Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
I’m Alan Alda and this is C+V, conversations about connecting and communicating.
What I try to cover in the book, Alan, particularly this book, is that fame is not just the glamor, and the red carpets, and the gorgeous gowns, although they’re there, but it is such hard work. That doing those big musicals, you have to get up, and you have to rehearse every day, and you have to get it right, and you’re picked at, and touched up, and you’re on camera, and corrected, and the choreographer corrects you. It’s long days, as you know and I wanted to show the work. That’s why it’s called Home Work. Because I do try to make a home wherever I am, and home was as much the theater for me as a youngster as it was real home.
The unmistakable voice of Julie Andrews – Dame Julie Andrews – talking about her new book Home Work, written with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. I sat down with both Julie and Emma for a conversation about both the extraordinary career their book describes and what it was like to collaborate on it as mother and daughter.
Alan Alda: 00:00:00 Julie and Emma, I’m so glad that you could be here with me today. This is great. Your new book, Home Work, is so interesting, and it begins with a very interesting poem that you wrote, Julie, that I think sets the tone. Would you mind reading that for me?
Julie Andrews: 00:00:20 No, I wouldn’t. I’d be delighted. Here we go. “I know that I am all that I am. All that I am is full and ripe. All that I am is standing still, waiting, and watching, and bursting with life. Holding the straining seams of my skin, my passion, and wit, and my sanity in, waiting for someone to soothe and to say, ‘I understand, you’re home.'”
Alan Alda: 00:00:52 Home, that’s really the theme of your both of your books, the new one and the one you wrote before, which you called Home, and now it’s Home Work. It seems to me your life has been work combined with home and home combined with work, and-
Julie Andrews: 00:01:14 I’m trying to make a home wherever I was or am.
Alan Alda: 00:01:18 What is home to you? The poem you wrote sounds like home is more a sense of understanding than a place.
Julie Andrews: 00:01:26 A feeling of warmth, and safety, and people around you understanding, and not being out there in the wilderness perhaps. I did a lot of touring on my own when I was 15 years old in England. I toured endlessly around England.
Alan Alda: 00:01:46 You were traveling alone?
Julie Andrews: 00:01:48 Yes.
Alan Alda: 00:01:48 Wow.
Julie Andrews: 00:01:48 In those days, believe it or not, I was sort of alone. In other words, my parents couldn’t join men at times. Sometimes they did because we performed together at times. But when I was out on my own, they mostly would ask somebody else on the weekly bill, let’s say, the comedian that was topping the bill, would they just keep an eye on me?
Alan Alda: 00:02:14 They asked the comedian to do this?
Julie Andrews: 00:02:15 Well, and his lady, yes. There were some very pleasant and unpleasant things that went on. But really, it was an odd mixture. Eventually, for a while, I did have a tutor traveling with me, because I couldn’t go to school, and I didn’t have any schooling, really.
Alan Alda: 00:02:38 You were trapped by your talents in a way?
Julie Andrews: 00:02:42 Well, and necessity. My parents didn’t have any money, really. Although they worked in vaudeville and they tried very hard, but we were… My mom had three boys, I was the oldest, and so I really had to work for us all to survive, and to contribute.
Alan Alda: 00:03:05 You began working at what age?
Julie Andrews: 00:03:09 My real huge debut was when I was 12. They discovered when I was about seven that I had a freak singing voice. It was like four octaves range, and incredibly thin, and white, and squeaky. But I could do calisthenics of cadenzas and all kinds of things, and hit high notes that only dogs would respond to, in the neighborhood.
Alan Alda: 00:03:38 You never had to have a pet?
Julie Andrews: 00:03:40 No. I did, and we had to shut him out of the practice room. But truthfully, that was… at the age of 12, I was asked to be in a London Review. Totally something that I shouldn’t have been in, but it was like I was this great gimmick. I ran up out of the audience to accept a gift or a balloon as a lot of other children did. I was the last one on stage, and they questioned me, and, “What do you do?” “I sing.” “Yeah, would you like to sing for us?” “Oh, yes.” “What would you-”
Alan Alda: 00:04:41 This was all a put-up job?
Julie Andrews: 00:04:42 A put-up job, but I was the last one up on stage, and then I sang. I would come on twice nightly and sing a very difficult aria, the Polonaise from Mignon, bastardized and cut so that all the good stuff was left in and the boring stuff was left out.
Oddly enough, it seems why life has been mixed with comedians. The comedian in the show was a conductor, and so, he conducted the orchestra. I ran up out of the audience to accept a gift or a balloon as a lot of other children did. I was the last one on stage, and they questioned me, and, “What do you do?” “I sing.” “Yeah, would you like to sing for us?” “Oh, yes.” “What would you-”
Alan Alda: 00:04:41 This was all a put-up job?
Julie Andrews: 00:04:42 A put-up job, but I was the last one up on stage, and then I sang. But the aria was so high, and the… I presume. Thinking back now, I guess the performance of it was so unusual in a little 12-year-old, and I was totally innocent, I had no idea what I was doing. It stopped the show on opening night. The whole audience just stood up, and rose up, and wouldn’t stop applauding. I did ran off through the audience as if I was still a member of the audience.
That was the beginning of a career. That then I began touring, and doing other radio broadcasts, and English pantomimes, which you know about, and thought that I was completely washed up. When I was just about 17, and I got an invitation-
Alan Alda: 00:05:43 All washed up?
Julie Andrews: 00:05:44 Yeah, but I mean by that endlessly touring around England in silly reviews, and not knowing what I was doing, and trying to be reliable, and grown up, and press my own costumes on Monday night, and putting my band books down in front of the maestro every Monday.
Alan Alda: 00:06:04 You had to deliver like an adult while you were still a kid?
Julie Andrews: 00:06:08 Yes, and take care of the family as well, keep an eye on them. That’s why I was always… because of so much traveling to get back to the word home, apparently, my parents told me, oddly, that it was the first word I ever said.
Alan Alda: 00:06:26 Home?
Julie Andrews: 00:06:26 Home. Yeah, we were driving in our old Austin 7, or whatever it was. I’m sitting on my mother’s lap. As we pulled into our tiny little patch of concrete, which they call the driveway, I said the word, questioning home, and my mother couldn’t believe that I’d said it at a very young age. They drove all the way around the block again. As I came in, I again said home. It’s because whenever she arrived home in the car with me, she would say for my sake, “Here we are, home,” and so I picked up on it.
Alan Alda: 00:07:08 Then you’ve written two books about it?
Julie Andrews: 00:07:11 Yes, about what homes means.
Alan Alda: 00:07:13 This is a great story. There’s a lot of meaning in this. This is wonderful.
Julie Andrews: 00:07:17 It’s more feeling, it’s more of a place. What it is, is having a root, having a base is more what…
Alan Alda: 00:07:30 Is that a…
Julie Andrews: 00:07:33 Okay. Okay. Where do you want me to start from?
Emma Hamilton: 00:07:37 We probably need to wait until he dials back in.
Julie Andrews: 00:07:43 I see. I see. Anyway, I’m going on far too long, Alan, but-
Alan Alda: 00:07:47 No, no, no, this is all great.
Julie Andrews: 00:07:50 I want you to describe it [inaudible 00:07:52].
