The cinematic life of Julie Andrews celebrated by the AFI

LOS ANGELES — Julie Andrews was honored by the American Film Institute last week for a Hollywood career that couldn’t have started more supercalifragilisticexpialidociously — with an Oscar-winning performance in a film that would become an instant classic: “Mary Poppins.” .

Ahead of the AFI Life Achievement ceremony, which airs at 7 p.m. Thursday night on TNT, Andrews, 86, recalled landing her first big movie gig.

“Walt Disney gave me my first big break and I learned so much about this movie. It was a wonderful movie to learn about as a director because there were so many special effects, so much anticipation, so many complicated things to do because it was so animated,” Andrews told The Associated Press. It was a wonderful learning movie to start my career with.

A musical adaptation inspired by PL Travers’ beloved children’s novels about a magical nanny, it hit theaters in late August 1964. Quickly, “Mary Poppins” was a commercial and critical success, becoming the highest-grossing film ever. year released in North America. It earned 13 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and won five categories, including Best Actress for Andrews.

Just six months after ‘Poppins’ hit the big screens, what would not only be Andrews’ biggest hit, but one of the box office hits of all time: the adaptation of Rodgers’ hit & Hammerstein “The Sound of Music”. Andrews played real-life Maria von Trapp, the nun-turned-teacher-turned-stepmother and matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers.

Originally released in early March 1965, the film would stay in theaters for over four years. And while critics weren’t as kind to him as they were to “Poppins,” the academy showed their love again, with 10 nominations and five wins. There was no statuette for Andrews, but winning the best picture was a big consolation.

Both at the finish line and at the ceremony, Andrews spoke about “Sound of Music,” but only in general terms. “I was the luckiest woman because I was in the right place at the right time and I had the wonderful directors and people I worked with and I was just learning my craft and learning from what it was… I didn’t expect it to be like this.

Luckily, the celebrities inside the AFI tribute made it clear that “The Sound of Music” and Andrews are among their favorite things.

Viewers will find that recording artist Gwen Stefani says she idolized Andrews since childhood, after seeing “The Sound of Music” in theaters with her parents. Decades later, Stefani was in a writing studio with Pharrell Williams, during a session that ultimately culminated in Stefani’s 2006 hit “Wind it Up.” The tune ended up incorporating elements of a key “Sound of Music” song, “The Lonely Goatherd”, which did not thrill Williams.

“Obviously I had to fight with Pharrell to get there,” Stefani recalled. “And it was one of my big fantasies to be able to have that amazing sample in my song – it made the song. And it’s a dream come true. So, I’ve always been way too nervous to meet my idol. But tonight is night and I’m ready. I am more than honored. I can’t believe this is happening.

The special features guests representing chapters of Andrews’ career over the decades, including longtime friend and TV partner Carol Burnett, whose 1971 “Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center” won them Emmys. ; actor Hector Elizondo, her co-star in the two films “Princess Diaries” (2001, 2004); Steve Carell, who worked with Andrews on the upcoming animated film “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” and Bo Derek who played the titular “10” perfect in the 1979 comedy written and directed by the late husband and collaborator frequent Andrews, Blake Edwards. He and Andrews were married for 41 years, until his death in 2010.

“When Julie talks about her decades with Blake, the love they had for each other, you can tell it’s not acting, it’s real, it’s genuine and it’s very, very rare,” Derek said.

Including ’10’, Edwards directed Andrews in eight films, also including the 1982 musical ‘Victor/Victoria’, earning seven Oscar nominations, including one for Andrews, with a win for music by Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricuss.

While accepting his AFI award, Andrews thanked everyone from his directors to a studio security guard for his success. “And I honestly mean it,” she said, adding, “My husband Blake…” Andrews paused for a moment. “I mean…thank you.”

As for Andrews’ professional legacy?

In addition to AFI’s film and television territory, there are award-winning recordings, books, Broadway and West End appearances.

“I just hope I gave it a little fun,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s the only legacy I would be happy about. That’s the whole story. It is the gift. And I just hope that, you know, they had a good time.