life·14 min read

Julie Andrews on Her Memoir, Working With Her Daughter, and Her Favorite Things

Oct 21, 2019

A queen is never late. Julie Andrews taught us that. And now, in her new memoir "Home Work," which is co-written with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, she's sharing more of the lessons she's learned from her many years in Hollywood.

Julie Andrews: I wrote a memoir about 10 years ago, it was called “Home.” And this is “Home Work.” It’s based on knowing nothing about how to make a movie, and going out to Hollywood courtesy of the wonderful Walt Disney to make "Mary Poppins." [It’s about] what I learned, and what the work was like, and what making a movie was like. After having only done theater for so many years, I hope it will be interesting to audiences.

JA: I think the truth about how much hard work it is. And really the behind the scenes feeling of Hollywood, or anything theater too. Hollywood especially, is not just red carpets, and glamour, and tiaras, and beautiful gowns. You cannot imagine what great camera men, great makeup and hair artists, and designers, and set builders. So much of it contributes to the making of a movie. And then the camera work and the different lenses that you use, and what it's like. I just felt it would be interesting to convey all that.

Emma Walton Hamilton: Ideally, we write together in the same room, and for this project it was primarily at her home, at Mom's house. Which is where all of our materials were gathered, because we had (laughter) a tremendous amount of research that we had to pull from.

JA: My house was in chaos with reference books and diaries.

EWH: So all of her diaries from all of the years, and her dates books, and then correspondence from many years, and photographs. And other people's memoirs, and the films, and so forth and so on. But occasionally when time or distance puts us in different places, we will sometimes write together online, using our web cam technology.

JA: Yeah it matters that we see each other.

JA: How long it takes. It's been about two and a half, almost three years since this book began. And thank goodness our editors and publishing company were patient with us, because it turned out to be a bigger chore than I ever imagined it could be. I can not believe this day has arrived, and here we are talking about it.

JA: Ask a lot of questions, refer back to other things that I might have done. I think just use anything that might be at hand to help me feel in the moment. And then when in doubt, open your mouth and just say the words.

EWH:  Well, also I would say, when in doubt, take a break. 

JA: The success is just an after. Hopefully, films are a success. You certainly don't set out to make a flop (laughs), but you never know. And it's the doing, that is the thing that matters. And I really mean that. It is the giving, and the finding, and the presenting. And you just hope that people will love it. The success is just the icing on the cake if you're lucky, and there have been many unsuccessful things along the way and many flops, and so on. But people best remember the films that are the most successful in a way. And what about you, darling?

EWH: Something is successful to me if there has been a learning experience as part of it. But there's also a great quote, and I'm trying to remember who said it: to have lived well, to have touched someone else's life, and to have left the world a little bit of a better place than it was where you found it.

JA: Wow. I wouldn't have thought of that.

EWH: I know, right? But that is, I live by that mantra. I just think, you know, if you can make a garden or, you can raise a child, or you can touch someone else's life, that, that's success.

JA: One of them is when in doubt, stand still. It's a little bit like a moth at a lamp, that just flutters, and flutters, and flutters. If the lamp is also fluttering around in a tizzy, then nobody gets to sort of make any decisions. But eventually, the lamp stands still, the moth will eventually subside, and the panic will be reduced enormously. When in doubt, stand still.

EWH: By staying curious.

JA: Yes. I couldn't agree more. Learning...There's always another door to open, always something else to learn. It's a wonderful life in that sense.

EWH: Don't worry. It's all going to make sense eventually.

JA: Nothing is wasted.

EWH: Nothing is wasted, exactly. I've reinvented myself so many times over the years...and eventually everything comes together, and dovetails.

JA: Oh, it's very successful. It's got a thriving industry in growing pears that are very special. And lace, uh, which is woven by the nuns in Genovia, and, (laughs) I think it's probably continuing all the great traditions, and it's in good hands right now with Anne Hathaway.

Cue: the lightning round, where we asked Julie and Emma about yes, their favorite things. Alexa, play "My Favorite Things," please.

JA: Fish and chips.

EWH: I thought you were gonna say peanut butter.

JA: Well, yes. That too. If you really want lots of answers, I can give them to you, but it's the first one that came to mind.

EWH: Pasta.

JA: Courage.

EWH: Joy.

JA: Unprintable.

EWH: Yeah, exactly.

JA: Probably roses, which I adore. You could go on, and on, and on. I love my garden and any flower.

EWH: I would say roses too.

JA: Oh, that's not fair.

EWH: You can't do that.

JA: No, all of them, for one reason or another were adorable. Most of them are still with us, and I'm still friends with them. And it hasn't made any difference, the passing of time.

JA: Fish and chips. Goofing off? Music?

EWH: That's not guilty, music.

JA: Well, goofing off is certainly a guilt thing, because one ought to be doing something else. Late night television, maybe.

EWH: "Let The Good Times Roll" by Harry Nilsson.

JA: That's a great answer. I'm sorry to cop out. Imagine how many songs have crossed my path.

EWH: But this is a lightning round, Mom. You're supposed to say the first thing that comes to your head.

JA: I'm supposed to! I'm supposed to. Favorite song? It isn't one of my own. I can't tell you. I'm so sorry, I'm stumped.

JA: Just lots of exciting things to contemplate, and write about, and... Oh, my. (laughter) It's a very interesting life, and it's different because of aging, in my case.

PS: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. All opinions expressed by the interviewees are their own.

PPS: "Home Work" is editorially selected, but if you purchase it, theSkimm may get something in return. Thanks.

Subscribe to Skimm Your Life

We're bringing you products, recs, and suggestions that'll make your life just a liiittle easier. It all starts with adding us to your inbox.