Alan Alda: 00:07:52 Yeah, I’m going to bring Emma in. We talk a lot on this show about relating and communicating. It’s so interesting to me that the word home appears so much in both books. Here you have written a great deal of children’s books, and this autobiography, Home Work.
Julie Andrews: 00:08:22 I think it’s about being rooted somehow.
Alan Alda: 00:08:25 You’ve written it in collaboration with your daughter, Emma. Emma, how-
Julie Andrews: 00:08:30 Do you need to catch this on tape?
Alan Alda: 00:08:32 I think we are, right?
Julie Andrews: 00:08:32 We are still on tape?
Alan Alda: 00:08:34 We’re rolling, aren’t we?
Julie Andrews: 00:08:36 Don’t worry, I see. I thought you’d stopped all together, darling. Yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:08:39 Yeah, we’re rolling, right?
Emma Hamilton: 00:08:40 Yeah.
Julie Andrews: 00:08:40 Yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:08:41 Yeah. Emma, what’s the collaboration been like? How hard is it to collaborate on a piece of writing about someone, where you have to help her tell her story from her point of view?
Emma Hamilton: 00:08:57 Well, it as you can imagine, it was, first and foremost, a tremendous privilege and honor to be able to take that journey with her. My job was to tell her story from her point of view and not interfere with my point of view.
Alan Alda: 00:09:14 Yeah. I’m wondering about those little sessions in between when you say, “Mom?”
Julie Andrews: 00:09:20 Yes.
Emma Hamilton: 00:09:21 There was a lot of that.
Julie Andrews: 00:09:21 There was a lot of that.
Emma Hamilton: 00:09:21 There was a lot of, “Mom?”
Julie Andrews: 00:09:24 Yeah.
Emma Hamilton: 00:09:27 We’ve written over 30 books together as collaborators in children’s publishing, children’s books, together.
Alan Alda: 00:09:34 Right, and they’ve been very successful.
Emma Hamilton: 00:09:36 Thank you. We have a sort of shorthand when we’re writing.
Alan Alda: 00:09:46 How did that develop? What’s the nature of the shorthand, and how did it develop?
Julie Andrews: 00:09:48 The writing of the books together developed from… I was meeting about the first memoir that I was being asked to write. I said, “I don’t know if I can do it, but I’d like to.” I signed a contract, and had a very, very nice gentleman who was encouraging me to write the book with Hyperion. While I went up to the office to talk about it, to their offices, one of the editors says, “Do you write anything else?” I said, “Yes, I have published two books for children.”
She said, “Do you have anything for very young children? Because we’re particularly boys, were looking for something for very young boys. Would you have anything tucked away in a file?” I said, “I don’t know. Let me think about that. I may have an idea or I may have written something somewhere.” I went home to Emma and said, “Emma, I don’t know what they want, but if you had to go to the library for your young son, Sam,” who was how old?
Emma Hamilton: 00:11:02 A year.
Julie Andrews: 00:11:03 Yeah. “If you went to the library, what would you be looking for?” You take it from there, darling.
Emma Hamilton: 00:11:09 It was no question to me. It had to be something to do with trucks, because Sam was obsessed, and his whole life was about-
Julie Andrews: 00:11:18 That was his first word almost, yeah.
Emma Hamilton: 00:11:20 It was, yeah. I said, “It has to be something about trucks, but something more than just the bulldozer goes crunch. It has to have some story and character and theme.”
Julie Andrews: 00:11:31 You said it does have to have some family feeling about it, maybe something that you can eventually take that little truck to bed. You couldn’t find any family-based stories.
Emma Hamilton: 00:11:43 I couldn’t at the time, yeah. Mom said, “Let’s write it together then.”
Julie Andrews: 00:11:44 Maybe that’s the opening we need, let’s try and write a little book.
Alan Alda: 00:11:48 How hard was that, that first effort?
Emma Hamilton: 00:11:50 Actually, we neither of us knew what the collaboration would be like. We have worked together before, we’d been in filmed together before, and we’d been in… When I was at Bay Street Theater, we had produced mom’s directorial debut in The Boy Friend, and so, we’d collaborated creatively many times before. But we’re both fairly strong, opinionated, bossy ladies, from time to time, and so, we worried that it might be a bit of a clash.
But we discovered very quickly, Alan, that we have different strengths, complementary strengths, and that mom has all the really fresh, original ideas, and the great one liners, and the interesting approach to an opening, or the musicality, or the visual sense. I’m all about the structure, and the nuts and bolts, and the three acts, and the narrative arc, and all of that.
Alan Alda: 00:12:47 Do you work together head-to-head, or does one of you do a draft and the other wreck it or what?
Emma Hamilton: 00:12:53 No, we have to be head-to-head, whether we are in the same room or whether we’re online together.
Julie Andrews: 00:12:58 Or Skype.
Emma Hamilton: 00:12:59 Yeah. We have to hear each other and preferably see each other.
Julie Andrews: 00:13:03 These days, we’re very much head-to-head and we’re worth this biography.
Emma Hamilton: 00:13:07 But it is literally a process of writing out loud, essentially, and finishing each other’s sentences. Quite often, we’ll be mid-sentence and we’ll both finish the sentence simultaneously.
Alan Alda: 00:13:19 What about, how has this affected the mother/daughter relationship, where when mothers and daughters don’t work together, they have to work out their relationship to power the relationship?
Julie Andrews: 00:13:33 We got past all that, didn’t we, darling?
Alan Alda: 00:13:36 My question is, has finding a way to work together changed the way you relate to one another as mother and daughter?
Julie Andrews: 00:13:46 I don’t think. It’s just deepened, and warmed, and matured our relationship. But there was always that very, very warm connection, even at the most difficult times that I do write about in this particular memoir. Even then, it didn’t take long for those clouds to go by and so on.
Emma Hamilton: 00:14:08 But what it has done is it has allowed us to… Because we’re usually busy with the creative project, much of our time together is focused on creative play, and creative brainstorming, and creative collaboration. Therefore, there isn’t as much time left over for what a good friend of ours calls organ recitals.
Alan Alda: 00:14:38 Yeah, right. Right.
Emma Hamilton: 00:14:41 Our complaining or family nonsense, and so, that is a lovely discovery of that the time spent together is creative.
Julie Andrews: 00:14:51 She’s the great nudger though. You’re the great nudger because you’ll say, “Mom, get it down. You don’t eat over anticipate, let’s write it. We can cut, we can prune.”
Emma Hamilton: 00:15:01 She wants to perfect the first draft or the first page.
Alan Alda: 00:15:04 The first draft, I found, is supposed to be lousy.
Julie Andrews: 00:15:07 Yes.
Emma Hamilton: 00:15:07 Exactly.
Julie Andrews: 00:15:08 The first chapter too. But I have to have that sense that maybe the first chapter is… if I get it right, then I feel I’ve got something to use as a guide.
Alan Alda: 00:15:25 I heard from Norman Lear, who has contributed so much as a writer, he was suffering so badly from writer’s block that he locked himself in a hotel room for 10 days to finish a half-hour script. At the end of 10 days, they carried him out on a stretcher.
Julie Andrews: 00:15:44 No?
Alan Alda: 00:15:44 In the typewriter was a page with one sentence on it that he couldn’t get past the opening sentence. He kept fixing the opening sentence for 10 days.
