TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HILLS ARE ALIVE")
JULIE ANDREWS: (As Maria, singing) The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years.
GROSS: My guests are Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, who collaborated with Andrews on her second memoir called "Home Work," which was just published. Translated, Emma is the daughter of the woman known for being the most perfect governesses imaginable - Mary Poppins and Maria in "The Sound Of Music." Andrews' first memoir was about growing up in London when it was being bombed during World War II. When the war was over, she became part of her mother and stepfather's vaudeville act and went on tour with them, eventually becoming the star of the act. Then it was on to Broadway, where she starred in "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot."
The new memoir, which covers the years 1963 to '86, begins when she moves to Hollywood to start work on "Mary Poppins," just a few months after Emma was born. In addition to describing her movie career, she writes about her marriage to set and costume designer Tony Walton, Emma's father, and her second marriage to Blake Edwards, who directed Andrews in several films including "Darling Lili," "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," "10" and "Victor Victoria." The book is also about being a mother to Emma, the two children from Blake Edwards' first marriage and the two Vietnamese children Andrews and Edwards adopted.
Emma Walton Hamilton has co-written 32 books with her mother - mostly children's books. Along with her husband, she co-founded the Bay Street Theater Company in Sag Harbor, Long Island, which she co-directed for 17 years.
Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton, welcome to both of you. And congratulations on the book. I really enjoyed it. Since the book begins, Julie, with you going to Hollywood to make "Mary Poppins" - and I say it begins. This is after the opening chapter, in which you sum up the first part of your life that you told in your first memoir. So let's start with you going to...
GROSS: Let's start with you going to Hollywood. After Walt Disney saw you on Broadway in the musical "Camelot," he asked you to star in Mary Poppins. But you had just gotten pregnant with Emma. So what did you tell him?
ANDREWS: Well, I told him just that, Terry. I said, oh, Mr. Disney, it's wonderful. And thank you so much for the invitation to come and hear the music and see your wonderful designs and drawings. But I'm afraid I'm pregnant. And he said, oh, that's OK. We'll wait. And I didn't realize, of course, at the time, having never made a movie - and I'd been to Hollywood to visit, but - and only once worked there on a television show but certainly hadn't ever made a movie. So I had no idea how long preproduction on a movie takes. He said, OK. We'll wait. And he did.
And nine months later, or ten months later, when Emma was born, we - my first husband, Tony Walton, and I - traveled to Hollywood and were welcomed into the heart of the Disney Studios - and lovely people and couldn't have been more spoiled. The amazing thing is that my husband at the time - Tony Walton, who was a designer - was asked by Walt to bring his designs with him so he could see them. And when he did see them, he hired Tony on the spot to do the costumes and the interiors, mostly, of "Mary Poppins" the film. Talk about a phenomenal break for this married couple with our new baby and a job for both of us. It was - and Tony got a wonderful Academy Award nomination for that.
GROSS: So how many months after you gave birth did you have to start rehearsing dance scenes?
ANDREWS: Well, we did, you know, all the rehearsals for the choreography and for the prerecording that had to be done of the songs. And costumes had to be fitted. It was about three months before we traveled to Hollywood and then about four or nearly five, I think, before we actually began shooting.
GROSS: Did your body feel ready? 'Cause it's a very (laughter) - it's a very physical role, also considering you were flying.
ANDREWS: Yes (laughter). Well, it didn't feel ready. I mean, having just had a baby, it took me a while to get in shape I - the way I felt I should be. There was an enormous amount of action in every way. I would, you know, work out every day. And, of course, there - as I said, there were the dances to learn, which were pretty active. And I didn't feel ready, but I guess I was.
GROSS: I want to ask you about the flying scenes. It sounds difficult.
GROSS: You had to wear a harness for some of the flying scenes, and the harness bruised your hip bones.
