Between her delightful stage presence, massive talent, and gentle persona, it’s hard not to love Julie Andrews. She was a staple in many childhoods as Mary in Mary Poppins and Maria in The Sound of Music. However, few know that Andrews was a performer for decades before she entered the realm of film. In fact, there are a host of relatively unknown facts about her life, such as her adopted children, her success as a writer, and the many ups and downs she encountered on her way to multiple Lifetime Achievement awards. Get ready to be amazed by these intriguing facts about Julie Andrews.
She Was A Child Performer
Born in England in 1935, Julie Andrews began performing with her mother and stepfather at the age of ten. Two years later, she landed a spot at the London Hippodrome where she sang “Je Suis Titania” from the opera Mignon.
In 1948, Andrews, who was barely a teenager, performed for the king and queen at the London Palladium. She was the youngest soloist to be a part of the Royal Command Variety Performance. From age fifteen to seventeen, she was a cast member of the BBC comedy show Educating Archie.
She Played Several Princesses As A Teen
Julie Andrews’ first experience in voiceover work was when she was seventeen, in the role of Princess Zeila in The Singing Princess, an animated Italian movie. She also performed as Princess Badroulbadour in Aladdin and as Cinderella.
This photograph shows her at a dress fitting for her role as Cinderella in November of 1953. Around this time, she also performed in Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Humpty Dumpty. In 1954, she landed her first role in a Broadway performance. This completely shifted the trajectory of her success.
She Was The Original Star Of My Fair Lady
After portraying Polly Browne in her debut Broadway show The Boy Friend, Andrews was urged to audition as the flower girl in My Fair Lady. She did, landing not only that part but also the role of Cinderella in the Rodgers and Hammerstein television special.
After being nominated for an Emmy for her role as Cinderella in 1957, Andrews went on to appear in several television shows and released her first solo album. Despite her growing recognition, she was passed over for the film version of My Fair Lady, and her part was instead given to Audrey Hepburn.
Disney Insisted On Having Her Play Mary Poppins
In 1959, Andrews married set designer Tony Walton. The next year, she starred as Queen Guinevere in Camelot, a performance that convinced Walt Disney that she was the perfect person to portray Mary Poppins.
However, Andrews declined and returned to London due to pregnancy. Nevertheless, Disney insisted that they would hold production until she was ready. In 1964, Andrews won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress for her role in Mary Poppins.
She Didn’t Always Play Light-Hearted Roles
In 1964, Julie Andrews secured the lead role in The Americanization of Emily. The dark dramedy is set in London near the end of World War II, a time and setting that Andrews lived through as a child.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune, the movie is the favorite of Andrews’ of the films she’s performed in. Andrews was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress in a Leading Role for her part in the film.
The Sound Of Music Wasn’t Always Easy
Unlike with Mary Poppins, Andrews had to audition for the lead in The Sound of Music against giants of the time like Grace Kelly. Though she snagged the part, filming the famous opening scene was a bit messy. She told the Hollywood Reporter that she was “spitting mud and grass and hay” as the helicopter flew by to film several takes.
Nevertheless, Julie Andrews earned her second Golden Globe for Best Actress for her leading role in The Sound of Music, the highest-grossing film of 1965. She was also nominated for a BAFTA and an Academy Award.
She Starred In Several 1960s Smash Hits
In 1966, Andrews returned to the world of drama for her starring role in Hawaii. The epic film chronicled a Yale student from the 1800s and his wife, played by Julia. It was a major success in the box-office.
The same year, Andrews starred in the Alfred Hitchcock film Torn Curtain. The political thriller was yet another smash hit of the 1960s. Another successful film of the era was Thoroughly Modern Millie, a rom-com musical she starred in alongside Mary Tyler Moore.
She Was With Her Second Husband For Life
In 1969, Andrews married her second husband, Blake Edwards. The following year, she starred in Darling Lili, a film written and directed by Edwards. Though the film was not very successful, in part due to studio pushback, the pair went on to collaborate on other projects in the following decades.
The couple remained married until Edwards’ death in 2010. Speaking on their marriage, Andrews told Good Morning Britain, “Success in our marriage was to take it one day at a time and so, lo and behold, 41 years later there we still were.”
She Established Her Television Presence
As the 1970s began, Andrews did a variety of television specials, including An Evening with Julie Andrews and Harry Belafonte and Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center. In 1972, she landed her own television series, The Julie Andrews Hour.
Despite winning several Emmys, the show ended after one season. During the ’70s she also appeared in two movies, both of which were written and directed by her husband, Blake Edwards. Both films were well-grossing, and one– The Tamarind Seed— even received a Royal Command Performance.
She Adopted Two Children
Julie Andrews gave birth to one child from her first marriage, Emma, in 1962. Upon marrying her second husband, she became a stepmother to Jennifer and Geoffrey Edwards. As if three children and a bustling film and television career weren’t enough, Edwards and Andrews decided to adopt.
