Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins

When Julie Andrews ‘Almost Died’: Mary Poppins Wasn’t All Spoonfuls Of Sugar

Julie Andrews is Mary Poppins for generations of fans. The prim and proper British nanny with magic at her fingertips is one of the most popular movie characters ever, and Julie Andrews was the person who made the “singing magical nanny” in the eponymous movie an icon for children everywhere.

Julie Andrews had to do her own death-defying stunts in Mary Poppins
Julie Andrews dances on the rooftops with the chimney sweeps during filming of “Mary Poppins.” [Image by AP Photo]

The 1964 Oscar-winning film has never lost its allure, but according to the Huffington Post, it turns out that during filming, Mary Poppins herself was almost lost.

Julie Andrews, 81, appeared on The Late Show Friday night to promote her new educational series, Julie’s Greenroom, and she and host Stephen Colbert got to talking about “what it was like to actually film that memorable umbrella scene” in Mary Poppins.

Andrews explained that the studio actually made the stars do all their own stunts, but producers made sure the stunts happened after all the other filming was finished.

Julie Andrews says Mary Poppins filming almost killed her.
Julie Andrews poses at Disney’s “Mary Poppins” 40th Anniversary party. [Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]

They didn’t want Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and other actors to hurt themselves and be unable to finish shooting. The Belfast Telegraph writes that Stephen Colbert was “incredulous” at the idea of risking Julie’s safety on dangerous stunts, but Andrews can laugh at the whole episode now.

“If I’d had an accident I would’ve been disposable after that.”

The crew had carefully prepared a “painful harness” for Andrews to wear as she flew on the wind with her famous umbrella on her way to her new assignment at the home of Jane and Michael Banks.

“There was a very dangerous day right at the end of filming when I was in this excruciatingly painful harness,” Andrews explained to Colbert. The Mary Poppins star pointed “upward” to make her point clear. “And I was hanging around up there for the longest time with the umbrella.”

For a while, everything was fine as Andrews hovered in the air, high over the stage. It wasn’t comfortable, of course, but Julie thought she was perfectly safe.

After all, film studios did this kind of thing all the time, and Andrews was already something of a star, although Mary Poppins was about to catapult her to worldwide fame and icon status. But Julie didn’t want the filming to catapult her to her death!

“I felt myself, after hanging around up there, I thought I felt the wire drop about six inches. So, I thought, ‘Oh gosh, to have an accident at the end of the (film) like this’… I was very nervous, and very tired.”

Andrews called to the crew to get their attention and to ask them to “make sure she was taken care of.” Julie was hoping they’d let her down gently and explained to the people on the ground that she felt herself slip. “I don’t feel too safe up here,” she said.

The film crew reassured Julie that they had the situation well in hand and promised to bring her down safely.

But the equipment really was faulty, and when they began to lower Andrews to the ground, something went very wrong. Julie said she “plummeted” from the great height all the way to the stage.

“There was an awful silence, and I did let fly with a few Anglo-Saxon four-letter words.”

Let’s not imagine what it would be like to be the film crew that killed Mary Poppins! Next time you watch the movie, as you certainly will, watch the opening scenes when Mary Poppins arrives at the Banks house. You can see her body “moving around,” unlike all the other flying scenes where she is very still. Now you know why!

[Featured Image by Don Brinn/AP Images]

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