Hollywood success came so suddenly for Julie Andrews, she said it felt like an “assault.” The 83-year-old star is nothing but grateful for everything that’s come her way, but she had the unique experience of having filmed three movies back to back before any had come out — two of which, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music are still her most enduring.
“I hope I had some common sense, but it could knock you off your feet that assault of press and adulation,” the 83-year-old said Tuesday (Sept. 3) at the Venice International Film Festival. She made the trip to Italy to receive the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award there the evening prior.
Andrews enchanted the audience with tales of her expansive career, regaling them with stories about everything from Walt Disney offering her the role of Mary Poppins — despite the fact that she had never done a film and was three months pregnant — to thanking Jack Warner while accepting her Golden Globe for the part. Warner had passed on her to play Eliza Doolittle in the big screen adaptation of My Fair Lady, which meant she was free to take Mary Poppins.
“I had hoped but understood completely when I did not get asked to do the movie for Warner Bros. who went with my friend Audrey Hepburn,” Andrews said. “But it’s not difficult to get over the disappointment because Mr. Disney comes along and asks if you want to do Mary Poppins.”
She spoke too about her 41-year marriage to the late director Blake Edwards, whom she would act for in a number of films including 10, Victor Victoria, S.O.B. and That’s Life.
“He understood me very well and I think he saw that I wasn’t just a goody too-shoes. I wasn’t just prim and proper… there may be some comedy there,” she said. “He saw that and developed that.” It was a family affair in Venice for Andrews, who brought along her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, her granddaughter, her grandson and her son-in-law. She has a memoir coming out in mid-October detailing her Hollywood years, from Mary Poppins through Victor Victoria called Home Work that she co-wrote with Hamilton.
Ever gracious, Andrews said that she feels like she has been racing to catch up her whole life. “Things came so quickly and so wonderfully,” she said, advising everyone to, “Do your homework, be ready, you never know when you are going to get so lucky. I am and I was lucky.”
One audience member asked Andrews Tuesday whether there was anything she wasn’t “practically perfect” at. “I can’t cook at all, I’m very bad,” Andrews said. “I am the queen of breakfasts.” This, she said, was even with five children and 10 grandchildren. Once she tried to make her daughter cookies without baking soda, however.
“I couldn’t even break the cookie when I was finished,” Andrews said. She asked her daughter what else she was bad at.
Hamilton: “You swear a lot.”
Andrews: “I do swear a lot! Mr. Disney found that out quite quickly.”