They adopted a daughter named Amy in 1974, and another daughter, Joanna, in 1975. Andrews now has nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Though she’s remained in the spotlight for quite some time, she’s kept her children predominantly out of it, which may be a testament to her own childhood in show business.
She Helped Raise Funds For Cambodia
In 1980, Julie Andrews supported Operation USA’s mission to aid those starving in Cambodia. Then called Operation California, the nonprofit had yet to gain its notoriety. Their website states that Julie Andrews, a founding board member, was a “large part” of the reason that they had the opportunity to host a television special.
The special was called “Because We Care” and aired on CBS that January. The concert led by Julie Andrews and featuring various stars of the time generated funds through tickets and phone donations. The two-hour special raised more than a million dollars for relief in southeast Asia.
She Changed Her Image In The 1980s
Despite her roles in dramatic films, Julie Andrews still was considered a wholesome actress for much of her career. One thing that helped her evolve this image was her starring role in her husband’s 1981 film S.O.B.
In the comedy, Andrews is married to a despondent Hollywood executive who realizes through a series of mishaps why he has failed to gain the success he desires. Creating a movie within a movie, the film satirizes the Hollywood industry. Andrews’ role as Sally also has some parallels to her own image at the time, which was “squeaky clean.”
She Was The Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year
The Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year is an annual award granted by a theatrical society at Harvard University. The first awardee was selected in 1951 and was actress Gertrude Lawrence, who Julie Andrews portrayed in the biopic Star! in 1968.
Julie Andrews was given the honor in 1983. Winners over the years have also included stars such as Jane Fonda, Liza Minnelli, Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, and Andrews’ Princess Diaries costar Anne Hathaway, to name a few.
She Declined A Tony Award Nomination
Julie Andrews was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Actress and an Academy Award nomination for her role in Victor/Victoria in 1982. Her success with the film made it unsurprising that more than a decade later she would star in the stage musical version.
Returning to Broadway after a 35-year hiatus, the show debuted in 1995 and went on a world tour. However, Andrews was the only person in the production to be nominated for a Tony Award. According to the New York Times, she denied the nomination because she felt the entire production deserved recognition.
She Did An Emmy-Winning Christmas Special
Julie Andrews had her own Christmas Special that aired on CBS in 1987. Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas featured Julie alongside Placido Domingo (a Spanish opera singer and conductor) and singer-songwriter John Denver.
The special was both funny and informative, offering insight into the history of such greats as Mozart and Strauss. Filmed in Austria, the special received world-wide recognition and is today considered a classic. The event was so spectacular that it won a whopping five Emmy Awards.
She’s An Official Disney Legend
Starting in 1987, Disney Legend Awards became an honor given to those who have made an impressive impact on The Walt Disney Company. The awardees are chosen by a committee that consists of historians and other top players in the company, headed by Roy E. Disney at the time.
In 1991, Andrews was made an official Disney legend. More than a decade later, she was named the Official Ambassador of the “Happiest Homecoming on Earth,” an on-going celebration of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary.
She Sang For The First Time In Years In 2004
One of the defining moments in Andrews’ life was a damaging throat surgery she underwent in 1997. She later had reparative surgery done which was effective on her speaking voice, but not her singing. Nevertheless, she stayed active in her career, refraining from singing.
She returned to Disney Studios for the first time since Mary Poppins to star in The Princess Diaries in 2001. She later sang alongside Raven Symone for the soundtrack of the 2004 sequel. The specially-arranged octave melody was the first song she had sung since her surgery. According to the film’s music supervisor, she nailed it in one take.
She’s Done Voiceover Work
After portraying a live-action queen in The Princess Diaries, Julie Andrews went on to play the voice of Queen Lillian in the second, third, and fourth Shrek movies alongside Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Antonio Banderas.
In 2007, she narrated the Disney film Enchanted starring Amy Adams. She then played the role of Marlena Gru in the Despicable Me series alongside Steve Carrell. Most recently, she voiced Karathen in the 2018 film Aquaman.
She’s A Children’s Book Author
While many know Julie Andrews for her outstanding performances, less are aware that she has written a plethora of children’s books, many of them alongside her daughter, Emma. The mother-daughter duo is pictured here with a copy of The Very Fairy Princess, which reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller List.
In 2011, the pair also won a Grammy for Best Spoken-Word Album for Children. The album is called A Collection of Poems, Songs and Lullabies. They also have a pre-K television series on Netflix called Julie’s Greenroom.
She’s Won THREE Lifetime Achievement Awards
Among Julie Andrews’ long list of awards and nominations, she is one of the few to win a Lifetime Achievement award, let alone multiple times over. The first was given to her by the Screen Actors Guild in 2007. Just four years later, she was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Most recently, she was given the Golden Lion Honorary Award for Lifetime Achievement. This photo shows her glowing as she received the award. It was presented to her during the Venice Film Festival at Sala Grande in 2019.