In honor of the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music, I got the chance to sit down with Julie Andrews, who starred as Maria von Trapp in the iconic film. My childhood was filled with days spent watching The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins with my sisters (one of whom lives and breathes musical theater) so I couldn’t have been more thrilled to have time with Ms. Andrews. It was a true “pinch me” moment, where we chatted about all things The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, motherhood, and more. And yes—I've had "Do-Re-Mi" in my head ever since.
“I started my life and my career as a singer and I had, as a very young child, a somewhat freaky four octave range voice,” Andrews tells me. Her heroes growing up were Lily Pons, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and more of the greats, but today, Andrews is also a fan of Lady Gaga. After delivering a powerful and almost impersonation-like rendition of "The Sound of Music" at this year’s Academy Awards, one may assume that Lady Gaga and Andrews have a history—but that is not the case. “I’ve never met her, so my first moment of getting acquainted with her was when I walked out on the stage,” says Andrews. As for what she thought of Gaga’s performance? “She knocked it out of the ball park.”
But … let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.
On making The of Sound of Music: Andrews admits she had no idea that the 1965 film would turn out to be one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. “I thought it would be a lovely film because there were so many ingredients that were so wonderfully done, but if anybody had said to me that I would be sitting here talking to you this many years later, I would not believe that. And how could I?” she questions. “It’s been a gift to me as well as everybody else. That movie has made me more friends than you can possibly imagine."
“We did a lot of rehearsal before filming [The Sound of Music] began,” Andrews continues. “We were rehearsing the dance numbers on sound stages in 20th Century Fox, so we pretty much had a rough idea of how the songs would be laid out when we got to Salzburg. The only thing we didn’t take into consideration was the weather, which nobody told the producers that Salzburg has probably one of Europe’s largest annual rainfalls. So it rained and rained that particular year and we were under tarps waiting for the sun to beat through heavy clouds. But it gave the film a texture that was rather special.”
On Mary's magical boots: Before The Sound of Music came along, Andrews played another role that also became an icon: The magical nanny Mary Poppins. The key to having such a strong career, Andrews says, “is an enormous amount of luck.” “I’m a lucky lady that was asked to be in the movie and people seem to forget that it came my way and that there are a lot of very talented people out there." Mary Poppins was Andrews's first film, and luckily, she was able to keep a piece of it with her forever. “I asked if I could keep a pair of Mary’s pink boots from the Jolly Holiday sequence (pictured, below). And I still have them!"
On being a working mom: While Mary and Maria were important, the biggest, most fulfilling role in Andrews's life, she says, is being a mother. “I admire any mum that makes a success of both [a career and motherhood],” Andrews says wholeheartedly. “More than anything, you want to be a good mum—and that came first. I tried the best I could to be there for mornings and then when they came home from school. And then for summers, I’d take them with me and we’d pitch a tent wherever. It’s not easy though. I really do admire the women who make it work.”
On the day she met The Queen: Maria von Trapp, Mary Poppins, a doting mother … Andrews is also an honorary Dame of the British Empire. What was it like to receive the prestigious recognition? “Awesome," she answers quickly. "It was a beautiful day when London looked like a beautiful watercolor painting—all those great buildings lit by sunshine after rain,” Andrews says of that day in 1999. “That feeling of being honored by your queen and by your country for what you’ve done is very personal," she adds.
On her favorite things: “My children, grandchildren, my garden, my dogs, England in the spring, and," she adds with a smile, "roses.”
The Sound of Music 50th Anniversary edition is now available on Blu-ray and DVD at amazon.com.