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There are few actors in Hollywood whose appeal crosses several generations and even fewer who could say their work has influenced so many movie fans in their formative years.
Dame Julie Andrews is perhaps the most recognizable name in this small group, having starred as one of the most iconic children’s characters of all time, Mary Poppins, a part that earned her a best actress Oscar in 1964.
More recently, the 71-year-old has staged a career renaissance venturing into publishing and writing children’s books, and once again into fare for younger filmgoers with the Princess Diaries films, Shrek 2 and Shrek The Third, which opens today.
While Andrews is also well-known for critically-acclaimed parts on Broadway, in hugely popular musicals such as The Sound Of Music and edgier films like 10 and Victor/Victoria, she’s arguably best remembered as the magical umbrella-toting nanny in Mary Poppins.
After working in only a relative few projects in the 1980s and 1990s, Andrews found renewed success as Queen Clarisse Renaldi in the Princess Diaries films and as Queen Lillian in Shrek — fans will surely take note of this regal trend.
Asked whether she feels a greater sense of pride for her work in children’s films, the three-time Academy Award nominee is quick to point out the question is an impossible one as every project has meant something different for different reasons.
“I think the thing that I could say is that I feel extremely blessed that some of them became so successful or so iconic that they stayed around,” Andrews says. “The ones that stayed around were the great quality movies that you’re proud to be a part of.”
Perhaps Andrews’ widespread appeal is also due in part to a nostalgic longing for the high-budget original musicals that she came to define, such as The Sound Of Music and Hawaii.
While she believes the success of contemporary musicals like Chicago and Dreamgirls are signs Hollywood is in the midst of a kind of modified movie musical renaissance, the 50-year show business veteran feels that cost structures have forever changed the movie-going experience.
“I think costs have spiralled so much … Sound Of Music I think by today’s standards was an amazingly low budget (film). It was something like $11 (million) or $17 million, which is nothing,” she says.
According to online box office reporting service Boxofficemojo.com, the film’s actual budget was $8.2 million US.
“The costs are tremendous and I think the explosion of the media is different today. There’s so much more demand, there’s so … (many more) newspapers eating up information and television channels and things like that.”
Not to mention celebrities both shying away from, and craving, that media attention. Having grown up in a day when movie stars maintained almost majestic personas in public — despite their private dalliances — Andrews says today’s tabloid culture is very much a two-way street where the sheer number of news outlets have brought stars into the public eye more than ever before.
“I think you just see more of it because of the exposure,” she says of poor celebrity behaviour in public. “I don’t think it’s any different, really. I think there were always quiet celebrities and the public ones who were out there. There’s just more of it on both sides.”
• For more of Chris Atchison’s interview with Julie Andrews, go to www.metronews.ca/movies.