Emma Hamilton: 00:15:55 We can relate to that a bit, right?
Julie Andrews: 00:15:56 He’s such a lovely man though, he’s an amazing gentleman.
Alan Alda: 00:15:59 Oh, he’s just terrific.
Julie Andrews: 00:16:00 Yeah, he is. I have to tell you, there’s a funny little P.S. to how we work. When we began writing, I was living in California and Emma was here in, in Long Island. Because of the time change, she had a regular life to get on with it, as did I, when we first began writing. We’d plan, either it was very, very early for me. I’d get up at sometimes 7:30, or even 6:30, so that it was 9:30 her time and she could begin writing with me.
I’d roll out of bed and brush my teeth and all of that. Just before I got online with her on Skype, for some stupid reason, there I was, really looking like the wreck of the Hesperus, but I’d have to use a little bit of perfume and spritz myself, and it’s not anything that she could have-
Emma Hamilton: 00:16:56 No makeup, mind you. No makeup, not having brushed her hair, but perfume, just in case I could smell her through the webcam.
Julie Andrews: 00:17:04 But it gave me a sense of myself. Isn’t that stupid?
Alan Alda: 00:17:07 That’s so interesting.
Alan Alda: When you were telling me about your childhood and touring and performing, I think you and I had a similar experience at roughly the same age.
Julie Andrews: 00:17:23 Oh my.
Alan Alda: 00:17:24 I’ve read that you went to the Stage Door Canteen as a child to perform.
Julie Andrews: 00:17:31 I did.
Alan Alda: 00:17:31 My father and I performed at the Hollywood Canteen for soldiers and sailors right about the same time.
Julie Andrews: 00:17:38 Yeah. Do you think most people know now what those were?
Alan Alda: 00:17:38 Explain what it was.
Julie Andrews: 00:17:45 They were particularly for the forces, for the troops overseas, for any member of the forces that were happened to be back in London, or home on leave, or anything. It was entertainment and a good meal. What did you find?
Alan Alda: 00:18:02 We would be performing for soldiers and sailors who were on their way to the Pacific.
Julie Andrews: 00:18:07 Yes, the same sort of thing. It was anybody.
Alan Alda: 00:18:10 Actors in movies who could do any kind of entertainment, or just actresses who were willing to dance with the soldiers.
Julie Andrews: 00:18:18 Yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:18:21 And my father and I did Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First?
Julie Andrews: 00:18:25 Well, that’s great.
Alan Alda: 00:18:28 But were you singing opera for them? What were you doing?
Julie Andrews: 00:18:30 I was probably doing my token aria. I did have other songs. My mother was a fine pianist, a really good pianist. When she married my stepfather, he was a very good tenor from Canada. That was my early, early years, when I was about five. It was my stepfather that decided to give me some singing lessons just to bond with this child that didn’t really like him very much. I wasn’t close to him. But that’s when he discovered that this freaky voice of mine was there. Because he was a singer, he gave me lessons, which I hated, and then very quickly realized that I needed to be passed on to a good teacher. He did do that.
However, the early years of my performing were either touring with them because it was convenient. Occasionally, they’d put me on a crate because then I could reach the microphone beside my stepfather, and we’d sing a duet together and things like that, and I’d pipe out whatever I had just learned as an aria. But when we did the Stage Door Canteen, I did do a duet with him, and then an aria on my own.
Alan Alda: 00:19:54 It was my realization that I wanted to perform, because I was nervous backstage, shaking with fear before we went on. As soon as I got into the spotlight, I felt warmth from the spotlight. Then when I got that first big laugh, that was it.
Julie Andrews: 00:20:14 Carol Burnett says the same thing. Probably she’s told you, I’m sure of it.
Alan Alda: 00:20:20 But Emma, you had, it seems to me, the problem that some members of my family have had, my grandchildren growing up next to somebody who’s really famous, really well-known. You’ve had to make a life of your own, and you really have. You teach at Stony Brook University. Tell me about that.
Emma Hamilton: 00:20:45 About making a life of my own?
Alan Alda: 00:20:47 Yeah, and the Stony Brook experience.
Emma Hamilton: 00:20:48 Oh, thank you. There was a moment. First of all, I will say that mom made a tremendous effort when I was young, when my stepsiblings and half siblings and I were all young, to create as “normal” a childhood an environment for us as possible, given that we were, yeah, to create a home. Exactly. Obviously, I was visiting sets and traveling with her and so forth, but there was always an attempt at a good protein breakfast every morning and around the same time and things like that. That was a big help. Then-
Julie Andrews: 00:21:25 Tea every afternoon no matter what.
Emma Hamilton: 00:21:27 Yes. Yeah. There came a moment in my… For many years, I wrestled with the fact that it took her away from me quite often or I’m not quite known.
Julie Andrews: 00:21:42 I wrestled with that, too.
Emma Hamilton: 00:21:44 Yes. Not quite knowing how to deal with all the questions.
Alan Alda: 00:21:46 It affects us on both sides. I was crossing a parking lot a few years ago with my oldest granddaughter, who was only, at that time… Excuse me. At that time, she was only about eight or nine. On the way across the parking lot, two or three people stopped me to talk about my work, people I didn’t know. She was holding my hand, and when we got by ourself, she said, “I hate it that you’re famous.”
Emma Hamilton: 00:22:21 Oh.
Julie Andrews: 00:22:21 Oh.
Emma Hamilton: 00:22:22 Yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:22:23 I really felt her, because once you’re famous, you can’t tone it down.
Emma Hamilton: 00:22:29 I tell this funny story of being in a department store right after Mary Poppins came out, and I think I was about three. I wasn’t with mom, I was with my nanny at the time. The children’s department, they had set up a whole Mary Poppins display because the movie had just come out. There were all these life size cardboard cutout figures of Mary Poppins.
I vividly remember pointing to them and saying, “There is mommy,” and suddenly being aware that these two women, who were shopping in the department, turned to each other and said, “Isn’t that sweet? That little girl thinks her mother is Mary Poppins.” That was the first time it registered for me that there was something different about my mom.
Alan Alda: 00:23:11 Yeah.
Emma Hamilton: 00:23:12 But there was a point in my life where a good friend of mine said, “It’s a gift that you’ve been given that you are the daughter of this extraordinary figure in people’s lives. She is beloved, she is cherished, and you need to wear the mantle with pride, and represent her, and be as dignified and graceful as possible to…”
Alan Alda: 00:23:42 I sometimes think of the problem a royal family has.
Julie Andrews: 00:23:46 Oh, my gosh, yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:23:48 Where they have an obligation they have to fulfill, that they didn’t ask for, but they’re born into it.
Emma Hamilton: 00:23:52 But I’ll tell you what, Alan, when you mentioned Stony Brook, because I teach children’s book writing for the creative writing MFA there, and I think it has made me work harder to better educate myself. Because my whole life, I have spent so much effort and energy trying to prove that I wasn’t just riding on mom’s coattails. To be so fortunate as to be asked to write a book with her, our first children’s book, I didn’t want it to be, “Well, she only got that because she’s writing with her mother, Julie Andrews.”
