The Lido was alive with the sound of her speaking voice: Dame Julie Andrews, the daughter of two English vaudeville performers who played her first part when she was four, received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Acting from the Venice Film Festival and held a master class that was not so much a class as an extended interview about her past and even more so her future. The 83-year old said she “was just the lucky girl who was asked to play all those wonderful roles” and they clearly keep on coming. The veteran actress and musical star has plans. Among them is the new series Bridgerton. And she is writing her second memoir “Work Home” (which is co-written by her daughter) coming out in October.
She started out as a child actress in London’s West End and moved to Broadway where she originated the role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady long before Audrey Hepburn was cast in the big screen version. Looking back at her 60-year career, she has no regrets and is completely free of jealousy. Not once did she bemoan the fact that Hepburn was chosen over her. She was, after all busy with other things. After Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, she was a huge star.
When she married Blake Edwards, her choices became more risqué: she moved from family fare to almost scandalous when she exposed her breasts in Edwards’ camp Hollywood satire S.O.B. and starred in Victor Victoria which was shown at the Venice fest in her honor.
Festival Director Alberto Barbera lauded her for “going out of her way to avoid remaining confined as an icon of family movies. She accepted roles that were diverse, dramatic, provocative and imbued with scathing irony. For example, The Americanization of Emily by Arthur Hiller, and the many movies directed by her husband Blake Edwards, with whom she formed a very profound and long-lasting artistic partnership, a marvelous example of human and professional devotion to a captivating esthetic project that prevailed over the commercial success of the individual movies," said Barbera.
A day after the ceremony in her honor, she was the hottest ticket in town and her one-hour master class/conversation was standing room only after security cut off the line once the seats were filled. The screaming and yelling that ensued lead to success for those who did not get lucky at first. In typical Italian fashion, the powers that be realized that finding a solution would be much easier than dealing with very loud, disappointed people, so they allowed everyone in. In the conversation, the British legend played to her fans and took questions from the audience. She also promoted her autobiography: “I describe what it is to make a film the first time,” she said. “The other thing I write about was how I was lucky to be successful. I made three movies before any were released.”
Her overnight success with Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music almost threw her, she said: “That was like an assault that could knock you off your feet. I think I had some common sense to stay standing.”
She compared her life and career as a whirlwind of activity: “Things came so quickly! My whole life I’ve have been racing to catch up. It can happen so fast. I think I was just doing what was in front of my face the whole time.”
She certainly climbed every mountain.