ANDREWS: Well, the thing is, you know, these days, special effects like flying and so on are so much easier than they were in the days when I made "Mary Poppins." But I defy anyone to spot any of the tricks that Disney employed to make the movie and the special effects work. Yes, there was a lot of flying. Sometimes, I was on a giant teeter totter, as you call it - a big seesaw. Sometimes, I was at the top of a ladder and had clouds around me and many other things. It was very interesting and all new to me. But the flying harness was, as you just said, very painful. You know, I would be fairly high up in the studio and hanging around for quite a long time. But it was pretty scary. And thank heavens I was perfectly all right.
GROSS: Emma, let's bring you into the conversation. Do you remember the first time you saw your mother in "Mary Poppins"?
EMMA WALTON HAMILTON: What I remember, Terry - one of my earliest memories is not actually seeing the film but being in a department store - in a children's clothing section of a department store. And I think I was about 3 years old, and it must have been right around the time the film came out because it took so long in post-production after the film was shot for them to finish all the special effects and so forth and the animation. And I was with my nanny at the time, and they had set up a display for "Mary Poppins" in the children's section of the department. And there were all these life-sized cardboard cutouts of my mom. And I remember pointing to them and saying, look. There's mummy - and then suddenly becoming aware of two women who were shopping in the department next to us saying to one another, isn't that sweet? That little girl thinks her mother is Mary Poppins.
HAMILTON: And I was like, but it - but she is. That's her. That's my mom, you know? And I think that was the first time I understood that my mom's job was perhaps a little different than...
ANDREWS: A little public, that's for sure. Yes.
GROSS: Emma, what was it like for you to know people who, like, worshipped your mother because of the movies? And I'm talking about when you were young - when you were a child yourself - and they thought of your mother as, you know, Maria in "The Sound Of Music" or Mary Poppins in "Mary Poppins" - as basically, like, the perfect governess who could, like, soothe any child, make any child, like, see - you know, see the silver lining of any cloud and, you know...
ANDREWS: If only they knew how hard I was struggling, Terry...
ANDREWS: ...As a real mum.
GROSS: Yeah. Yeah. So, Emma, what was it like for you to see this, like, Hollywood version of - you know, of your mother's role versus, like, what it was really - what it was like in real life?
HAMILTON: Well, it was challenging sometimes, as you can imagine. A lot of times, people would ask me questions or assume, you know, does she sing you to sleep at night? - and things like that.
GROSS: Did she? Did she?
HAMILTON: And it always baffled me. No (laughter).
ANDREWS: Well, certainly not those...
HAMILTON: Not those songs, anyway.
HAMILTON: You know, one doesn't generally bring one's work home if one can help it. And so if she - when she sang to me, it was usually, you know, English lullabies and Old English songs from vaudeville days that, you know, harked back to her youth.
And later, we moved around a lot because, of course - because of her work taking her to various different parts of the world. And so as a result, I went to a number of different schools. I think I went to about seven different schools over the course of my childhood. And that was interesting because I finally found that if people found out who my mother was, they would tend to sort of want to be friends in order to get an invite over to the house, kind of thing. So I learned to hide behind the name Walton, which was my - which is - was my maiden name and is my father's name, for as long as I possibly could, so as to cultivate, hopefully, some real friendships before any of the other stuff became part of the relationship.
ANDREWS: It sounds so sad, darling.
HAMILTON: No, it was - it wasn't sad, actually.
ANDREWS: It was all you knew, really. Yeah.
HAMILTON: Yeah. It just was what it was. And the truth is, Mom was very, very - as people who read the book will see, you know, family means everything to her - home and family - hence the title of both memoirs having the word home in it. You know, she was a mom through and through at home and always made an effort to get up and make breakfast for us before school in the mornings, even if she had a full day at the studio or was night shooting and, you know, really worked hard to create a family routine and atmosphere at home that was real and normal and separate and apart from all the other stuff of Hollywood. So it was a bit of a contrast to what people, I think, imagine.
ANDREWS: And films are episodic, therefore, you know, that was acute work sometimes, and then some long periods between a movie when one was just home and being mom.
GROSS: Did you feel - Julie Andrews, did you feel pressure to measure up to Mary Poppins and to Maria...
GROSS: ...In "The Sound Of Music" to be perfect, to be a solution to your children's problems?
ANDREWS: Not at all. Not at all, Terry. And I'm far from that. But I did feel pressured to be as good a mom as I could because I was aware of that, say, other people in the business who had issues with family and work and their children did suffer, and I didn't want that. I wanted us to be a family. And of course, it was doubly hard because, sadly, my first marriage ended to Tony, although we're still great, great friends. And finally, I remarried Blake Edwards, the film director. And I was making a new family as well.
GROSS: Emma, but what was it like for you when, first, you had a blended family with two siblings from Blake Edwards' first marriage and then two adopted children? And I mean, let's face it, they're - your mother's time was divided among more children.
HAMILTON: It was, and my time was divided between both my parents as well. So I took the...
GROSS: Who were living on opposite coasts.
HAMILTON: Opposite coasts, exactly. Or even, I mean, there were years when we were living in Europe and my father was in New York - my father was always in New York - and so I spent the school year with my mother and Blake and my stepbrother and sister and then my younger sisters and all of the summer vacations and Christmas and Easter vacations and school breaks with my father and my stepmother and my stepsister. And they were very different households. They were very different cultures. They were in different cities and different communities. And it was an interesting experience.
I found quite often that while I was travelling between homes on the airplane, let's say, I would go through a process of, in a way, adapting myself into the daughter that I needed to be to fit into that house.
ANDREWS: (Laughter) Oh, darling, oh.
HAMILTON: It's not painful; it just was what it was. It was like, OK, now I have to be the daughter that is hip to New York and, you know, the theater scene and all of that. And now I'm going back to California, or I'm going to London or Switzerland and I have to adapt to being the other daughter, the school-based daughter and the daughter in the larger family and so forth. It was interesting.
GROSS: OK. Let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more. If you're just joining us, my guests are Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. They've collaborated on Julie Andrews' second memoir, "Home Work," which begins with her Hollywood years. We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guests are Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. They've collaborated on 32 books together, mostly children's books, but both of Julie Andrews' memoirs. Her second is her new one. It's called "Home Work," and it's a memoir about her Hollywood years, picking up where the first memoir left off.
So let's talk a little bit about "The Sound Of Music." So, Julie Andrews, you say when you saw "The Sound Of Music" on Broadway with Mary Martin in the leading role, you thought it was a little saccharine. So when you got the offer...
ANDREWS: Yes, the...
GROSS: Yeah. What - so when you got the offer, I'm sure you didn't think, like, great, I'm going to do something really saccharine. I'm sure you wanted to make some changes.
GROSS: But tell us first what you thought was a little saccharine about the Broadway musical.
ANDREWS: I think that, you know, the music was lovely, and Mary Martin starred in the musical on Broadway, and it was very pleasant. But it was a story that - by itself, it just stands there in a very saccharine way sometimes. You know, there's seven children and the beautiful countryside and the nuns and the religion and the love story. It could be a little cloying. And of course, the movie itself was a joy to make. And I believe - I know, in fact, that Robert Wise, our director, and Chris Plummer, the wonderful co-star, and all the people in the movie wanted to make it as stringent as possible because of those somewhat saccharine themes.
GROSS: Did you get the chance to talk to Rodgers or Hammerstein about the music?
ANDREWS: No, oddly, I did not, although I did meet them in earlier years. They very kindly and wonderfully wrote a version of "Cinderella" for me for television. And I have some - you know, one or two wonderful Rodgers memories and also Hammerstein separately. But by the time I made "The Sound Of Music," Hammerstein was not well and, in fact, had passed away, and Rodgers was not well, either. So they didn't come out to Hollywood when we were filming the interiors there. And I didn't have a chance, although I know that the producers were in touch; I wasn't.
GROSS: Well, tell us the Rodgers story that you do have.
ANDREWS: Well, when I first met Rodgers, I auditioned for him in an empty theater. I was in a Broadway show called "The Boyfriend," the first time I'd ever been on Broadway - sort of really green, terrified young lady from England that had just arrived. And I auditioned for a musical that they wrote called "Pipe Dream." And I belted out my aria for Mr. Rodgers, who was sitting in the audience. Hammerstein wasn't there. And it was a completely empty theater, and I was on stage with a lovely pianist who was accompanying me. And Mr. Rodgers came up on stage and said - the first thing he said after I'd sort of sung my highest notes and done all the coloratura calisthenics that I could, he said that was absolutely adequate.
ANDREWS: And my heart sank. And then he realized he was teasing me - I realized he was teasing me, and he smiled, and he said, no, I really enjoyed it. Have you been auditioning for anybody else? And I said, oh, yes, I've auditioned for two gentlemen called Mr. Lerner and Mr. Loewe, who are adapting a version of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" for the stage. And Rodgers paused a moment and said, you know, if they ask you to do that show, I think you should take it. If you don't take it, I wish you'd let us know because we'd very much like to use you, and we love what you do. And I thought it was one of the most generous things.
And of course, I did accept "My Fair Lady," which was the - probably the greatest, one of the greatest stepping stones in my very fortunate career. And I will never forget the generosity of Mr. Rodgers expressing that he felt it would be better for me careerwise to do that. And "Pipe Dream," as it turns out, was not one of their most successful musicals.
GROSS: No, hardly (laughter).
ANDREWS: And - no, hardly.
GROSS: But it has a great song in it that you would have sung - "Everybody Has A Home But Me".
ANDREWS: I can't remember because I didn't do the show.
GROSS: It's a beautiful song. Oh, well, I remember it from....
ANDREWS: Oh, Terry. I never did see it because, of course, I was busy working in "My Fair Lady." But actually, during "My Fair Lady" was when they very kindly wrote "Cinderella" for me. And I was standing in the wings of the television studio one day waiting - it was taped live and probably went out to more people on that one night live than if I had performed "My Fair Lady" for 15 years in the theater, more people would have seen it that one night, which was very daunting.
But I was waiting in rehearsal, and I was whistling because when I'm nervous, I do whistle. And we went on camera. Of course, I was just waiting for a setup. And a voice behind me - I happened to be whistling of all things, and I have no idea why, a song called "The Last Time I Saw Paris." And a voice behind me said, you know, I meant every word of that when I wrote it. Mr. Hammerstein was standing behind me, just observing, and I had no idea he was there. And I said, oh, Mr. Hammerstein, I'm so sorry. I had no idea you had written that song. And, you know, dummy that I was.
And he explained how he remembered Paris before the war and how it moved him when he went back after the war to see the devastation. And it was such an interesting conversation and lovely of him to share it, and I'll never forget that moment.
GROSS: My guests are Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, who collaborated with Andrews on her new memoir "Home Work" about her Hollywood years. We'll talk more after a break, and we'll listen back to my 1992 interview with Danny Aiello. He died last Thursday at age 86. He's probably best known for his role in Spike Lee's film "Do The Right Thing." I'm Terry GROSS, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to my interview with Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, who was born just a few months before Andrews started working on "Mary Poppins." Julie Andrews and her daughter collaborated on Andrews' new memoir about her Hollywood years, which picks up where her first memoir left off. The new book is called "Home Work."
Julie Andrews, you were a professional as a child. You toured with your mother and stepfather in their vaudeville act. Your early...
ANDREWS: I did.
GROSS: Your early years were during World War II, and then you toured in their vaudeville act. So you were - and then you were making more money than they were. And then you ended up - you know, you ended up being top billed in the vaudeville act because you were such a great singer. But, you know, you were working. You were the earner in the family when you were a child.
ANDREWS: I was just a stage brat. And I think one of the reasons - I really enjoy it when I'm working because I've worked my entire life, I mean, to the point where I really wasn't attending school. I had to have a tutor that came and worked with me. But I - really, I would love to have attended university. And I had a very sort of rarified and rather pitiful education, in a way. My mother said to me, oh, you'll get a much better education from life out there. And to a certain extent, I did. But I was always scrambling to catch up on history or things that really fascinated me.
GROSS: Julie, you started psychoanalysis after you were in a committed relationship with Blake Edwards. And I can't remember if this is before or after you were actually married. But basically, the way you describe it...
GROSS: Before - when you started psychoanalysis, it's like a dam opened up. I mean, you just started, like, weeping (laughter). And I'm wondering if you felt you had to hold in a lot of feelings and just be strong and not show any vulnerability because, one, you grew up during the war years. You were living in London during World War II when you were getting bombed all the time, and you were going in and out of bomb shelters. You were blowing a whistle and literally warning people when the planes were coming when you were a child. And then you're a child, and you're touring with your parents in vaudeville performing, and the show must go on no matter what. So did that kind of teach you to just, like, hold everything in?
ANDREWS: Yes, absolutely - whatever it was that I'd been sort of being stiff upper lip about in my youth. And I did take care of most of my family in every sense - financially and, you know, emotionally because we were - you know, my stepfather was an alcoholic. And it was not an easy situation, but...
GROSS: Well, and something else you had to hold in...
ANDREWS: ...Thank heavens for therapy.
GROSS: Yeah. I mean, another thing is - and we talked about this during our first interview - your stepfather - when he would get really drunk, he could be abusive. And he was drunk a lot.
GROSS: And a couple of times, he came into your bedroom and tried to kiss you.
ANDREWS: Mmm hmm.
GROSS: It didn't go further than that.
GROSS: But that's very bad.
ANDREWS: I don't know how - yeah. I mean, whatever measure of decency was left in him when he was, you know, drunk, he refrained from going any further. But it was pretty scary. And it could have been just disastrous. But I was very fortunate in the sense that I survived all that. But there was a lot that I needed to sort out in my head - and the failure of my first marriage, which hurt a lot. And I wasn't sure about anything. And I was - the wonder is that my wonderful therapist suddenly realized that what I craved, probably more than anything, was an education. And so being a Merlin-like personality, he decided to give me one. And I got so many answers in terms of some of the things in life that I needed to learn. And it was a phenomenal experience for me. If I wanted to learn about astronomy or geology or anything in life - you know, history, geography, just - I could ask any question, and he would be able to answer it.
GROSS: So Blake Edwards became your husband, but he also directed you in several films. He directed you in...
ANDREWS: Mmm hmm.
GROSS: ..."S.O.B.," which was a satire of Hollywood, in "10," which was a romantic comedy, "Victor Victoria," in which you...
ANDREWS: About midlife crisis, really.
GROSS: And midlife crisis for the men. Yeah. And "Victor Victoria," which you played a woman impersonating a man in drag (laughter), you know, also a comedy.
ANDREWS: Impersonating a woman. Right.
GROSS: Yeah. So - and you have a great showstopping number in that. But he saw you really differently than the preconception that people had...
ANDREWS: Well, I...
GROSS: ...Of Julie Andrews.
ANDREWS: ...I guess that having me as a wife and our sleeping together and being a great - we were married for - well, we knew each other 44 years before he sadly passed away. But he was somebody that knew me very, very well. And I think I knew him very well. This was a marriage that lasted. And it was complicated and wonderful and quite magical at times. And he was the most mercurial, talented, attractive man. And it was quite an experience to be married to Blake Edwards, believe me.
GROSS: But I mean, just getting back to him directing you. You were topless in one scene in one of his films.
GROSS: You know, there's a lot of, like, you know, gender stuff going on in "Victor Victoria."
ANDREWS: Well, I have to tell you, it's a little...
ANDREWS: Yeah. It's very daunting, Terry, when your husband says in a love scene that you're doing with your leading man on camera - he says, well, that's fine, darling. But I know you can do it better.
ANDREWS: And that's rather difficult in the film studio when you're filming it.
GROSS: Well, let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more. If you're just joining us, my guest is Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. They collaborated on the second part of Julie Andrews' memoirs. This new book is called "Home Work: A Memoir Of My Hollywood Years." We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF TEO MACERO'S "DECK THE HALLS")
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us, my guest is Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. They've collaborated on Julie Andrews' second memoir, called "Homework: A Memoir Of My Hollywood Years."
You describe Blake Edwards as mercurial, and he could be magical, as you said. But he also had some problems with pain and had periods of...
ANDREWS: Yes, he did.
GROSS: He had periods of being addicted to painkillers. And you, of course...
ANDREWS: And he was very depressed at times, too, yes.
GROSS: Yeah, and you write that he entertained the thought of suicide several times.
GROSS: So I think that must have put a lot of pressure on you, and I'm sure you worried about him because of the depression and also because of the painkillers. How did you know when it was, like, OK to bring up your concerns, knowing - you know, thinking that it would be a time where you wouldn't just be brushed back and and pushed away if you asked?
ANDREWS: I think the truth is that it took a while to gain that courage and to learn about addiction and to learn that it is an illness and that depression is an illness. And it was difficult, but I dont know any marriage that doesn't really have a great deal of complication behind the image. And Blake had a capacity for sincere apology many times. He failed as often as he succeeded. But the talent, the man behind all that, was still, to me, very obvious. And I guess love pulls you through a marriage no matter what.
GROSS: How did you both - Julie, Emma - start working together on books?
ANDREWS: I had had an operation on my vocal cords, which was, frankly, a disaster. I mean, it led to the fact that I unfortunately was left unable to sing, and that was pretty devastating for me. I thought that my voice was my only identification, really. I lived through singing and for my singing and thought that I was - that was all I was - was somebody who could do that and and knew about it, loved it. So not having a singing voice left me with - I was very bemused and depressed, and I thought, I'll go crazy if I don't think of something to do that will keep me occupied. I always have to do something, as I think I mentioned earlier.
I'd been writing the first memoir, or beginning to. I was not writing it physically but actually thinking about it - making notes and so on - before Emma herself became involved. And my publishers at the time who had contracted me for the book asked if I had any children's books. They knew I had written a few of them on my own. And did I have anything for very, very young children? And I said, well, let me think about it. And I went home to Emma and said, Em, if you have to go to the library for a book for your young son Sam, who was - how old, Em?
HAMILTON: Perhaps a year...
HAMILTON: ...At most at the time.
ANDREWS: What would you want, and what would he want? Because the publishers are saying, do I have anything? And I'd love to write something for them. And your answer was...
HAMILTON: I said, oh, no question at all in my mind. It would have to be something about trucks because he was - as so many little boys are, he was obsessed with trucks, and he only wanted to wear T-shirts with trucks on them and sleep on sheets with trucks on them. And - you know, and every bedtime story was trucks, trucks, trucks. And I was also teaching playwriting at the time because I was at Bay Street and running the - once Sam was born, I segued from artistic direction at the theater to creating young audience programming there and running the education programs in our area schools. So I was teaching playwriting to young children. And so mom said, well, I think maybe we'd better try and write that together.
ANDREWS: A book about trucks.
HAMILTON: A book about trucks. And...
ANDREWS: And that was our first attempt. We had no idea that we'd be compatible, and we, I believe, truly, truly are. When we do work together, the best idea wins. I mean, if we have an argument about something, it's usually obviously about - a creative argument. And we've never actually fought over anything. It's always a recognition that, somewhere, the other one is so passionate about something that it's valid. We have different strengths.
HAMILTON: We do. I - yeah. I tend to be the more structure-oriented, the nuts and bolts and the dramatic arc and the first act, second act, third act and all that. And mom tends to be the sort of fantastic first lines or the flights of fancy, the fun ideas, the great endings, you know?
HAMILTON: She'll - she's - she comes in with the wonderful surprises and the whimsy, and I'm all about the structure.
GROSS: I want to thank you both so much for talking with us. Julie Andrews, Emma Walton Hamilton, thank you.
HAMILTON: Thank you. We are such great, great fans of you.
ANDREWS: Yes, we are.
HAMILTON: It was such a pleasure to talk to you.
GROSS: Oh, thank you so much. It's really been my pleasure to talk with you both.
Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton collaborated on Andrews' new memoir called "Homework." After we take a short break, we'll listen back to my 1992 interview with Danny Aiello. He died last Thursday at age 86. He's probably best known for his role in Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing." This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.