The star of stage and screen on painful memories, over-apologising and eating cornflakes in the middle of the night

Born in Surrey, Julie Andrews, 84, began performing at 12. In the 50s, she made her Broadway stage debut in The Boy Friend and then starred in My Fair Lady. She played the title role in the 1964 film Mary Poppins, winning an Academy Award, and in 1965 made The Sound Of Music. Her second memoir, Home Work, has just been published. Andrews raised five children with her late husband, Blake Edwards, and lives on Long Island, New York.

What is your earliest memory?
Sitting on my mothers lap in the car and, as my father pulled up to our little house in Walton, saying what they tell me is my very first word home.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Insecurity.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Thoughtlessness and lack of consideration for others.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
Performing on stage as a child in dirty, rain-spattered socks. I had forgotten to pack my dress shoes, so my mother painted white ballet slippers over my socks with what they used to call wet white. But my socks were still wet and I left little white footprints all over the stage.

Aside from property, whats the most expensive thing youve ever bought?
I saw a very expensive painting by a wonderful American painter called Charles Burchfield. I really loved it it hit me in the solar plexus and I thought if I did three extra concerts on tour, I might be able to afford it. And I did.

What is your phone wallpaper?
My poodles, Button and Barney.

What is your greatest fear?
Something happening to my kids.

What would your superpower be?
Ending poverty.

What makes you unhappy?
If my kids are unhappy, I cant relax or be happy at all.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Interrupting.

Which book changed your life?
A book my father bought me when I was eight or nine. Its called The Little Grey Men, by Denys Watkins-Pitchford, under the nom de plume BB. It opened my eyes to the wonder of nature. I eventually acquired the US book rights and was proud to publish it for a while.

What is your favourite smell?
Fresh earth in a warm greenhouse.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A botanist or a florist.

What is top of your bucket list?
A reading vacation. I have so little time to read. My idea is to be in a lovely place under an umbrella for a week or two, reading all the books on my bedside table.

Is it better to give or to receive?
To give.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
A bowl of cornflakes in the middle of the night.

What do you owe your parents?
The discovery of my voice.

To whom would you most like to say sorry and why?
I think I over-apologise as it is.

What does love feel like?
As you go through life, you discover so many forms of love passionate, compassionate, familial, friendship. Love is hard to describe but its wonderful.

Have you ever said I love you without meaning it?
Probably.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
TH White, the English author who wrote The Once And Future King, whom I used to know, Philip Pullman whom I adore as a writer, Stephen Sondheim, Tom Stoppard and Moss Hart, the great director who has passed. I think that dinner would be perfect.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Sorry, and a few unprintable ones, too.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Losing my singing voice. I had to have an operation and unfortunately it was not successful. Ive not been able to sing since.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
Renaissance Europe.

When did you last cry, and why?
Working on my memoir because some memories were painful to revisit.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A cure for arthritis.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
When in doubt, stand still.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Something triumphant, I couldnt tell you what but something vibrant and joyous.

Home Work: My Hollywood Years is published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, priced 20. Julie Andrews is in conversation with Alex Jennings at the Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 on 2 November, southbankcentre.co.uk

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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