I went out and steeped myself in craft and learned everything I could about writing, and got an education in it myself to the point where I can now teach it, because it matters to me that I stand on my own two feet.
Julie Andrews: 00:24:47 Imagine the gift that it is to me because she is the nuts and bolts of everything we write together. I couldn’t, now, I don’t think, write without your darling, I really feel that.
Emma Hamilton: 00:24:59 We depend on each other that way, we really do.
Alan Alda: 00:25:03 As you talk, it reminds me of how most people don’t think of fame as anything but something good. There’s plenty of good about it. It helps you get more work and I think people know who you are. Sometimes it helps you get a table at a restaurant. There are good things about it. But you have to get used to it. I had a real problem when I first became really well-known because of M*A*S*H. I had night terrors for six months because people were pulling at me in the street, and that’s really strange.
Julie Andrews: 00:25:39 That’s right, lurking at you and-
Alan Alda: 00:25:40 Yeah, really plucking at my arm.
Julie Andrews: 00:25:44 That’s right.
Alan Alda: 00:25:45 I often thought it would have been a good idea for people who are newly famous to have a support group of people who have already gone through it and help you make the adjustment. What did you go through, Julie, when you first encountered that?
Julie Andrews: 00:25:59 A lot of that. It hit me, it was like… I mean, I’m not knocking it at… Here, I was given these wonderful roles of Poppins, and The Sound of Music, and so on, but people began to recognize me. Then, as you say, it becomes an almost like a kick in the solar plexus, or it comes at you like a freight train in a way, because you’re not anticipating anything like that.
What I try to cover in the book, Alan, particularly this book, is that fame is not just the glamor, and the red carpets, and the gorgeous gowns, although they’re there, but it is such hard work. That doing those big musicals, you have to get up, and you have to rehearse every day, and you have to get it right, and you’re picked at, and touched up, and you’re on camera, and corrected, and the choreographer corrects you. It’s long days, as you know, filming is, and I wanted to show the work.
Alan Alda: 00:27:07 Yeah, that’s a real contribution.
Julie Andrews: 00:27:09 That’s why it’s called Home Work. Because I do try to make a home wherever I am, and home was as much the theater for me as a youngster as it was real home. Wherever I went, I tried to make it feel comfortable and easy, although it wasn’t, but it’s the same. This second book called Home Work was all about the same thing, doing my homework, learning the craft of moviemaking, which I knew nothing about.
Alan Alda: 00:27:41 A big difference when you go from the stage to film.
Julie Andrews: 00:27:44 Huge, yeah. Then, also, the work that I eventually did on myself to embrace it all, and to go into psychoanalysis, and all those big things that were hard work, too.
Alan Alda: 00:27:57 It’s hard to talk about the difficulties of being famous
Julie Andrews: 00:28:00 You don’t want to sound ungrateful.
Alan Alda: 00:28:02 Yeah, and most of us think that to be rich and famous are the same thing. I feel so sorry for people who get famous for something that have no financial way to cope with it.
Julie Andrews: 00:28:18 Yeah. But also, these days, fame is so fast and ephemeral. It disappears because of the internet, because of the media in every way. It’s eaten up so quickly if you’re-
Alan Alda: 00:28:33 You can get famous for things that have nothing to do with talent or hard work. A sex tape goes out, and all of a sudden, you have a new career.
Emma Hamilton: 00:28:42 Infamous, then you are, yes, yeah.
After a short break, Julie tells me about a botched operation she had that destroyed her singing career. And how it was both a trauma… and an opportunity.
This is Clear + Vivid and now back to my conversation with Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
Alan Alda: 00:28:48 I was interested in the Home Work book in that it’s based so much on diary entries that you made. What motivated you to keep a diary during all of those years that you were working?
Julie Andrews: 00:29:08 I used to keep one as a child because, of course, I was up to London every day and it was more grading myself, “How did I sing tonight? How did I perform?” A great deal of those diary entries were, “And then I ate, and then I slept, and then my brothers teased me, or I had to look after them,” or something.
Alan Alda: 00:29:31 That must be fascinating to look back on now, to see what you as a child thought was worth putting down.
Julie Andrews: 00:29:37 I know, stupid stuff. But then, really, from about… When I made a film called Hawaii, when I was in Hawaii, and it was so rich and fascinating to be making that film, and it was such a hard work. It was either the great storm at sea, or the measles epidemic, or the fire in the church, and those kinds of things.
Alan Alda: 00:30:02 You had to sit next to a hot fake lava thing, right?
Julie Andrews: 00:30:08 That’s right, the church was on fire and my character had to rush in to help put the fire out. But what I’m saying is, that’s when I really thought, “I have to write some this down, I’m sure I’ll forget.” As much as anything, it was writing down, but also sorting out my head. It cleared my head and left room for other things once it was on the page.
Emma Hamilton: 00:30:34 You had also just started therapy at that point, and that might have been part of the inclination towards self-reflection as well.
Julie Andrews: 00:30:44 It encouraged me to write it, but it was mostly to get out of my head the things that were tearing around in my brain on so many levels, that it was, if I wrote it, I was there, I knew it, but I could get on with the everyday living in a way.
Alan Alda: 00:31:04 When you wrote the book, you must have made great use of the diaries.
Emma Hamilton: 00:31:11 We did. As mom said, they didn’t really begin until the making of this film, Hawaii, which was her fourth film. There were no diaries.
Julie Andrews: 00:31:11 Yeah, it was my fourth. You’re right.
Emma Hamilton: 00:31:24 Yeah, so there were no diaries for Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music, alas. Those films, we had to do what we did with the first book, which was really a series of interviews between the two of us. We would just sit and talk and record ourselves. Then I would ask questions of mom about her memories relative to particular incidents in her life or projects. Then we would have those recordings transcribed, and convert the transcript into a rough form of narrative that we could work from.
Alan Alda: 00:31:53 Isn’t it interesting how much you remember things that come up?
Julie Andrews: 00:31:55 Yes, I was just going to say that.
Alan Alda: 00:31:58 I can’t get over how memories have risen while trying to write about the past.
Julie Andrews: 00:32:03 Fierce things stay in your head, or little tiny moments of the first impression of something stays in your head forever.
Emma Hamilton: 00:32:10 But it’s also interesting how memory changes. Because one of the things we discovered, having these diaries, is that the memories were not always reliable. Quite often, mom would say-
Julie Andrews: 00:32:22 The memories were, but where they took place.
Emma Hamilton: 00:32:24 Yes, certain details about the memories, mom would be adamant about. Then we would find that in the diary, something else entirely was the truth, that she recorded at the time.
Alan Alda: 00:32:34 A friend of ours, who was a very famous journalist, wrote a book about his life. Arlene, my wife, said to him, “God, there’s so many wonderful details in the book. How did you remember all of these?” “What do you mean remember? If I couldn’t remember it, I made it up.”
Julie Andrews: 00:32:49 That’s right. This book, truthfully, doesn’t have anything made up. In fact, there’s so much left out just because space was needed, and that I could only write so much.
Emma Hamilton: 00:33:01 The first draft was 600 pages.
Alan Alda: 00:33:04 Wow.
Emma Hamilton: 00:33:05 We had to cut a full 200 out before we could begin editing.
Julie Andrews: 00:33:10 Which I was happy to do, I have to say.
