Dick Van Dyke, 98, Says He 'Would Have Stopped It a Long Time Ago' If He Didn’t Enjoy His Career

The legendary actor set the record straight on his 70-plus-year career and what keeps him motivated to stay in the business

<p>Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty</p> Dick Van Dyke at the CBS Original Special DICK VAN DYKE: 98 YEARS OF MAGIC, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network.

Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty

Dick Van Dyke at the CBS Original Special DICK VAN DYKE: 98 YEARS OF MAGIC, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network.

More than seven decades into his career, Dick Van Dyke is still just following his passions.

The legendary actor, who turns 99 in December, attributes his storied body of work — which remains ongoing today — to fate.

"It was just a matter of enjoying myself," he told Deadline of his illustrious career. “I always loved what I was doing. If it had felt like work, I probably would have stopped it a long time ago.”

Van Dyke said he has "just loved" the projects he's been a part of, ranging from his career-launching role in Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway to a return to his roots in Mary Poppins Returns and even a spin on The Masked Singer. But he doesn't refer to his career in the traditional way.

“I call it my play,” he told the outlet, referring to his body of work.

Related: Jane Seymour Says Dick Van Dyke Turned Her Local Grocery Store into 'His Stage' to Break into 'Song and Dance'

The actor's career was celebrated in honor of his 98th birthday last year, with a special surprise performance at a CBS studio that Van Dyke wasn't expecting at all.

He walked into Television City expecting a press day but was instead treated to a two-hour tribute featuring archival footage and live performances of some of the greatest hits from his career. He told PEOPLE afterward, "It's difficult to say how I felt."

"I came home, and I said, 'You know something? It's going to be a couple of days before this actually sinks in that it happened.' I never expected that kind of recognition," he said. "My whole life went before me. I didn't realize I had done so many things while I was 75 years in show business.”

<p>Disney/Kobal/Shutterstock</p> Dick Van Dyke in 'Mary Poppins' (1964)


Dick Van Dyke in 'Mary Poppins' (1964)

In recent years, he's crossed even more things off his bucket list, as he competed on The Masked Singer in 2023 after being asked and thinking the show "looked like a lot of fun."

"I was positive they wouldn't be able to guess who I was. And I was right!" the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang star told PEOPLE after his elimination, noting that he was quite pleased with himself for being mistaken for Tony Bennett by the judges. "I was flattered."

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This year, Van Dyke continued his history-making streak as he became the oldest person to earn a Daytime Emmy nomination for his guest-starring role on Days of Our Lives. He's nominated for best guest performer in a daytime drama series for his portrayal of Timothy Robicheaux on the soap opera, which marked his first foray into that side of television.

"Some of the people have been doing it for 20 years. That's all the homework I can do – watch one and see how they do it," he told Access of how he was preparing for the role.

His longtime friend and All My Children alum Carol Burnett gave him some tips, too. "Make sure you know all your lines, because they don't do retakes," she told Van Dyke in a video.

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