Katie Couric is especially excited for this episode of Next Question, because she gets to sit down with the iconic Julie Andrews to learn more about her new memoir, Home Work, her incredible career and enduring legacy, and dish about her friendships with fellow legends Carol Burnett and Elizabeth Taylor. Her life has been so action-packed, this is actually her second memoir, focusing mainly on her time in Hollywood; her first was called Home, published 11 years ago, telling the story of her childhood and early performing life in vaudeville. Though she usually needs no introduction, a quick rundown of her career includes her Oscar-winning role in Mary Poppins, her iconic portrayal of Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music, an incredible run of performances on Broadway including My Fair Lady and Camelot, and 30 children’s books along with her two memoirs: It’s no wonder the story of her life has filled more than one book.
Katie is a huge fan, and her excitement is clear when she starts chatting with Julie. They discuss the collaborative process of writing her memoir, as well as her other books, with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton; Katie is also working on her memoirs, she says, and remarks, “It's a fascinating experience because it's like therapy, but you're the therapist and the patient.” Julie agrees, adding, “Somebody said to me that writing a memoir is like living your life all over again, and it is.” Julie journaled avidly throughout her life, so her memoir is full of some unvarnished perspectives that were “the absolute truth at the time, so why not use them?” She reads one excerpt for Katie when she was about to shoot a scene with her second husband, Blake Edwards, at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, and was suddenly transported back to her vaudeville days: “‘...the smell of paint, turpentine, and dust; the depressing staleness and the awful pretense of glamor.’ That's the way those early days of touring endlessly around England really was,” she says.
It was when she was performing on Broadway in Camelot, with Richard Burton and Robert Goulet, that she was tapped to play Mary Poppins. “The company heard that Walt Disney was in the audience, and I got word that he'd like to come back and say hello,” she recalls. He met Julie and her then-husband, Tony Walton, in her dressing room, and told her about the live-action animation film, asking if she’d be interested in learning more about the role. “I was gobsmacked, and said, ‘Oh, Mr. Disney, I would love to, but I'm sorry, I'm pregnant.’ His reply was, ‘Well, that's okay. We'll wait.’" Walt also hired Tony to design the sets and costumes, and both Julie and Tony won Oscars for the film. “I would call that serendipity on steroids,” Katie quips, and Julie says, “One of my mantras is, ‘Are we lucky or what?’...those opportunities were extraordinary.”
They talk further about Hollywood, including fun anecdotes about having dinner with David Niven, Noel Coward, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor (“Richard had given her this enormous ring. She just sort of flashed it at us and said…’It's a bit of a giggle, isn't it?’ Blake said it was enough to make him a Communist instantly,” Julie says, laughing. “But she said it with such a smile and a sense of humor, you couldn't be upset by it”). But they also touch on serious topics, like her family’s struggles with alcohol and opioid addiction, Julie’s experiences with therapy, and how desperately she wished for a college education. “I went on the road on my own eventually when I was about 15. I didn't get educated because I needed to earn money for the family,” she said. But her therapist figured out that she was thirsty to learn, and would talk with her about art, history, geology, anything she wanted, seriously bolstering her self-confidence. “God, I wish I had absorbed 100% more,” she says. “But what I did get was phenomenal.”
Listen to hear more about Julie’s first days on a Hollywood set, how she had to play opposite a helicopter in The Sound of Music, her memories of Blake, her family’s struggles with alcohol and opioid addiction, and even hear superfan Jennifer Garner get a surprise phone call from her (when Julie asks if she’s caught Jen in the middle of dinner, she says, “Miss Andrews, I would pull over and leave my children on the side of the freeway”), and so much more on this episode of Next Question.
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