A List of the Best Julie Andrews Characters Ever
A tribute to the incomparable dame who just turned 82
With 40 films, 35 television shows, five stage productions and 61 awards under her belt, Dame Julia Elizabeth Andrews has done well to make her mark in the industry. It’s nearly impossible to talk musicals and classics for kids without her name coming up and it’s irrefutable that the now 82-year-old is irreplaceable. Here, we list six of her most memorable characters: from ones that continue to stand the test of time to those that will surely turn into classic family favorites.
#1: Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady
The 1956 Broadway production of My Fair Lady was Julie Andrews’ big break. Here, she took on the role of Eliza Doolittle, an unpolished Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons with a professor in order to pass as a lady.
The musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion became a certified hit: making a sweep at the 1957 Tony Awards, bagging Best Direction of a Musical, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Conductor and Musical Direction and finally, Best Musical. Andrews was nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actress at the time, too.
Andrews went on to play Eliza Doolittle for two more years.
One other reason to love her: she was gracious in defeat.
When news broke that a movie adaptation of My Fair Lady was in the works, critics and fans were certain Andrews was the natural choice for Eliza Doolittle. Producers, however, cast Audrey Hepburn for the role since Andrews “wasn’t known at the time.”
Source United Press International
Following the Eliza Doolittle casting controversy, the media constantly tried to stir the pot, pitting the two actresses against one another. Nevertheless, Andrews remained unfazed: “Audrey and I became good friends,” she told The Queensland Times. “One day she said to me, ‘Julie, you should have done the role …but I didn't have the guts to turn it down.' [But] luck and serendipity [are] what comes into it. I have been so very fortunate to have been asked the things that I was asked to do. It seems quite miraculous to me—I'm a very lucky human being.”
#2: Mary Poppins
When one door closes, another does open: Walt Disney’s 1964 musical-fantasy film starring Andrews received 13 nominations at the Academy Awards including Best Picture, which meant the film broke records for Walt Disney Studios. To this day, it is considered to be the crowning achievement for Walt Disney.
And Andrews was humble in victory.
Mary Poppins was the role she wouldn’t have been able to take had she been cast in the My Fair Lady film. This character won her the award for Best Actress.
#3: Maria in The Sound of Music
In 1965, families all over the world bonded over the musical spectacle that was The Sound of Music, the movie that made Andrews a household name—if it wasn’t already. She played the energetic Maria, a governess assigned to the Von Trapp children, who helped them reconnect with their widower father thanks to the power of music. Little did Maria know: he, in turn, would learn to love again.
Take a look at Diane Sawyer’s 2015 exclusive with Andrews 50 years after the movie premiered:
RELATED: 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Sound of Music
#4: Queen Clarisse Renaldi in The Princess Diaries
This marked Andrews’ celebrated return to Disney as, befittingly, Queen Clarisse of Genovia. Her chemistry with then-up-and-comer Anne Hathaway, who played her granddaughter Mia Thermopolis, was the stuff of movie magic. The Princess Diaries was considered a commercial success and was followed by a sequel in 2004.
Revisit the 2001 hit with bloopers from the movie:
A fun fact about the film:
According to the Internet Movie Database: “This movie was filmed on Stage 2 in Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, the same stage on which the film Mary Poppins (1964) was shot. The stage has since been named in honor of Julie Andrews.”
via Loren Javier on Flickr
RELATED: Princess Diaries 3: All The Questions We Want Answered
#5: Queen Lillian in Shrek 2, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After
Andrews lent her distinct vocals to Queen Lillian, the initially disapproving mother of Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) in Shrek 2. It is said that during the voice recording sessions for the animated film, she and John Cleese (King Harold) recorded most of their scenes together at the same time, an unusual setup for voice actors.
#6: Gru’s Mom, Marlena, in Despicable Me and Despicable Me 3
In another series of children’s movies beloved by many, Andrews played the mother of former supervillian Felonius Gru. As Marlena, she is feisty, often sassy and extremely eclectic.
RELATED: Despicable Me 3: Everything We Want To See
These days, Julie Andrews is busy producing her original children’s series for Netflix called Julie’s Greenroom, still very much dedicated to entertaining children around the world.