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Breakfast with Frost
On Sunday 06 July, 2003 , BBC Breakfast with Frost Interview: Julie Andrews

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews


She's probably one of the last great Hollywood legends. To millions of children Julie Andrews is still Mary Poppins, even though the film was made nearly 40 years ago.

Tragically, in 1997 an operation on her throat took away her voice. When I caught up with Dame Julie in London earlier this week, I asked her whether we would ever hear her sing again.

JULIE ANDREWS: My guess is, I doubt it. I have a wonderful, deep, bass voice of about five notes and that's about it. There's a lot of work being done - not on me but in terms of pioneering.

I probably, though I'm heading up the research, I'm probably going to be too old or too occupied with a million other wonderful things to indulge. And I probably won't want to go back to singing again - I'd love to for my own pleasure but professionally I probably won't.

PETER SISSONS: Just remind us of what sort of a disaster it was for you.

JULIE ANDREWS: Very simple, I was, I'd done 20 months on Broadway - and eight performances a week is killing, I'd done that in Victor Victoria - and was asked to go on the road. I, by the end of 20 months, was having quite a lot of problems. I didn't want to go on the road but was persuaded that it would really kick the show off to a whole new career of touring and then it could travel elsewhere. So I agreed to do it for a very small amount of time and my specialist at the time said then you'd better just fix what I think is a cyst in your vocal chords. Everybody thinks I had cancer, or nodules, it was nothing of the sort. So he fixed what he thought he should do and he did a lot more besides and the rest is history.

PETER SISSONS: But one door closes and others have opened.

JULIE ANDREWS: Well life is extraordinary - it really is. I've never been busier, Peter, and I do wonder if I'd have embraced all the things that I'm embracing now, if that hadn't happened because I'd be so busy doing concerts and performing and carrying on with that career.

PETER SISSONS: And you're a best-selling author. With a series of children's books.

JULIE ANDREWS: Yes I have a, I've been writing for quite a long time but I just recently have begun a new children's imprint which is in fact a publishing imprint for children's books.

PETER SISSONS: And you've done some big television in the United States.

JULIE ANDREWS: Yes and I have a film coming up this fall, which doesn't require me to sing. Yes, and I've just finished two back to back movies for television.

PETER SISSONS: And you're directing in The Boyfriend.

JULIE ANDREWS: Yes, the thing that actually, the lovely piece of lace that took me to boy - to America in the first place, to Broadway - I'm going to have the thrill of directing it in Long Island, in New York, in about, we open in about five weeks time.

PETER SISSONS: But that's, that's where it really took off for you, in 1954, on Broadway with The Boyfriend.

JULIE ANDREWS: The Boyfriend was the beginning of, of, of really the sort of, my career, which I'd had an enormous amount of touring and musical hall and being a child brat and a performer but that's when it really took off.

PETER SISSONS: And then after that was Eliza Dolittle.

JULIE ANDREWS: That's right.

PETER SISSONS: For 890 performances - JULIE ANDREWS: On no, 1500.


PETER SISSONS: But then they didn't want you for the movie. They gave it to Audrey Hepburn.

JULIE ANDREWS: Well, you know, in those days I was only known on Broadway. In other words, I was a big fish in a, in a relatively small puddle and as far as the rest of America was concerned, they really didn't know who Julie Andrews was. And they tried - I know Alan Jay Lerner said I would love to use you for the film, he went to bat for me - but they did need in those days a big name and Audrey, who is a great - was a great, great friend of mine - once said to me, she said to me Julia, you should have done it but I didn't have the guts to turn it down. And it was very dear of her.

PETER SISSONS: But you had the last laugh because you barrelled through with those two blockbusters, two legendary movies.


PETER SISSONS: Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music.

JULIE ANDREWS: - thank heavens, three months later I was offered Mary Poppins and so, again, inn't life grand?


PETER SISSONS: When I - I mentioned to a number of people that I was going to come and interview you today and they all said ooh gosh - they said two or three things -


PETER SISSONS: - all of them. A legend, Mary Poppins was my favourite movie ever when I was young, and can you get me her autograph.


PETER SISSONS: Yes. But do you - you're really defined by Mary Poppins - some people think you are Mary Poppins. I mean you've had to sort of drag that around with you all your life. Is it something that rankles just a bit?

JULIE ANDREWS: No, not at all. It does not rankle. I mean think of being asked to do Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, and all the other wonderful movies that I've had a chance to do. I mean I was the one that got asked to do them -


PETER SISSONS: Those movies, I mean they had an incredible impact. The Hollywood Reporter, a newspaper in Hollywood, wrote "This lady is not just of you, this lady is not just a great star, she is a whole whirling galaxy. Once there was Mary Pickford, then there was Garbo, now there is Julie." You can't imagine anyone today being described in those terms.

JULIE ANDREWS: No. I, I had to pay him an enormous amount of money to say that.

PETER SISSONS: But what was it, I mean why, what do you think you have that the others didn't have ...

JULIE ANDREWS: I think I had the roles. That's what I'm trying to say is that I think I got very, very lucky but still to have, to have really had longevity is where I've been so fortunate because quite often a career can just be over in a shot.

PETER SISSONS: And the voice episode apart, incredibly healthy.

JULIE ANDREWS: The secret is I have my mum's genes and my dad's genes and they were, my dad, particularly, wonderful, you know, great country stock and, and fit and believed in walks and swimming and country air. And my mum was, was pretty strong too.

PETER SISSONS: Where you aware of how the image was developing?

JULIE ANDREWS: I think I'd have been a fool if I hadn't been aware. I mean it was all over the place. And when you make two huge movies for kids that are full of good things, sweetness and light and nuns and children and mountains and alps and all the rest and magic, it would be odd if you didn't have all that. But I think the body of work these days speaks for itself. And you know, it's the way it was. Why would I knock it? And I, I knew that they were acting roles, they weren't exactly what I am all about. I'm sure there's a piece of me in everyone of those movies because I did do them but I don't think that's the whole - at least I hope not, it would be too awful to be that sugary sweet.

PETER SISSONS: And you've, the face that launched a thousand rave reviews has just launched a cruise ship.

JULIE ANDREWS: Yes, I'm a godmother to a wonderful ship called the Crystal Serenity. I've never christened a ship before so there I was with cannons booming and confetti falling and having a wonderful time on this beautiful, beautiful ship.

PETER SISSONS: It's so good to see you again, so, so well.

JULIE ANDREWS: Thank you Peter.

PETER SISSONS: And I'm sure I speak for everybody when I, I say that the legend lives, lives on.

JULIE ANDREWS: Well thank you, you're very kind.

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