It has been over half a century since Dick Van Dyke played the lovable, cockney-accented chimney sweep in Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964). On Friday night, the 91-year-old was honored by BAFTA LA for his long career in entertainment.
The evening’s other honorees, including Claire Foy and Aziz Ansari, used their own acceptance speeches to talk about the legendary actor, as well.
Host Jack Whitehall took to the stage at the Beverly Hilton, joking that Van Dyke was responsible for Americans dodgy accents.
The Crown actress Claire Foy, after being introduced by her co-star John Lithgow, disputed Whitehall’s assertion, saying, “Dick Van Dyke, I would like to say that as a British person and the Queen of England, I think your accent is lovely.”
Van Dyke accepted his honor following a lengthy standing ovation.
“I assume that after 60 years of bad jokes, I am off the hook for appropriating the cockney dialect,” the actor said. “While I was working with a cast, all Brits, and not one person said, ‘You know, you ought to work on that accent.'”
Van Dyke also talked about working on Disney’s remake of the classic, which stars Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda.
“I had a dialect coach handcuffed to me. My accent was good, every syllable. Almost as good as Mr. Lithgow’s,” he joked.
Van Dyke exited the stage with presenter Kevin Spacey to another standing ovation.
One person who was not necessarily happy with Van Dyke’s most-loved speech was Ansari.
“Thank you, BAFTA people, for making me follow the most charming and adorable shit I have ever seen in my life. That is not cool, it could have been at the end,” joked the Master of None star. “I am convinced that every person I have ever met is horrible, except for Dick Van Dyke.”
Director Ava DuVernay and actor Matt Damon were also honored at the gathering, which doubled as a fundraising event for BAFTA LA’s philanthropic initiatives, which include scholarships for graduate students and inner-city filmmaking programs for high school students.
Kenneth Branagh, who was being awarded the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment, spoke about his eighth birthday when he went to see Van Dyke in 1968’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. After an introduction by his Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan, the Murder on the Orient Express filmmaker concluded the evening by saying, “As I sat there is a packed house with a big screen, I think I knew deep down that entertainment is where my dream lie.”