparently not in a state to simply say "cut." One imagines everybody just standing there, sort of stunned to silence. Needless to say, if there was any way I could be more excited for Mary Poppins Returns, I now am, if only because I'm dying to know what this scene was that left the director in tears.
Having Dick Van Dyke on the set of Mary Poppins Returns was going to be a big deal, whatever happened. It probably felt like there was royalty around even before shooting started. Having him specifically deliver what is apparently an incredibly powerful moment likely only made the experience that much more emotional.
While the original Mary Poppins novel was published in 1934, it was the 1964 feature film with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke that most audiences probably relate to. The film was both a critical and commercial hit, and it won Julie Andrews an Oscar for her performance in the title role. It's a universally loved film, which is why, as Emily Blunt says here, she found it an honor to carry on the movie.
However, it's also the reason that many fans have been more than a little nervous about a sequel coming so long after the original with all new actors in the key roles. Can Mary Poppins Returns possibly live up to the original? If the movie is able to deliver emotional moments like this, then maybe it can.
Dick Van Dyke played the role of jack-of-all-trades Burt, mostly known for his accent that pushes the limits of credulity, but he also played the small role of Mr. Dawes Sr., the director of the bank where Jane and Michael Banks' father worked. In the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns he'll play his own son, Mr. Dawes Jr.
It seems that director Rob Marshall wasn't the only one who started to break down on the set of Mary Poppins Returns. Apparently, after finishing the previously mentioned monologue, Dick Van Dyke then breezed into an impromptu performance of the Mary Poppins classic "Feed the Birds," which caused Lin-Manuel Miranda to have his own emotional moment.
That was also the most emotional day on set. He has this beautiful monologue, but then he also sang [off-script] 'Feed the Birds'. Now, I never saw the end of Mary Poppins until I was in high school because when I was a kid 'Feed the Birds' would come on and that melody was so sad, I would burst into tears and turn off the movie. So to have Dick Van Dyke beautifully performing this incredible monologue and then those notes, which still wreck me to this day... it was very tough holding it together.
"Feed the Birds" is, without question, one of the most emotional moments in Mary Poppins. It's a beautiful song that even Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers loved, even though she went largely unimpressed with Walt Disney's adaptation of her novel. It's a beautiful song, and, as Lin-Manuel Miranda points out to EW, a heartbreaking melody. The music itself is sad, so much so that Miranda apparently had trouble getting through that part of the movie as a kid. If you need a reminder of how beautifully sad it all is, take a listen below.
While "Chim Chim Cher-ee" was the breakout song of Mary Poppins and it won Richard and Robert Sherman an Oscar for Best Original Song, "Feed the Birds" was Walt Disney's favorite song in the film. The Sherman Brothers have said that, on many occasions, Walt would request they come into his office and play the song for him.
In this era of reboots, sequels, and franchise focused filmmaking, it's far from uncommon for new movies to bring in actors from previous versions for little cameos, but it seems that Mary Poppins Returns isn't settling for just a cameo for Dick Van Dyke. In addition to this major emotional beat for the movie that will belong to the actor, the trailers for the film have shown us that Van Dyke will also be part of a significant song and dance number. This may also be a showstopper as both Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda say that Van Dyke was incredibly agile. They were expecting to need to help him on to a desk at one point during filming, but he waved them away and did it himself.
While it does seem the role will be a small one, the interview makes it sound like Dick Van Dyke was only on set for a single day, it appears it won't be unimportant.
The more I hear about Mary Poppins Returns the more it seems like this movie may actually live up to the extremely high expectations that it has. With two great talents like Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda on board and emotional moments by greats like Dick Van Dyke, maybe the sequel will be as powerful and important a film as the original. We'll find out this Christmas.