Salt Lake Tribune - 13 May 07
By Brett Prettyman
Sundance, Julie Andrews fall in love with each other
In a mountain setting that reminded her of the time she spent filming "The Sound of Music," Julie Andrews greeted a sold-out luncheon Saturday at this resort to talk about her "other" careers: motherhood and writing. To the 180 people gathered to hear Andrews discuss her new children's book as part of the Sundance Tree Room Author Series, Julie Andrews was, borrowing a line from "Mary Poppins,'' "practically perfect in every way."
The audience of mostly mothers and daughters grew to love her even more when Dame Judy Andrews divulged that she isn't quite the perfect lady that many think she is. "I'm a little more raunchy. . . . I have a couple of bad swear words I utter from time to time," Andrews answered in response to a question from the crowd about the biggest difference between how people perceive her and how she really is. The response drew a burst of laughter. It was the perfect answer for Jennifer Bass and her mother, Marilyn, from Salt Lake City, who were celebrating Mother's Day with a long-planned weekend at Sundance with the Julie Andrews event serving as the main draw. The pair said the answer showed Andrews is down to earth.
Andrews unfairly set expectations for nannies forever more and won an Oscar for her role in the 1964 Disney musical "Mary Poppins." She then solidified her hold as the best nanny ever in 1965 with her portrayal of Mariain "The Sound of Music."
Andrews had her first child, Emma Kate, in 1962 with her then-husband, Tony Walton. She became a stepmother in 1969 after marrying director Blake Edwards.
Her first children's book, "Mandy," was published in 1971 and was the result of losing a game with her stepdaughter, Jenny. "I fell into it [writing] quite by accident. I was playing a game with my children and my eldest daughter told me 'If you forfeit you must write me a story,' " said Andrews, who adds her married name, Edwards, to her pen name. "She was my new stepdaughter and I thought maybe we could bond a bit if I did a little more than a couple of pages." That little more turned into not just one, but more than a dozen children's books in the past 30 years. The books' topics range from a series on a hero dump truck to an adventurous orphan to a wolfhound that helps solve his master's murder in medieval France.
Her latest, "Thanks to You: Wisdom from Mother and Child," is a family book more suitable for the coffee table than the playroom. "This new book celebrates parenting. We wanted it to be about gratitude," Andrews said about the book she co-authored with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. "We know that children learn from their parents, particularly their mothers. As we began to write we realized that we as mothers learn from our kids. We teach them to be patient and to put their fears aside and trust they will survive. They teach us to look at the small things and appreciate them."
So while one child helped get her started in writing, another is helping her stay with it. In addition to writing books together the mother and daughter manage the Julie Andrews Collection (http://www.julieandrewscollection.com), by Harper Collins. "I asked my Emma if she had to go to the library what would be a book you would like to get? and she told me 'Mom it is no contest. It will have to be about trucks,' " said Andrews, 71. "That's how the Dumpy books came about."
Andrews is frequently asked what her favorite roles have been through the years. She knows what the public wants her answer to be, but she is often inclined to tell them it is the role of mother and grandmother she cherishes most. "All mums and grandmums would tell you that," she said, with an accent you would expect from someone born in Surrey, England.
Andrews is now working on a different kind of book, her autobiography. Even though it is about her own life, she is looking forward to getting back to children's genre. "It is much more daunting. I can't wait to get back to going with my imagination, I kept a journal and that helps, but I do a lot of research on Google and Wikipedia," she said. The autobiography will include Andrews' life doing vaudeville and working on Broadway up until the filming of "Mary Poppins."
Andrews politely turned down an offer to be a nanny in Park City, stating that her own family is keeping her quite busy. She is looking forward to the release of "Shrek 3" next week - Andrews plays the voice of the queen and said she would certainly find her way back to Sundance. "I've never been here before, but I can assure you I am coming back," she told the crowd.
Questions and answers
* Q: Reading what book changed your life the most?
* A: ''The Little Grey Men'' was a book I adored as a child. It stimulated me and had an enormous impression on me and my love for nature."
* Q: What is your favorite activity with your grandchildren?
* A: I just love being with them and introducing them to books, especially the little ones. Best of all, I enjoy taking them into the garden. It sounds so trite, but it is an adventure. I ask them how many red colors they see and it makes them start looking. I love the quality time it provides us.
* Q: What was it like to live and work with a Walt Disney contract?
* A: ''Mary Poppins'' was the first film I ever made. Walt asked me to come to Hollywood and see the story board and his ideas. I told him I would love to, but I am expecting a baby. He said we will wait for you and he did. When I saw the wonderful ideas for the movie and the songs, which invoked memories of some of my vaudeville days in a startling way, I immediately embraced the character.
Questions from the audience at Julie Andrews' talk and book signing at Sundance resort Saturday: