BWW Interviews: Julie Andrews is Practically Perfect on Her First Trip to Australia
For so many of us, Julie Andrews loomed large in our childhoods, a constant presence through repeated viewings of those two iconic films, MARY POPPINS, and THE SOUND of MUSIC. In this way, it is hard to believe that it's the first time Julie Andrews has ever actually been on Australian soil. She is so familiar to us, so much a part of the collective childhood experience that one feels like she must have been here before. We know her, don't we? She's our Mary Poppins, our Fräulein Maria, the governess we imagined could sweep in and save us from thunderstorms or unhappy families, or both at the same time. We know her - this person who until today we've never actually met.
Well, here she is Australia. Tinier than you might imagine, but with a presence that fills the room the moment she appears. In person she is luminous, and completely gracious with her answers as she takes our questions in this, her first and only Australia press conference. It turns out even the most seasoned of interviewers can get a little tongue-tied when talking to an icon - though one gets the feeling it is a reaction Julie Andrews is well used to after more than seven decades in the businesss of show.
Andrews will be discussing those seven decades in her show, AN EVENING WITH Julie Andrews. It premieres in Brisbane on May 18 before she tours Perth, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.
"It's really an intimate conversation," she says of the event. The evening will be hosted by her on-screen son from THE SOUND OF MUSIC Nicholas Hammond, and will include a Q&A opportunity for audience members, along with the chance to see rare film footage and hear stories from through-out her career.
Julie Andrews has a voice just made for such storytelling, and a laugh that suggests she's only ever telling you half of it. She answers that inevitable question - is she as squeaky clean as her two most famous characters - with a deliciously delivered "I hope not!" and one is reminded that she injected both Poppins and Maria Von Trapp with something of this arch sweetness - that there was as much spice as sugar in both of her creations.
And of course it's there in the rest of her career, in particular through the work she did with her beloved husband Blake Edwards, across films including DARLING LILI, S.O.B and VICTOR VICTORIA.
But Andrews understands how it works. She says that you are only as popular as the most popular film you've done and that sits perfectly fine with her.
"It's always those two [POPPINS and THE SOUND OF MUSIC] that are remembered. I was lucky to be asked to do those iconic movies and I never, ever put them down. Ever. It fell to my great fortune to be in these movies that have just gone on, and on."
As to her singing voice, so beautifully preserved in these films, she calls it a gift - "A gift which I did cherish, and I realised it was something special. It gave me in my formative years an identity, so to speak."
To lose that gift, as she did 15 years ago after a throat operation, was both difficult and defining for Julie Andrews.
"To be honest with you, it was very tough. I think I was in denial for about a year."
Though she calls singing with a symphony one of the greatest turn ons in life - "Very few I can think of that are even better!" - after losing her voice realised, "Well I can't just sit here and do nothing. I must occupy my time and see what happens."
What happened was a new career as a successful author. She began writing with her daughter Emma and the pair have now produced a series of children's best-sellers, some of which have been developed for film and theatre.
It was Emma who reminded her that writing was simply a different way of using her voice, and of that revelation Andrews says, "It was phenomenal, it was as if the weight just fell off my shoulders. I realised that there is more than one way to communicate."
Packaging their books with as much music as they can, Andrews says that she feels utterly blessed, that "In a strange way it's come back full circle".
As she tells us today, you never know when the most amazing surprise will occur - any day, any time. When she says you should follow your dreams, but do your homework first, it is exactly the kind of advice you would expect from Julie Andrews. This woman that we know, we love. Continued next page.