Dame Julie Andrews continues top exude class and elegance and at a perennially youthful 71, the British Dame with that still vibrant accent, enjoys iconic status over four decades since her auspicious screen debut as Mary Poppins.
She cheerfully admits that after all these years, she is filled with “gratitude that I’m still able to do what I love to do,” while helping to promote Shrek the Third, in which Andrews reprises her role as the Queen of Far, Far Away. “I’m lucky I got asked to do Shrek, that I got asked to do Sound of Music,
Victor/Victoria and all of them. There’s a lot of talent out there, a huge amount of talent, so I think we’re all very blessed and shouldn’t take any of it for granted.”
Andrews has had a career of enchanting generations of children, and she ponders whether today’s children are far less innocent to those who first saw her in her seminal classic hits. “Well, in the case of Shrek, I think that in spite of it being as hip and modern and standing all the old traditions on its ear, one thing that comes through loud and clear is a story in the old tradition. All the values are just as good. It’s still a wonderful tale to tell with good moral values and decency about it and I’m very pleased to be a part of that. It’s very well done too. Look at the quality of the film itself, which is the best you can possibly get. Then the writers are the best, the characters are wonderful, it’s hip and it’s with it and I don’t think there’s anything to fault really with it.”
Andrews is busy as an author, not only writing and publishing children’s books, but at long last the Oscar winner is penning her autobiography, to an extent. “It’s half a biography, half of my life,” covering her childhood through to Mary Poppins. “That’s the arc of the story,” Andrews explains, denying any kind of catharsis in writing about one’s life. “It’s just that you have to question why you do an autobiography, apart from the fact that the publishers ask you to do it and give you a lot of money for it, but I could give it to my grandkids.
I looked at Moss Hart’s autobiography which was so brilliant, and I certainly realized that what he did was give us a piece of theatre history which I’d never known anything about. I thought — oh, that might be a good reason to write it, so I am going to write about my early years on vaudeville which not many people know about, and a few other things besides.” In preparing to write her memoirs, Andrews says she went back and “rethought My Fair Lady, Camelot, any of those things, and the earlier years.” She says the process “has been a very interesting experience. My dreams are doozies these days, I can tell you and I’m full of mixed emotions.”
Asked what kinds of memories she has of her early stage career, one that began with her Broadway debut at age 19, Dame Julie is circumspect. “That’s a good question. That’s for me to find out when the book’s finally all put together, but I hope they’re as truthful as I can make them. Right now I’m trying to be very honest about it.”
A grounded, practical young 70-year old, Andrews says she has remained grounded by taking lessons from her parents. “I have to thank my family for that, my father particularly. My mother was: don’t you get a swollen head, don’t show off, and don’t you complain about all the cigarette smoke in the theatre.”