Alan Alda: 00:33:13 You, Julie, do you conscientiously look to learn new things? You talked about the effort you put into learning, singing, and prepare for the-
Julie Andrews: 00:33:23 Yeah, I never had an education, Alan, but I would love to have gone to college, love to have really studied something. But I never could because I was too busy providing for the family. But I have always been really curious and interested in so much. My brain just began to open and open, and I guess I grew up in a way. I was so focused for so many years. I was very young for my age and very green. Even when I first came to Broadway, I was truly an innocent. But lapped it all up, and watched, and remembered. Was mentored by people like Moss Hart-
Alan Alda: 00:34:12 Oh, that’s interesting.
Julie Andrews: 00:34:13 … and Alan Jay Lerner, and Frederick Loewe, or meeting Rodgers and Hammerstein for the first time, which is in the first memoir. Those kind of things, you say I want… A great influence on me was Mike Nichols, who became a great friend.
Alan Alda: 00:34:31 One day, while we were rehearsing The Apple Tree that Mike was directing-
Julie Andrews: 00:34:35 Directing, yes, I saw it.
Alan Alda: 00:34:37 … you came during rehearsal as his guest.
Julie Andrews: 00:34:42 Did I?
Alan Alda: 00:34:42 Yes. Yeah. I remember thinking, “This is hard to rehearse with the tight audience of one out there.
Julie Andrews: 00:34:46 I loved it all. Of course, at that time, I was so proud of Tony, who was my first husband, and we’re such good friends.
Emma Hamilton: 00:34:57 He designed the show.
Alan Alda: 00:34:58 He designed the show beautifully.
Julie Andrews: 00:35:00 Of course, he did, and so many others on Broadway. He’s one of the top three or four ranked designers on Broadway.
Alan Alda: 00:35:00 I think so.
Julie Andrews: 00:35:00 Yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:35:00 You learned from Mike Nichols?
Julie Andrews: 00:35:13 I learned from Tony a great deal about perspective. I remember coming home and complaining that the wonderful Oliver Smith had designed the sets for My Fair Lady. I said, “What a stupid thing that the bed is much too short and I can’t get through the door in these hats? Why don’t they think about things like that?” Tony said, “Julie, if they put the real size on stage, if they didn’t do false perspective, you’d have a third of what happens to be there, which is showing so much, and they have to. That’s what you have to accommodate to.” Of course, because he was designing, I got it from his perspective, from backstage, so to speak, and was always hugely respectful after that.
Alan Alda: 00:36:09 That’s another example of relating and communicating that we often don’t think of. When we’re working with people who have to do their job while we’re doing our job, we have to think about what they’re going through.
Julie Andrews: 00:36:23 Well, yes, and so many things. I don’t know if you find it directing, Alan, but opening night nerves and dealing with other people’s insecurities, because we’re all.
Alan Alda: 00:36:38 Yeah.
Julie Andrews: 00:36:38 How do we know it’s going to be successful or good? You just hope, and pray, and you get very nervous.
Alan Alda: 00:36:45 Yes, somehow you have to figure out how to pull together in spite of the fact that sometimes people are so concerned about their end of it that they’re not pulling together with you.
Julie Andrews: 00:36:55 It took me a long time to get rid of my fear of audiences in general, how did I get on stage.
Alan Alda: 00:37:03 That’s interesting. Tell me about that.
Julie Andrews: 00:37:04 Well, only that it-
Alan Alda: 00:37:06 How would the fear express itself?
Julie Andrews: 00:37:09 Well, it’s all the difference between… as a little girl, especially, you go on stage hands clasped and thinking, “Oh, I hope they like me,” and trying to be winning as-
Alan Alda: 00:37:24 That’s how I am now, hands clasping.
Julie Andrews: 00:37:30 Yes. But I suddenly realized I had to get over this. And I used to the audience as a way of judging myself. What I thought I projected onto them, what I was actually thinking about myself, “Oh, I’m not singing so well tonight, and I’m sure they sense it. I’m uncomfortable, I’m sure they sense it.” But not realizing that they’ve paid money to come see you, they want to see you, they want to have a good time. It took me a long time.
I did do a lot of hard work on it. I asked a lot of questions. Finally, I was able to turn it around and make it seem… It was really important for me, Alan, was that, “Oh, my God, they’re coming, to my party, to my house.”
Alan Alda: 00:38:14 You know what’s wonderful about this? Not only do I feel exactly the same way, but when Yo-Yo Ma was on the show, he said what you just said in precisely those words, “They’re coming to my party.”
Julie Andrews: 00:38:28 Exactly, they’re coming to my house, and I’m opening these doors and saying, “You came out, great.” Once I grasp that, then I was able to give the joy, I hope, and really try to make… rather than saying, “I hope you liked me.” Of course, by the time I got halfway through my performance as a youngster, I was pretty safe because I knew I was getting the applause and people did like me, it seemed. But now I’m able to go on stage, and I really enjoy that first moment.
Alan Alda: 00:39:00 I remember standing off stage, hearing the crowd on the other side of the curtain, hearing them-
Julie Andrews: 00:39:09 Murmuring.
Alan Alda: 00:39:10 Sometimes it was a murmur, and sometimes it was a really loud noise. They were in their own world. I thought I had to go out there and-
Julie Andrews: 00:39:17 Take them into mine.
Alan Alda: 00:39:18 Yeah. It had made me nervous at first. Then I realized just what you said, they’ve come here to have a good time, and I’m the one who’s helping them have a good time.
Julie Andrews: 00:39:29 Yes. I’m sure that back at home, the young son maybe has the measles or a sore throat, and then there’s the tax man to cope with. But maybe, for three hours, you might be able to take their mind off it and make them feel great.
In 1997, while acting in Victor/Victoria on Broadway, Julie developed a hoarseness in her throat. She was diagnosed with nodules on her vocal cords and underwent surgery. But it turned out that the diagnosis was mistaken and the operation was unnecessary.
Alan Alda: 00:39:46 When you said sore throat, you made me think of your throat. How have you come to terms with the effects of the operation?
Julie Andrews: 00:39:56 Funnily enough, this book doesn’t go that far, otherwise, I would written about it. It didn’t get to the point where I didn’t have to have the operation. That’s the heartbreaking thing. But I did do it. It was my choice to do it, which I blame myself for. But I fought for a year, there was great mourning on my part because my throat was so damaged from the operation
Alan Alda: 00:40:24 The reason you got the operation and the… Excuse me.
Julie Andrews: 00:40:27 [inaudible 00:40:27] got clearing her throat.
Alan Alda: 00:40:28 Yes, right. As I remember, you had overused your voice. Was it Victor/Victoria?
Julie Andrews: 00:40:35 No, not just that. For years and years, you do… I was in My Fair Lady for three-and-a-half years, eight performances a week. It does toughen you up, and it toughens your vocal cords, it toughens… There are a lot of people that are on Broadway that have a Broadway sound, which comes from belting out those… It’s a wonderful sound, and you know it’s never going to fail, it’s got a great strength to it. But it’s like a striation of muscle, eventually, in your vocal cords if you’re not careful. They toughen up to such an extent that they become rather stringy. I can’t put it any better than that. The muscle does.
Alan Alda: 00:41:20 You were losing some of the tone that made your voice so good?
