Julie Andrews: A Life Of Achievements

Julie Andrews is a children's book author and a director, among other things, but we know her best as an actress. And that's why she's receiving a Life Achievement Award at this weekend's SAG Awards, and honored at a gala hosted by People Magazine. The Early Show's entertainment contributor Jess Cagle, who is also People's assistant managing editor, recently got to spend some "quality time" with Julie.

"So, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award ... on Sunday. It's often weird for people who are still working to get a Life Achievement Award. So how do you feel about it?" Cagle asked.

"I'm terribly honored," Andrews said. "I mean, there are an awful lot of people out there that could be honored. And the fact that they very sweetly chose me, means a lot."

Andrews should be used to being honored. She won an Oscar for her first movie role in "Mary Poppins," the Queen of England dubbed her a Dame, and after she gets her SAG Life Achievement Award, she'll be guest of honor at an after-party thrown by the Entertainment Industry Foundation and People Magazine.

"What do you remember about making Mary Poppins?" Cagle asked.

"The patience that I learned that it takes to make a film. Because, particularly 'Mary Poppins,' because it was all special effects. Half the film was animated against a big backdrop and it took forever to set up all these special effects," Andrews said. "But it was the best learning experience I could have had, because I'd never made a film before."

No one can forget the famous opening of "The Sound of Music." But Andrews' memory of the scene is a bit different from ours. She was being chased by a camera-equipped helicopter, take after take after take.

"And whenever the helicopter would come around me, to go back to his end of the field, the downdraft from the jet engines of that helicopter just leveled me into the grass. And I mean it's great for a take or two, and I began to try to stand my ground. I just couldn't," Andrews recalled. "It just knocked me flat every time. And I was kind of getting angrier and angrier. Spitting mud and dust and grass and everything else."

After her two mega-successes, Andrews suffered through some high-profile critical and commercial failures: high-budget musicals that hit a sour note at the box office.

"Times were changing then. Films like 'Easy Rider' and low-budget independent films were coming out all over the place. Suddenly the industry or the critics or the press or whatever felt that it was appalling to spend a lot of money on movies. I mean, things certainly do come full circle, because look at today and the monies that are spent," Andrews said. "It seemed that, uh, more serious and dramatic films were coming in. And there wasn't really a place for musicals at that time. Thank God they're coming back."

Andrews herself came back in the 1980s in the musical "Victor/Victoria," earning another Oscar nomination. But it was shortly after re-creating that role on Broadway that she went in for minor throat surgery, resulting in the loss of her singing voice.

"Being a singer, and having been so big a part of your identity, have you been able to make peace with that?" Cagle asked.

"Yes, I have now," Andrews said. "I mean, that was 11 years ago, the surgery happened. The amazing thing is, and I'm still trying to figure some of it out, is, I feel that I've never been busier. And in so many different areas, I'm embracing things now that I probably wouldn't have even considered embracing, if I was still doing that day job. Life is really stimulating. And I don't think I'd have considered any of that if I was still singing.

"I mean, I think I'm more popular today for 'The Princess Diaries' than even for 'Poppins' now, because the generations have gone by," Andrews said.

"What about your grandchildren?" Cagle asked. "Is there a particular movie that ... "

"Yes. The movie that, really, I'm so 'in' with my grandkids is 'Shrek'," Andrews said, laughing. "I mean, that's, 'Oh granny's in "Shrek," cool!' you know."

She'll be even cooler this May when she returns in "Shrek the Third."

Among Andrews' other current pursuits is writing and publishing more children's books under her own imprint, continuing to direct for the stage and she has ambitions to produce a Broadway musical.
  • John Esterbrook

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