JoBlo - 18 May 07
How do you not sit at a table, next to Julie Andrews and not be completely star struck? Seriously, I have spoken to a whole bunch of actors and directors, famous people, but it’s freakin’ JULIE ANDREWS. Now just a quick history on myself… my favorite flick when I was a kid was HALLOWEEN. It was one of the greatest movies of my existence. I hated Disney movies and usually didn’t see them, except for MARY POPPINS. For some reason, I had watched that and developed my first crush. And soon after that, I discovered THE SOUND OF MUSIC. It was a strange dichotomy in my history with film. These were not my types of movies in general and I give full credit to Ms. Andrews. She could sing, she could dance and she could act. Sadly, she can’t sing now do to some issues with her voice, but she is still acting. And on this day, along with Cameron Diaz, another very lovely girl, her voice returns in SHREK THE THIRD.
Now when both of the lovely ladies stopped by The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, I felt bad for Cameron because truth be told, she was sitting next to a legend and the questions didn’t seem to be addressing her. But the thing about Cameron is that she knows this and is just as much in awe as we all were. It was nice to see both of them and they seem to have the utmost respect for each other. Cameron has been in and out of the gossip columns lately, and I think that she kind of enjoyed being out of the spotlight with this group of journalists. So sitting next to Julie must have been a double treat, not only to be next to this living legend, but to be able to talk about more important things than a certain co-star in SHREK THE THIRD. So read on folks, and don’t feel too sorry that Ms. Diaz is not the spotlight here.
Julie Andrews: I brought a young lady with me who happens to be my daughter [referring to Cameron Diaz].
Cameron Diaz: [Laughter]
[Jokingly] I didn’t know you were Julie Andrews’ daughter.
CD: I know, isn’t great? Rupert is actually …
[To Julie Andrews] Your daughter?
JA: He’s my son. [Laughter]
You realize, of course – and no offense to the beautiful Cameron – but many people are here only because they happen to be interviewing Julie Andrews.
JA: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
CD: I agree.
That kind of iconic status that you’ve attained in the last half a century – and you don’t look a day over 30, I must say. How does that make you feel after all this time?
JA: Lucky! I’m filled with gratitude that I’m still able to do what I love to do. I’m the lucky lady who got asked to do “Shrek” and “The Sound of Music” and “Victor/Victoria” and all of them. I’m the lucky one who got asked. There is a huge amount of talent out there, a lot of them. So I think we are all very blessed and shouldn’t take any of it for granted.
Are you still writing?
JA: Yes, very much so.
What are you writing?
JA: I run a children’s publishing company. It’s a publishing company of books for children of all ages. It’s called “The Julie Andrews’ Collection” and on top of that, this year I am actually finishing up my autobiography which should be half a biography. It’s half of my life; it’s not all of it.
When is it coming out?
JA: Next April, but you know how long it takes to get these things out. I’m writing about the period covering my childhood to coming out to do “Mary Poppins” out in Hollywood. That’s the arc of the story.
JA: Yes. You have to ask, why do you do an autobiography, apart from the fact that publishers offer you a lot of money for it. I looked at Moss Hart’s autobiography, “Act One” which was so brilliant. And suddenly realized that what he did was give us a piece of theater history which I never knew anything about. And I thought might be a good reason to write. I am going to write about my early years in Vaudeville, which not many people know about, and some other things besides.
When you’re doing an autobiography and you go back in your life, do you go back to the old films and see them again?
JA: I’m actually taking this autobiography up to the point where I start my first movie so I haven’t had to look at them again. But I certainly have gone back and re-thought “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot” or any of those things and the earlier years, and it’s been a very interesting experience to write about.
JA: Well, my dreams are doozies these days, I can tell you. I’m full of mixed emotions.
When you look back at your early theater career, what kind of memories do you have, and how selective are those memories?
JA: Well, that’s for me to find out when the book is finally put together. I hope that they are as truthful as I can make them. Right now I’m trying to be very honest about it. Selective is what gave me pleasure, but I’m not stinting on any of the hard work or pain, too.
You’ve been involved in “Mary Poppins” which is a childhood favorite of so many people and has some fantasy elements, and now you’re a part of “Shrek”, do you see that films that are geared more towards children, are they less innocent now and do you think that it’s a shame that they somewhat lost some of that innocence?
JA: Well in the case of “Shrek”, in spite of it being all hip and modern and standing all the old traditions on its ear, the one thing that comes through loud and clear, is that it 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. I’m very pleased to be a part of that
Do you think that is why the “Shrek” phenomenon has lasted? There is a sense of morality about these characters.
JA: Well, it is class stuff. Look at the quality of the film itself. Just the very quality of the film is the best you can get. The writers are also the best. The characters are wonderful. Its hip and with it. I don’t think there’s anything to fault really.
Cameron, listening to Julie talk about her memories and living through a important time in Hollywood history. Do you think you’re going to look back someday the way Julie is look back right now?