Julie Andrews: 00:41:22 Losing some of the subtlety, and occasionally, crew vocal fatigue.
Alan Alda: 00:41:28 You went to a doctor and he misdiagnosed you?
Julie Andrews: 00:41:33 Well, I can’t talk about it too much. Yes, it was. It was misdiagnosed. The general feeling was that within two weeks, I’d be singing better than ever and it would be fine. I didn’t have a system, I didn’t have anything but overused chords that could have been helped a great deal. Anyway, the wonder and the miracle is that, after about a year of real feeling that my life was up, I felt my voice was my total identity and I had to do a lot of work on that-
Alan Alda: 00:42:09 Boy, that’s a really tough position to be in.
Julie Andrews: 00:42:11 I know other people, of course, that have also lost their voices and felt the same way.
Alan Alda: 00:42:16 It’s a scary thing for any performer. I don’t sing. Obviously, I sing when I have to, if they have a gun to my head. For years, when I would get a bad cold, the first thing I’d think is, “Maybe I could become a mime.”
Julie Andrews: 00:42:38 The mime was, “I’m going to be a bass, so I might as well try race it.” Because the voice goes all the way down.
Alan Alda: 00:42:46 Yeah. But here you had, from the time you were a child, you were supporting your family.
Julie Andrews: 00:42:52 Yeah, and was a high [inaudible 00:42:53] too.
Alan Alda: 00:42:53 Right. The singing voice meant so much to your identity. That must have been depressing.
Julie Andrews: 00:43:01 It was my total identity. Thank God for it, because it gave me an identity in a rather… We were talking earlier, off mic, about our early years and difficult family life. The rock part of my life was that I had a talent. Although I did appreciate it and I realized it was a gift, but it grew to be so important and was a lifesaver for me.
Alan Alda: 00:43:34 How do you now have a change of identity? How did you arrive-
Julie Andrews: 00:43:40 After about a year, I knew that I would have to do something to get my feeling of self-respect, and God knows what, back. That was just about the time that Emma and I started writing together. I’ve always loved to write, and would do so as a young kid, I thought, “That’s what I have to return to. I have at least see.” I always wanted to write when I was a real youngster. Not that I had any education about it, but that was always my dream to make up stories and silly stories, but-
Alan Alda: 00:44:21 It’s such a wonderful thing for me to hear that you were able to reestablish yourself as yourself.
Julie Andrews: 00:44:28 To find something else mid-life.
Alan Alda: 00:44:30 To adapt.
Julie Andrews: 00:44:30 Yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:44:31 Because to me, all of life is adaptation. If we don’t adapt, we’re out of luck.
Julie Andrews: 00:44:37 Well, thank God, it was toward the end of what… I think, after a few years, I probably would have not been singing anyway. Although the kinds of singing that I did, which was not that coloratura anymore, I used it if I needed it, but mostly, it was more musical theater. That’s much lighter than any kind of fake operatic arias, which was my stock-in-trade as a kid.
That’s easier to accommodate because you can… I mean, even Sinatra, after his great success, would transpose and sing the same songs, but they’d be a little low, and nobody knew. I’ve done that and been that.
Alan Alda: 00:45:22 I never head that. That’s interesting.
Julie Andrews: 00:45:23 Yeah. When you’re touring and touring, endlessly, in concerts, for instance, making it more rich and good.
Emma Hamilton: 00:45:34 What it comes down to is creative expression.
Julie Andrews: 00:45:37 That’s a good point, sweetheart.
Emma Hamilton: 00:45:41 Yeah. When it happened, and when mom lost her voice, and it was a tragedy, and it’s still a tragedy, but she happens to be one of the most resilient people I’ve ever met in my life. She’s overcome a great deal in her life, not just the loss of her voice, but a lot of other challenges as well, and from childhood on. When we talked about it, we realized that writing, for instance, was just a new way of using her voice, so to speak, if you think of-
Julie Andrews: 00:46:15 That was actually your statement to me, and it was as if a weight dropped off my shoulders when Emma said that.
Alan Alda: 00:46:21 Emma actually, she put it in those words at that time?
Julie Andrews: 00:46:22 Yes. “Mom, you’ve just found a different way of using your voice.” I thought, “My gosh, she’s right, I can embrace music in a million ways in the books as if they’re ever developed,” which we’ve now done a couple of times. We’ve developed what we feel are beautiful properties with music. It’s not lost totally. I may have lost the ability to deliver it, but I can think about it, and add it, and enjoy it, and wallow in it in a different way.
Alan Alda: 00:46:59 That’s really nice that you could offer that insight to your mom.
Julie Andrews: 00:47:06 That’s the relationship we have though.
Alan Alda: 00:47:07 Yeah, that’s so great, and that you could hear it and benefit from it.
Julie Andrews: 00:47:11 I did hear it, and it really resonated.
Emma Hamilton: 00:47:15 If you think of voice as creative expression, it is really true. There are other areas now that you’ve ventured into, directing, and producing, and-
Julie Andrews: 00:47:24 Which is all about giving back, as you know, Alan.
Alan Alda: 00:47:27 Yeah, that’s right.
Emma Hamilton: 00:47:29 I’m not sure any of that would have happened if you were still singing.
Julie Andrews: 00:47:32 If I was still trying to perform, yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:47:35 The first thing you directed, was it The Boy Friend?
Julie Andrews: 00:47:40 Yes, at Bay Street.
Alan Alda: 00:47:42 When you actually did the boyfriend on Broadway, Arlene and I wore out at least one vinyl album of listening to you. I’ve loved hearing that.
Julie Andrews: 00:47:52 Yeah, it was a great break in my life. But the other interesting thing that I find, and one so one so influenced by all the people one’s ever met, when it came time to writing a memoir, and the first one, too, I thought, “Why publish?” I don’t want to boast, I didn’t want… It’s my children that I want to learn about granny, or mom, whatever it would be. If they’re interested, why not just write it to them. Then I remembered Moss Hart’s phenomenal biography, Act One.
Alan Alda: 00:48:32 It’s the greatest autobiography about the theater ever.
Julie Andrews: 00:48:33 Yes, I agree. It taught me, when I read it, about a portion of theater, a piece of theater, a time on Broadway I knew nothing about. That thought about Moss came to my aid when I was wondering whether to publish or not. I thought I could write about those last dying days of Vaudeville in England, which probably nobody really knew or cared much about, but there was so much to write about.
Alan Alda: 00:49:08 It’s good to pass on that knowledge. I’ve reached the age, where I’ve seen, in my life, and been participating in the death of Burlesque, the death of vaudeville, the death of movies, the death of television.
Julie Andrews: 00:49:25 Yes. I’m with you every step of the way, Alan.
Alan Alda: 00:49:27 But when you were talking about your experience with the doctors and your throat, I was thinking of a theme that seems to run through the book, Home Work, which is your experiences trusting people you don’t know.
Julie Andrews: 00:49:43 Yes.
Alan Alda: 00:49:43 Tell me about how that’s been a problem.
Julie Andrews: 00:49:44 What an interesting question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that, Alan. You of all people would understand you. I was so young, as I said, so green, and someone like… The Boy Friend was its own experience, and a wonderful one, and I learned how to do some comedy and how to begin to get some laughs every night, and what it took. It’s not the laugh, it’s the setup.
