Julie Andrews Talks Her Iconic ‘Mary Poppins’ Role & Her Lonely Childhood In ‘Home Work’

julie andrews at microphone
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Julie Andrews has been in many beloved roles in her lifetime. On Broadway, she stunned as the original Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. She shone as former nun Maria in The Sound of Music. She was reintroduced to a whole new generation as the regal Queen Clarisse Rinaldi in the Princess Diaries movies. However, her most iconic role arguably remains the magical nanny, Mary Poppins.

The movie was so popular that it spawned a recent sequel, though she did not make an appearance in the movie for a very specific reason.

Now, the award-winning actress is discussing her famous role with Good Morning America, in addition to other aspects of her life and career.

Andrews said that the journey to Mary Poppins certainly had an interesting start, after she was phoned by author P.L. Travers while she was still in the hospital, having given birth the day before.

Travers told Andrews that though she was too “pretty” for the role, at least she had the proper nose for the part. Andrews added that she had a “ski slope” nose that tipped upwards.

Filming the movie itself also provided challenges. For starters, it was Andrews’s first film role, and she was nervous about acting on camera. Moreover, Andrews was up early to care for and breastfeed her newborn.

Filming itself was long and brutal. The On Golden Pond actress confessed that each scene was required to be flawless, and many of them required up to six weeks of practice.

“And I was learning on my feet, Diane. I mean so fast,” she said of the experience.

The special effects also offered some difficulties; for example, a scene where Dick Van Dyke, who played the chimney-sweep Bert, and Andrews danced on top of turtles meant that the two had to perform the scene on anvils, which were later animated into turtles in the magic of post-production.

Fortunately, Andrews’s husband was in charge of the costume department, and he was not only able to provide emotional support, but also clever little ideas to help her gain better insight into her own character.

“It was a great help to me,” she explained. “He was — well, is — incredibly talented. And he said, ‘I fancy that Mary Poppins has a secret life.’ Kind of quiet pleasure at being a little wicked and naughty.”

Though she has been hailed for her great success in Hollywood, it hasn’t always been easy. Andrews grew up in a struggling show business family that traveled across the United Kingdom in Vaudeville productions. Andrews added that her parents were also crippled with alcoholism, anger, “and despair on my mum’s part.”

As a little girl, she made a promise to her mother that she would be alright. By 12, she was singing for the King of England. As a teenager, she was able to buy her family a home.

Andrews said it was an emotional experience to have gotten out of the Vaudeville trap.

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“I finally got enough courage after the first week to say, ‘I don’t understand why I’m weeping so much. I can’t seem to stop,'” Andrews said.

But she soon realized the cause of her tears.

“You weep for relief,” she said.

Andrews is currently doing promotion for her new memoir, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years.