In Home Work, the legendary actor comes to terms with an acting career she couldn’t always control.
In 1971 the actor Julie Andrews and her husband, the director Blake Edwards, went to a party hosted by a Hollywood agent in Los Angeles. “I can’t remember why we chose to attend,” Andrews writes in her new memoir, Home Work. “We were so seldom partygoers.” When the couple arrived, they noticed guests doing cocaine in the living room; by the time everyone had eaten dinner, lines were being passed around for dessert. Andrews declined. “The hosts began pushing me hard, curious to see how ‘Mary Poppins’ would react,” she writes. “The peer pressure was intense.” Finally, Edwards intervened. “She doesn’t need any of that stuff,” he told everyone. “She’s high enough on life as it is.”
The scene is at once totally charming, enormously on-brand for Andrews—who has the purest heart, it would seem, in show business—and quietly telling. Mary Poppins, the acerbic, reality-bending, devastatingly self-assured nanny who sweeps down from the sky on an anthropomorphized umbrella in Walt Disney’s groundbreaking 1964 movie, was the first heady obsession of countless little girls, myself included. But for Andrews, Poppins was far more complicated. Both that particular role and one that followed, The Sound of Music’s Maria von Trapp, became distinct amalgamations of actor and character; it was hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. If Andrews does cocaine, Mary does it too. (Which would bring a bold new meaning to “Jolly Holiday.”) Before she turned 30, Andrews had played two of the most canonical female characters in film—a kind of reputational alchemy that is hard for an actor to reverse.