Dick Van Dyke almost played the world's most famous spy!

His secret weapon would have been a good joke!

Image: The Official James Bond 007 Website

You know Dick Van Dyke from an assortment of lovable roles. He’s been part of numerous iconic films that multiple generations have enjoyed. From Bye Bye Birdie to Dick Tracy, he’s one actor whom most people can not only point out, but smile to think of and immediately name their favorite role.

There’s one role, however, that he just didn’t qualify for. Anyone’s first instinct at hearing this would be to question the casting director’s sanity. After all, Van Dyke was a well-established, talented actor and a comic treasure. What could he possibly not qualify for?

Here’s a hint: he likes his martini shaken, not stirred.

That’s right; Van Dyke was offered the opportunity to play 007! In an interview with Kevin Pollak in 2013, Van Dyke revealed that he and producer Albert R. Broccoli had discussed the idea. Broccoli was already planning his next few projects. His current one was the family film Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang, and working with Van Dyke inspired Broccoli to pitch a casting opportunity that may have been too good.

"I was doing Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang, and Sean Connery had spoken about leaving the Bond pictures, you know," Van Dyke recalled. Sean Connery was indeed preparing to pass the torch (or rather, the Walther PPK) to the next James Bond, although that actor had not been solidified yet. "And Cubby [Albert] Broccoli actually called me in and asked me if I wanted to be Bond!"

Broccoli's work on Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang was more out-of-the-ordinary than anything else. Broccoli had a long line of action-adventure films on his resume, notably Bond titles like Goldfinger, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, along with dozens of other films. Broccoli was enjoying his work with Van Dyke, and wanted to extend the 007 world with a new face. There was only one problem.

"I said, 'Have you heard?'" Van Dyke remarked, referring to his infamous British accent. He had spoken a broken Cockney English in his role as Burt the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins. While the film delighted critics as a children’s film, Van Dyke’s attempts at a Cockney accent did not go over well. To this day, fans still giggle when they hear his attempt at a cheery "'Allo, Mary!" from the film. It was this key flaw that took him out of the running for the role.

"[Broccoli] said, 'Oh! That’s right! Forget it!'" The producer ended up moving forward with actor George Lazenby instead.

This flaw has humorously plagued Van Dyke for the duration of his career. He’s even gone so far as to apologize for the Poppins performance. In 2017, he was honored with the Brittania Award for Excellence in Television. During his acceptance speech, Van Dyke requested atonement for the past: "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."

Van Dyke may not have played the world’s greatest spy, but he did eventually get to correct his English accent. In the recent film Mary Poppins Returns, Van Dyke makes a cameo appearance as Mr. Dawes, Jr.

After nearly 60 years, Van Dyke presented an accent that was wonderfully polished, all thanks to the accent specialist hired to work with him.

We may not have seen him as James Bond, but with memorable roles like Burt or Caractacus Potts under his belt, maybe the world doesn’t need a soft-shoeing spy.

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CyndiM 3 months ago
Van Dyke was brilliant in Mary Poppins. His talent truly overshadowed any silly old accent he had. It's a shame such a big deal was made of it. Dick Van Dyke for the part of James Bond would have been like putting Sean Connery in Mary Poppins!
Doom 4 months ago
Maybe if they had made another James Bond comedy like the original Casino Royale then he would have been great.
EricFuller 4 months ago
Imagine him as Bond tripping over the ottoman in M's office.
ELEANOR 4 months ago
Say Dick Van Dyke to anyone, I repeat anyone, in Great Britain and the one and only thing they will say is, terrible Cockney accent. He Would Have Not Been Accepted as a replacement 007.
ELEANOR 4 months ago
Say Dick Van Dyke to anyone, I repeat anyone, in Great Britain and the one and only thing they will say is, terrible Cockney accent. He Would Have Not Been Accepted as a replacement 007.
Pacificsun 4 months ago
Too bad he couldn't have gotten a guest starring role on the MFU to test him out. They did at least one episode focused in Britain.
Or GFU. I would've liked to have seen him working w/Boris Karloff. Boris would have made a great English [accent] teacher.
Barry22 4 months ago
That would've been terrible. Unless there was a scene when he enters a bad guy's hideout and trips over the ottoman.
Or he was the bad guy and he trips/side steps over/around his own ottoman.
EricFuller Barry22 4 months ago
Or having Moneypenny say, "Ohhh James!"
Lantern 4 months ago
And we all know how George Lazenby bowled viewers over.
I think one of the reasons GL wasn't a hit as JB, is because he wasn't British, he was Australian. He also, {It's been a long time since I've seen the movie,} was not very good in the role.
TomTerrrific Lantern 4 months ago
I thought Lazenby was rather good myself. Connery made a good Bond because he was Scottish, as James Bond himself was (in the novels). Roger Moore was English. I certainly agree that trying to do Bond with a cockney accent would have been a mistake.
Jeremy TomTerrrific 4 months ago
If I remember correctly, Ian Fleming made James Bond Scottish only after seeing Sean Connery's performances.
Wiseguy TomTerrrific 4 months ago
George Lazenby appeared in an episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents revival series titled "Diamonds Aren't Forever" as an agent named "James ..." (that's how it appeared in the credits, we never hear the last name) in a parody of the James Bond franchise.
teire 4 months ago
Ian Fleming wrote the Bond series and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, hence the Broccoli connection.
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