"I consider myself such a fortunate woman. "

Julie Andrews

Des Moines Register
By Suzanne Behnke

Andrews strikes comic notes amid tales of travel, toil

From 'Mary Poppins' to 'Shrek,' the Des Moines audience gets the scoop.

Julie Andrews in Des Moines June 2007

Julie Andrews' award-winning musical performances brought a sold-out crowd to Des Moines.

The behind-the-scenes tales and wit she revealed at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines showed she is a comedian - as well as a mother, wife and humanitarian.

Among the topics she covered:

Travel: The lecture portion of the evening centered on how traveling had broadened her horizons and educated her. "It's what turns me on," she said. "It's what I love to do." She later took questions from the audience.

Most unusual travel spots: To Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for charity work so she could see the peril of Southeast Asia firsthand. She was profoundly affected by what she saw and the courage exhibited by the people. She and her husband - who have been married for 37 years - adopted two babies from Vietnam. Andrews has five children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

On working with her husband, director Blake Edwards, in love scenes: It can lead to some awkwardness. He has told her, "That was fine, darling, but I know you can do it better." The two made seven of her 32 films together.

Her childhood: Her stepfather and mother were performers. She later joined their act. At age 8, she started traveling with them. Her stepfather gave her singing lessons "to keep me quiet, so to speak."

On using celebrity for causes or social change: "Why not? We're actors, but we're also human beings."

On rumors of nearly being fired from the Broadway version of "My Fair Lady": "I was hopelessly out of my depth. ... I didn't know how to find the role." The director sent the rest of the cast away to work with her for 48 hours. "He pulled it out of me as I hoped someone would." Broadway is what brought her to the United States.

On her first film, "Mary Poppins": "I could not have asked for a better role in which to learn about film." She won an Academy Award for her role as the umbrella-flying nanny.

The trouble filming the romantic outdoor gazebo scene with Christopher Plummer in "The Sound of Music": The director of photography had put carbon lights down on them to look like moonlight. But the lights made loud, groaning noises, and the actors kept devolving into giggles. Director Robert Wise dismissed them for a two-hour lunch to calm down. "I took a Valium, I have to confess," she said.

On Mike Myers: "He's a honey bun." The two did voices for "Shrek the Third."

On whether actor James Garner is a good kisser: Yes. "He's a wonderful actor and reactor," she also pointed out. They acted together first in "The Americanization of Emily."

On her outlook on her life: "I consider myself such a fortunate woman."

Andrews, 71, was the fifth and final lecture in the Smart Talk Women's Lecture series sponsored by The Des Moines Register.

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