Alan Alda: 00:49:44 Yeah, I see. That’s great.
Julie Andrews: 00:50:19 Yeah. But really, My Fair Lady was the great, great learning experience. Moss could so easily, as our director, could have sent me home because I wasn’t really a good actress. Try Bernard Shaw, or Bernard Shaw, as you say in America, and I could sing, I could cut it, vocally. But I couldn’t actualize it, and I was terrible Cockney and God knows what. But Moss, because of his upbringing and his tremendous poverty and need to find himself, which I discovered in his book, I realized that he must have sensed something in me, or was too kind to… I mean, he had empathy for where I was as a young performer. My God, I loved that guy, and he was so good to me. He didn’t pull any punches, but he gave me that Lifeline that I needed.
Emma Hamilton: 00:51:22 Do you think that that work with him enabled you to trust other mentors?
Julie Andrews: 00:51:28 Yes, I do. I mean, I did. I could tell when something wasn’t going well and when I was terrible. I knew I was terrible. Cy Feuer, in The Boy Friend, took me… it was a typical backstage-
Alan Alda: 00:51:47 He was the producer?
Julie Andrews: 00:51:48 He was the producer. But he had a lovely habit of always taking over the shows that he was producing. As was his form, the Savvy, the director, was sent home, and Cy took over, and rightfully so, because it was now Broadway, it wasn’t a little piece of lace in London. This Boy Friend production needed to be pumped up and given some discipline and that kind of attitude, and he knew it.
He took me out the night before we opened, we’d done previews, and I was floundering around not knowing who I was, how to get the laughs, what to do. He said, “You know you were terrible last night?” We were sitting on the fire escape outside that Shubert, Royale, Golden Theater alley. We sitting in that alley. Sorry, I had to remember for a minute. He said, “You know you were terrible last night?” I said, “Yes, I do, I know it was awful.” He said, “Well, I’m going to give you some advice, and if you follow it, you could be quite a big hit tomorrow. But you have to do exactly what I say.”
Alan Alda: 00:53:06 This is great. What did he say?
Julie Andrews: 00:53:09 He said, “I want you to play Polly Brown as if you really are Polly Brown,” and not because I was playing the pastiche, the comedy. “I want you to believe in her. I want your heart to break when the boyfriend isn’t there for you and you think your life is over and God knows what.” He said, “If you do that, because everybody else can camp it up, but you have to be dead straight.” He gave me a lifeline again, which I grabbed onto because it was the one… I thought, “He’s right. I’m sure he’s right.” When he guided me, I did it with all my heart, and the next day, got some really wonderful reviews.
Alan Alda: 00:53:56 Yeah, that’s great. This was the night before you opened?
Julie Andrews: 00:53:56 The night before we opened.
Alan Alda: 00:53:58 What a good show business stories there.
Julie Andrews: 00:54:00 Yeah, and I don’t know when the reviewers came in, but they must have been there somehow. I know it was pretty much the night before we opened.
Alan Alda: 00:54:08 Well, unfortunately, they’re waving at me from the control room. Our time is up.
Julie Andrews: 00:54:12 I’ve taken all my daughter’s time up-
Emma Hamilton: 00:54:14 Not at all.
Julie Andrews: 00:54:15 … and yours.
Alan Alda: 00:54:15 No. One of the things I wanted to explore was the mother and daughter relationship. Without even talking about it, you’ve given us a picture of it, which is really lovely. You collaborated in this conversation beautifully. Something we do-
Julie Andrews: 00:54:34 I’ve been a bit so dominant and taking over but-
Emma Hamilton: 00:54:37 As is correct, this is your life story we’re talking about.
Julie Andrews: 00:54:41 It’s your fault, Alan, you were asking the questions.
Alan Alda: 00:54:44 Something we do to the end of each show, I hope you’re in game for it, is seven quick questions that invite seven quick answers. They’re not embarrassing, but they have something to do with relating and communicating. For instance, and either one of you can answer first. What’s the hardest thing you ever tried to explain to someone?
Julie Andrews: 00:55:08 Lord, I need about a week to think about that. The hardest thing I’ve ever tried to explain…
Emma Hamilton: 00:55:16 I have an answer.
Julie Andrews: 00:55:17 Go.
Emma Hamilton: 00:55:17 What it’s like to be Julie Andrews’ daughter.
Julie Andrews: 00:55:21 Yes, go for it, darling.
Emma Hamilton: 00:55:22 No, that’s my answer. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to explain.
Alan Alda: 00:55:26 Yeah. Julie, you can keep thinking about then come back next week on the show-
Julie Andrews: 00:55:29 I’d love to. I’d love to. Give me another one.
Alan Alda: 00:55:32 How do you tell someone they have their facts wrong?
Julie Andrews: 00:55:38 I have no compunction about that. Or Emma will tell me that I’ve got my facts wrong. “Mom, it’s here in the diary, you have to follow the truth of that, you wrote it.” “Oh, okay.” But it’s either one or the other of us is usually-
Emma Hamilton: 00:55:55 Generally, I think your strategy is to apologize first, and then correct them.
Julie Andrews: 00:55:59 Yes. Yes.
Emma Hamilton: 00:56:00 I’m sorry, but…
Alan Alda: 00:56:02 Interesting you’ve answered each other’s questions.
Julie Andrews: 00:56:05 The other thing is that you are wonderfully firm about making me stick to truth. It’s not that I embroider it, I do try to-
Alan Alda: 00:56:17 We all remember things differently.
Julie Andrews: 00:56:18 Slightly.
Alan Alda: 00:56:19 Every time you remember it, you change the memory.
Julie Andrews: 00:56:22 But, as I said, she’s so great, and I’m so grateful. Can you imagine, Alan, to have the young thing that she was, which was hip high and hanging on to my hand, and now we’re two equal women, facing each other.
Alan Alda: 00:56:36 I know. I have that with my daughters and I love it.
Julie Andrews: 00:56:40 Yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:56:41 Okay. What’s the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?
Julie Andrews: 00:56:48 This is funny. I remember it vividly. When I was in English pantomime, a fan came backstage, and it was a very gushing, genuinely sweet lady, and I was in Red Riding Hood, or something like that, playing Red Riding Hood. She came backstage and she said, “Oh, it must be such fun to be in pantomime and on stage with people. Tell me, do you have picnics between the show together on stage?”
Alan Alda: 00:57:18 What stage?
Julie Andrews: 00:57:20 The idea of what it was like to be in showbiz and have picnics on the actual boards-
Alan Alda: 00:57:26 Be the character in between shows.
Julie Andrews: 00:57:29 Yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:57:30 How about you, Emma?
Emma Hamilton: 00:57:31 I can’t top that one. That’s perfect.
Alan Alda: 00:57:35 Okay. How do you stop a compulsive talker?
Julie Andrews: 00:57:43 Oh, well, I am that.
Alan Alda: 00:57:43 You just start talking?
Julie Andrews: 00:57:44 Yeah, that’s one of my bad habits, is just interrupting.
Alan Alda: 00:57:48 What about you, Emma? If she’s a compulsive talker, how do you handle her?
Emma Hamilton: 00:57:52 I interrupt, usually, which I’ve learned at her elbow.
