Julie Andrews, actress
The actress has enchanted generations of filmgoers, and SAG's Lifetime Achievement honoree is busier than ever.No American childhood is complete without a spoonful of Julie Andrews' mellifluous singing and reassuring screen presence as the uberfantasy mom figure of such classics as 1964's "Mary Poppins" and 1965's "The Sound of Music." That goes for boomers as well as pint-sized fans of 2001's "The Princess Diaries" films and the 22 children's books Andrews has written with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. Andrews might be an icon of youth, but she also has enjoyed an eclectic career that has spanned theater, film, television and recording. Since her vocal surgery in 1995, her interests have continued to expand into other areas, including directing (she helmed last year's North American tour of the stage production "The Boy Friend"), humanitarian work (she is a founding member of Operation USA) and voice work (she voices the character Queen Lillian in Paramount's upcoming "Shrek the Third"). Poised to receive the Screen Actors Guild's 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award, Andrews recently spoke with Irene Lacher for The Hollywood Reporter about the highlights and lessons of a performing life well-lived.
The Hollywood Reporter: How does it feel to receive SAG's Lifetime Achievement Award?
Julie Andrews: It's a tremendous thrill, really. It's wonderful to accept an award from my colleagues. It's very, very meaningful. All the people who were kind enough to nominate me are members of this good guild, which does an enormous amount of humanitarian work. It's just a very special body of people in every way.
THR: You were an icon for boomers, and you're an icon for kids today with "The Princess Diaries" films and with your children's books. Do you think you have a special connection with young audiences?
Andrews: I didn't set out with anything like that in mind, but it grew over the years, and I presume it is because of the success of some of the earlier films, which appealed so much to families and certainly to the younger generation. I've always embraced it. I have five kids of my own and wonderful grandchildren now. One of the things that makes this award special is that SAG enormously supports literacy for children.
THR: Was that identity ever a double-edged sword for your career?
Andrews: Not really. One of the things that was such a turn on for me was being able to play in so many sandboxes. It was musicals, then it was films like (1964's) "The Americanization of Emily" and (1966's) "Hawaii" and (1982's) "Victor/Victoria." They're not exactly children's fare.
THR: How did your vocal surgery affect your career strategy?
Andrews: I don't know if I had a career strategy. It certainly ended my singing career. I had hoped to do a great deal of recording of Broadway songs, which I was in the process of doing. That was deeply sad for me because I so loved doing it. But my daughter, in the midst of my mourning at the time, said, "Mom, I think with the books now, you'll find another way of using your voice." And suddenly, I thought, "Yes, there is a way that I can still communicate," which is what's so important.
THR: What advice would you give to other actors about handling bumps in the road in their careers?
Andrews: Bumps in the road are really part of where it's at. You learn a great deal from them and should do so because otherwise, one would be pretty impossible, especially if you're young. Even the bump in the road of the loss of my voice made me sit back and think, "Okay, what am I meant to learn from this?"
THR: What were some of your favorite roles?
Andrews: There are a lot, certainly some rather obscure ones. I loved doing "The Americanization of Emily." It was a brilliant screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky about the futility of war. It's rather timely today, raising monuments to war heroes when war is so wrong. A little movie I made with Blake (Edwards) called "That's Life!" (1986) the delicious joy of making (1981's) "S.O.B." Obviously, "Victor/Victoria" was something that made me have to stand on my head, so to speak, because it was so difficult to think one way and be another.
THR: With your books, humanitarian work and directing, it seems like you keep pretty busy.
Andrews: I know it sounds crazy, but I'm probably busier than I've ever been. There's so much going on that's stimulating now, and it's the fruit of everything I've ever done.
THR: Maybe a lifetime achievement award is premature.
Andrews: From your lips to somebody's ears. Who knows?