Julie Andrews — unlike the Eliza Doolittle she once played on stage — has a knack for picking the winning horse.
So her choice in this weekend's box-office sweepstakes brings a delicious twist: "Mary Poppins Returns" — a sequel that lacks a cameo from Andrews, who starred in the original — goes head to head against "Aquaman," a movie that does feature her voice. She plays a sassy, massive-tentacled CGI monster, the Karathen, who guards a trident that Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) needs for his superheroic adventures.
Disney's "Mary Poppins Returns," a sequel to George Cukor's 1964 classic, opens in theaters Friday, with Emily Blunt stepping-in-time into the title role. And among those making a cameo in Rob Marshall's new movie is Dick Van Dyke, who played the consonant-dropping Bert the chimney sweep in the original film.
Yet Van Dyke's appearance heightens the question: Where is his former co-star?
Marshall told Variety at this month's premiere of "Mary Poppins Returns" that Andrews was offered an unspecified role in "Mary Poppins Returns."
"She immediately said no," Marshall said. "She said: 'This is Emily's show and I want her to run with this. She should run with this. This is hers. I don't want to be on top of that."
Andrews has worked on only one film besides "Aquaman" in the past seven years — returning to voice her mother character last year in the "Despicable Me" franchise.
"Aquaman" director James Wan ("Furious 7," "The Conjuring") has said in interviews that the actress said yes to the DC Comics film because her grandson is a big Wan fan. Besides, Andrews has played so many queens over the past two decades that the somewhat darker role could well be a fun change of pace.
A typically classy and graceful decision, to be sure.
Film history reminds us never to bet against Andrews.
For the 1964 Oscar-winning film "My Fair Lady," Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway famously re-created the roles they originated in the Tony-winning smash of the same name. Yet Andrews — another Broadway and West End star from that stage musical — was coolly passed over for the movie. Instead, Audrey Hepburn inherited Andrews' role of Eliza the young Cockney flower peddler, with her singing dubbed by Marni Nixon.
But Andrews, with all her sweet-toned talent, would take back the spotlight. She moved on to 1964's "Mary Poppins" — her breakout film — and won the best actress Oscar. Hepburn, as charming as she was, was not even nominated.
This weekend, we'll see whether at the box office, at least, Andrews again emerges as the "winner."