Julie Andrews: 00:57:56 Yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:57:57 How do you like to start up a real conversation with someone at a dinner table who you’ve never met before?
Julie Andrews: 00:58:05 Usually, my interest is, who are they, how did they get there, what do I want to know about their background? I just start asking questions. I think you’d be the same.
Emma Hamilton: 00:58:20 I’d be the same, absolutely, yeah, and just start asking questions. I think curiosity is such an undervalued trait.
Julie Andrews: 00:58:27 I would say that it’s one of the more important things in life, is to be curious.
Emma Hamilton: 00:58:33 We are both insatiably curious, and learning about another person fits right into that.
Julie Andrews: 00:58:37 Or about geology or biology.
Emma Hamilton: 00:58:41 History.
Julie Andrews: 00:58:42 Yeah.
Alan Alda: 00:58:43 Great to hear that. Second to the last question. What gives you confidence?
Julie Andrews: 00:58:52 It took me so long to believe that I could be confident and that I had something worthy to offer. Over the years, the body of work speaks for itself as you probably feel, Alan. I don’t know. I’d love to ask you the same question. For me, it’s having done it now for so long and getting the most wonderful responses from people. It does help enormously.
Alan Alda: 00:59:24 Yeah. For me, it’s the cliché is true for me, I’ve done this before, and I can do it again.
Julie Andrews: 00:59:31 Yeah, and it seemed to work.
Alan Alda: 00:59:33 Yeah. But it’s never exactly the same thing. Because when you’re faced with a little tinge of a lack of confidence, it’s because you’re doing something not quite what you’ve done before.
Julie Andrews: 00:59:43 Yeah, and it’s a very different audience every night. It you could be pouring with rain, or people are coughing, or your leading man is-
Alan Alda: 00:59:50 Or it could have been a disaster in the news.
Julie Andrews: 00:59:52 That’s right, yes, exactly. What would an audience want every night? They obviously want to be entertained, and forget, and swallowed up in the miracle of a good production.
Alan Alda: 01:00:08 Emma, what about you? What gives you confidence?
Emma Hamilton: 01:00:11 That’s a really interesting question. For me, it has something to do… and it probably has its roots in experience. But it has to do with trusting the process. I was thinking back to working on this book together. We were always against a terrible deadline. Mom kept saying, “We’re never going to finish in time, we’re never going to finish on time.” I just kept saying, “We will, we will, we will. We will discover the ending, we will figure out how to finish this book. Don’t worry, we’ll get there.” I don’t know that I had the confidence.
Alan Alda: 01:00:48 Did you believe a word of it?
Emma Hamilton: 01:00:49 Exactly, I don’t know that I really had the confidence, but I trusted that the process would get us there.
Alan Alda: 01:00:54 Yeah. That’s an interesting approach-
Julie Andrews: 01:00:57 She’s so beautifully rooted in herself, in her life. But in herself, I mean her actual personality-
Emma Hamilton: 01:01:05 I paid her to say that.
Julie Andrews: 01:01:06 Yeah. She’s so generous and so rooted. It is such a gift.
Alan Alda: 01:01:12 Okay. Here’s the last question. What book changed your life?
Julie Andrews: 01:01:19 Do you want to take the first go at it and I’ll take the second one, darling? For me, it’s easy.
Emma Hamilton: 01:01:24 This is embarrassing, but it was a book from the ’70s, by Hugh Prather, called Notes on How to Live in the World and Still Be Happy. It was a beautiful meditation essentially on forgiveness and on love. Hugh Prather was, as I said, a wonderful philosopher, but he was just all about love, and forgiveness, and seeing the other person’s point of view, and relationship.
And that book somehow came along at the right moment in my life, where my whole perspective shift from one of being slightly self-absorbed, and more self turned in to outward looking, and to a thought of service, and making a contribution.
Alan Alda: 01:02:39 That really does sound like it.
Julie Andrews: 01:02:40 I’m going out to order it right away.
Emma Hamilton: 01:02:42 It’s old. It was written in the ’70s.
Alan Alda: 01:02:45 Say the name of it again.
Emma Hamilton: 01:02:46 Notes on How to Live in the World and Still Be Happy.
Alan Alda: 01:02:49 How about you, Julie?
Julie Andrews: 01:02:50 Mine was a children’s book that was a huge influence on me. My father took me when I was like nine to one of the great bookstores in our village, and was looking for a book to buy for me. He found this and said, “I think you’ll like it.” It was a little tiny book called The Little Grey Men, by an author, his real name was Denys Watkins-Pitchford. But he wrote with just two capital letters under the title, BB, so The Little Grey Men, by BB.
It had beautiful linocuts and woodcut illustrations. It was really essentially a nature study of the last… It sounds so simple, but it was such a well-written little book. I’ve read it to my kids, I’ve read it to my grandkids.
Emma Hamilton: 01:03:50 You republished it.
Julie Andrews: 01:03:52 Yeah, I finally got the American rights and republish them.
Alan Alda: 01:03:56 What was it about that changed you?
Julie Andrews: 01:04:00 It was such a nature study that I was immediately taken into the wonder of detail and it was written so well. I know I’m going on for too long. You know how little kids play with little things? If you buy them the big dog’s house too soon, it’s wrong. They love little tiny trucks that they can get down on the floor with. Well, this was the story of the last four gnomes that ever existed in England. They lived on the shore of the Folly Brook. They had not seen, for a very long time, one of their brothers.
They decided to go searching because he had gone off to find the source of the Folly Brook, where they lived. They build a little boat, and off they go. It’s everything that they notice along the way, and all the adventures, and the animals that they meet, and the kingfisher, and the squirrel. They get into a dark, dark place, they get abandoned on a little island in the middle of a lake. But, for them, they’re so tiny.
Alan Alda: 01:05:11 But how did the book change you? Was it something about their tininess that got to you?
Julie Andrews: 01:05:18 No. What I’m saying is, because it was easily absorbed by me at aged nine or whatever, it opened my head to the wonders of nature, and, I must say, really influenced the first book I ever wrote, which was Mandy. I made each chapter spring, summer, autumn, winter, in terms of the lifespan of that book. Very much based on The Little Grey Men because they start off on their journey in the early, early spring, and they come home in the winter.
Alan Alda: 01:05:54 That reminds me. I never think of this much, but the book that changed me was also a children’s book, about the age of eight, called Top Horse at Crescent Ranch. When I read it, I got so involved, I knew I wanted to write.
Julie Andrews: 01:06:11 Good.
Alan Alda: 01:06:12 From that age, I wanted to be a writer. I got very creative, and I wrote a story called Not the Top Horse at Crescent Ranch.
Julie Andrews: 01:06:21 Brilliant.
Alan Alda: 01:06:22 Thank you so much, both of you, it’s been such a terrific time.
Julie Andrews: 01:06:24 Thank you.
Emma Hamilton: 01:06:24 It’s been such a pleasure. What a treat.
Julie’s new memoir, “Home Work” is terrific. I think you’ll enjoy reading it. It’s available in bookstores and online. As Emma said, she and Julie have collaborated on over 30 books together – many of them for children.
You can find out more about Julie and Emma, including their book tour engagements, by visiting: JulieAndrewsCollection.com