Everyone is on their best behavior when Julie Andrews is around.
It’s early June in Los Angeles and Andrews is coming to film segments for a night of guest programming on Turner Classic Movies and speak about her new book, “Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years,” which hits shelves Tuesday. The air is thick with anticipation before her arrival. When her car does appear — as prompt as Mary Poppins — the crew, the producers and even the catering staff all abandon their lunches and stand to attention. When she steps out, some even start to softly clap, as though she is royalty or perhaps even something bigger than that.
But Andrews, seemingly knowing the effect she has on people, brings it back down to earth.
“Hi gang!” she says cheerily, with that voice that for many is as familiar as their own mother’s, putting everyone (almost) at ease as she glides through the room.
Even TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, who is no stranger to speaking to screen legends, is a little awe struck.
“God, every time you talk I think, ‘She sounds just like Julie Andrews!'” Mankiewicz says to his guest.
Andrews just laughs. “Shut up, shut up,” she says.
For the next few hours, The Associated Press got a front-row seat as Andrews and Mankiewicz turned the little soundstage into a cozy living room for movie lovers as they discussed three films from her career: 1967’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” 1982’s “Victor/Victoria” and 1986’s “That’s Life!,” all of which she touches on in her memoir.
Although they may not be as well-known as “Mary Poppins” or “The Sound of Music,” each provides a revealing glimpse into her work at different stages of her career outside of those beloved nanny roles. In talking about George Roy Hill’s adaptation of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Andrews reflected on her friendship with co-star Mary Tyler Moore.
“She called me Millie and I called her Miss Dorothy for the rest of our lives,” Andrews, who just turned 84 this month, said. “I miss her so much.”
All of the films are special to Andrews in some way, but naturally the ones she made with Blake Edwards, her husband of 41 years, are particularly so.
“We made seven pictures together,” Andrews said. “The first one ‘Darling Lili’ was such a huge flop it’s amazing we stayed together for 41 years!”
On “Victor/Victoria,” she said Edwards advised her to watch her old friend James Garner for inspiration, telling her “not only is he a great actor, but he’s a great reactor.”
“Blake would love to be sitting right here,” she said wistfully as Mankiewicz praised the film. “He probably is.”
The third film they discuss, “That’s Life!” may be the least known of the bunch but is one that is in some ways the most personal. The dramatic comedy starring Jack Lemmon as man dreading his impending 60th birthday party and Andrews as his wife was a low-budget, non-union family affair that was filmed in her and Edwards’ own home using all of their friends and nothing but a 13-page outline to guide the process.
“(Blake) wrote his demons in this film,” Andrews says. “It was really a gift to us all to say ‘I’m sorry if I’ve offended’ … it’s his apology to us but it’s on film.”
In “Home Work,” Andrews writes frankly about her relationship with Edwards, a man she remains deeply and wholly in love with and in reverence of but who also had his struggles with prescription drugs.
“I wanted to honor him properly. I wanted it to be truthful, but didn’t want to hurt anybody, especially my kids,” Andrews told the AP later that day.
Deciding what to leave in and what to take out, she said “was hard and I’m very nervous about that.”
The films and her conversation with Mankiewicz will air on TCM on Oct. 29 beginning at 8pm Eastern and serve as a companion to the memoir, co-written with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, which picks up where her first memoir “Home: A Memoir of My Early Years,” left off: Her arrival in Los Angeles to film “Mary Poppins,” with then-husband Tony Walton and baby Emma in tow.
Aided by the diaries she kept throughout her life, some excerpts of which are included in “Home Work,” Andrews gives a thoughtful account of her personal and professional highs, lows and everything in between. She tells amusing anecdotes about Alfred Hitchcock teaching her about lenses on “Torn Curtain,” her fear of driving on freeways during “Mary Poppins” and how Edwards stood up for her when people at a party were trying to pressure her into doing drugs.
And she does not shy away from personal stories either: About financial worries, the breakup of her first marriage, deciding to adopt two daughters from an orphanage in Vietnam and her complex relationship with her parents.
The book and the TCM evening concludes with “That’s Life!,” although of course her Hollywood years continued after 1986.
But, she said, “They only wanted x number of pages and I was cutting like crazy anyway.”
Still, it leaves open the possibility of another installment.
“There is so much more if I do write about it, ‘Victor/Victoria’ on Broadway and ‘Princess Diaries’ and other things and getting into the book writing,” Andrews said. “There might be (another). But not just yet, I only finished it 10 days ago!”q