JA: She WILL have when she gets to my age.
CD: Sure, it’s part of my life so I definitely will look back and have these memories, but it’s amazing to get to sit and listen to [Julie]. It’s very comforting to have someone who is held in such high regard and who has accomplished so much and to hear how grateful she is for it, and how she looks at it. I look at my career the same way. I’m just grateful for everything that’s happened. I feel lucky. I’ve said that from day one. Every time I get a job I’m just like “Thank you!” I just don’t expect it.
Why do you say that?
CD: I think that’s just because of the way I was raised.
JA: You’d be a pretty crass human being if you thought you deserved it in any way because there is so much talent out there.
That’s one thing you both have in common. You both have incredible mainstream appeal and success. You both appeal to a wide audience. Do you have any sense of why?
JA: I think I do know why, and that is in that I got fortunate enough to be in two or three of the biggest blockbusters of all time. The bigger the movie the better it is remembered, and therefore so are you. How lovely to be part of these iconic things. And [“Shrek”] is another one.
“Mary Poppins” recently celebrated its anniversary on DVD. When you look back at that film do you see it as a collection of memories?
JA: I look at it as a movie. I remember exactly the wonder of making it. It was the first movie I ever made. It was the best lesson I could possibly have had it terms of filmmaking because everything was special effects in terms of live action and animated sequences. So I had to learn the patience to make a movie.
CD: I did the same thing. “The Mask” was my first movie and I was reacting off of animation that wasn’t there and I had never acted before so I was like, OK here I go. [Julie] had done Vaudeville though.
JA: But it does take a great deal of patience because it is about will the effect work and how can we get it to work.
Were you thinking about the special effects side of it when you were making “Mary Poppins”?
JA: Yes! If you’ve never made a movie before, everything about the filming is interesting. Why and how. It’s a learning experience. You learn so much.
You garnered a lot of success very early in life and early in your career. Do you have any lessons or advice for younger actors who are finding themselves with such success very soon in their careers?
JA: Yeah, it helps to be well rooted in yourself because big success is an assault, it certainly was for me. It’s also for people that are passionate about this business or theater; the chances are that with a bit of luck, wonderful things can come your way, but you’d better have done your homework. Be ready. Pay your dues.
What keeps you guys grounded?
JA: I think I have to thank my family for that, my father particularly. My mother was saying, “Don’t you get a swollen head” and “Don’t you show off” and “Don’t you complain about all the cigarette smoke in the theater.”
Working together in these movies, what have you picked up from each other?
JA: We have some similar values.
CD: It’s like soul food for me to hear her speak. It’s so inspiring. In your life, pieces of the puzzle fall into place and it’s great to see.
JA: It’s nice to find out that she’s as lovely a lady as she is in the movies.
What would you like to see them take the characters in the future “Shrek” movies?
JA: I’ll take whatever they hand out.
CD: Me, too.
Tell us about “Shrek the Halls”.
CD: It’s great. It’s so sweet. It’s a Christmas movie. It feels like those television specials when I was growing up like “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” and all these specials that would come on at Christmas. It’s exactly that. It’s the “Shrek” version of the traditional Christmas specials.
What else are you working on now, Cameron?
CD: I have a couple of things that I’m just waiting to see what sticks to the wall first. But hopefully I’ll be working this summer.
Julie, do you think you will do a Volume II to your autobiography?
JA: I don’t know yet. One may be all. We’ll see what I come up with. I’m very nervous about it. It’s a big effort. I hope I’m going to write it well. I’m trying to but I don’t know.
Do you have a title?
JA: I do, but I don’t want to mention it just yet because they may change it.
Do you every get frustrated who complain about being in “the business”?
JA: I don’t bump into a lot of people like that.
CD: I think your relationship with fame is like any other relationship. It is ups and downs. Some days you wake up and you’re like amazed by it, and sometimes you wake up and you’re floored by it and you just don’t know how you’re going to get through it. I think like any career, [such as it your case] you love that you’re a writer but some days you like, “I can’t believe I have to go to another junket.” But then you remember why you’re doing it and what it means to you. There are days when you are not as grateful for everything you have, but that’s just being human. I’ve had moments where I’ve just wanted to wish it all away because it is just overwhelming, and then you rediscover it and you remember why it’s so important to you and you can embrace it again. Unfortunately everything we say goes into print.
Has that perception of fame changed as you’ve gotten older?
CD: It’s like a roller coaster. It’s like any relationship – even with your car. [You think to yourself] I love this car, this car drives so fast, I love this car – God, I need a new car! It’s constantly evolving and changing. The thing that I always remember is how lucky we are and how wonderful and beautiful the life that I have is. I consider myself the most fortunate person on the planet.
JA: The best possible thing is that you realize as you get older that it is all about the giving back. It’s all about the giving. When you are a young person it’s all about “what am I doing?” But nowadays, it’s all about “Can I make you feel great?”