Screen icon Julie Andrews still lingers in the spotlight
Julie Andrews says one thing kept going through her mind when she played Mary Poppins. "Most of time, I thought, 'Am I getting it right?'" Andrews said with a laugh.
"Mary Poppins" was her first major movie role, and Andrews got it right. She won an Oscar for her performance. And the stage and screen icon has kept on getting it right time and again through a long career.
Because of that, Andrews will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which will air in late January on TNT and TBS.
"It's something voted on by one's peers; it's just a phenomenal thrill," Andrews said in a phone interview from Long Island, N.Y. She sounds as young and enthusiastic as Maria, her "Sound of Music" character, and as wise as, the all-knowing nanny, Mary.
She's modest in evaluating her success.
"I just think it's the fact that I was in the right place at the right time and a lot of hard work. I grew up in it. My mother and stepfather were in vaudeville. I was exposed to it. They discovered I had this powerful, weird soprano voice," she said.
Her ability to climb every octave led the British native to success on the stage.
"I came to America in 1954 and was in a show called 'The Boyfriend,'" she said. "'My Fair Lady' was the follow-up to 'The Boyfriend.' I played in 'Camelot' on Broadway, and I was brought to the attention of Walt Disney, who came to see 'Camelot,'" she said.
Disney hired her for "Mary Poppins," which, like "The Sound of Music," is a perennial favorite during the holiday season.
"Mary Poppins" was a lesson in how movies were made, Andrews said, especially since she sang and danced with animated characters she had to imagine.
By the next year, 1965, when she went on to star in "The Sound of Music," she didn't want too many spoonfuls of sugar to make that medicine go down.
"I think the most important thing that went through my mind, and (fellow star) Christopher Plummer and (director) Robert Wise and I talked about it, was how to best not make it too saccharin," Andrews said. "I wanted to add a little spice to it."
Her instincts paid off. "The Sound of Music" won the best picture at the Oscars and became one of the best-loved films of all time
Baby boomers remember Andrews as Maria and Mary, but the star said children today recognize her as the queen from Disney's two "Princess Diaries" movies. She said she would like to team up again with her longtime friend, Carol Burnett, possibly for a TV movie or special, but in the meantime is busy with children's books she writes and publishes through a company she runs with her daughter.
Andrews is writing her autobiography, which she said will focus on her vaudeville career. And she wants to continue to direct plays, and keep her career - and life - ever-changing.