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Julie Andrews, 88, on Feeling ‘in My 50s’ and Her Motto: ‘Are We Lucky or What?’

‘The Sound of Music’ star is grateful for more than a few of her favorite things

spinner image Closeups of Julie Andrews and Julia Louis-Dreyfus side by side
(Left to right) Julie Andrews and Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Photo Collage: AARP (Source: Getty Images(2))

In a new episode of the Wiser Than Me With Julia Louis-Dreyfus podcast, the 63-year-old Veep Emmy winner talks with the 88-year-old icon about her take on aging, gratitude, resilience and everything in between. (Other episodes feature conversations with Carol Burnett, 91; Jane Fonda, 86; Amy Tan, 72; Diane von Furstenberg, 77; Isabel Allende, 81; and Fran Lebowitz, 73.)

The Oscar-winning actress, author and singer starred in some of Hollywood’s most beloved hits, including the 1964 classic Mary Poppins and 1965’s The Sound of Music, and she was the original Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady onstage. Her most recent role is as the narrator for Lady Whistledown in the period drama Bridgerton, Netflix’s No. 1 hit.

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Andrews on Aging

Louis-Dreyfus, who was 4 when The Sound of Music premiered, asks Andrews how old she feels. “I probably feel like in my 50s, honest to God,” she replies. “As long as the brain holds out, I’m doing OK.”

Andrews admits aging can be a nuisance at times — when aches and pains prevent her from doing as much as she’d like to — but says, on the other hand, it has brought her an enjoyably “quieter” life.

“People leave me alone, and that I rather like,” she says. “I don’t go out as much, and I love being home. But I kind of enjoyed that, pulling back a little bit now. And of course I’ve got a million thoughts and ideas and hope that I can keep going for a great deal longer. But who knows? And I’m just pleased that I’ve arrived here.”

Andrews has her gripes with the relentless laps around the sun but regards aging with inspiring optimism and philosophical humor. “Mostly, I say aging sucked,” she notes. But since there’s no alternative, why complain about it, she asks.

Don’t miss this: Julie Andrews Is Keeping Her Voice Alive as an Author, on AARP Members Only Access

She’s not Mary Poppins in real life

“I’m a much more bawdy broad than Mary Poppins,” she says, though she knew “when to be a rebel and when not to be. I don’t think I curse as much as everybody else thinks I do.” Louis-Dreyfus, who once cursed in front of Elmo on Sesame Street, asks what Andrews’ favorite curse word is. “My mother had a beautiful curse word,” she recalls. “She would say, ‘Oh, pee, poo, bum, drawers.’ It resonated. I don’t say it.”

Finding a new voice

Andrews’ stunning soprano, which she used professionally from age 10, helped make her a household name. After her 1997 throat surgery, she lost the ability to sing like she used to. “When you hop on one leg long enough, that leg will buckle,” she explains. This led to depression and a lawsuit. “But it led to my finding a new life,” she says. Andrews began writing books with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, over 30 of them so far. “I thought, I have to do something and be good for something,” Andrews says. She misses singing “very, very, very much” — but adds, “It’s been such a joy that I have gotten over it. What I learned is that I was still Julie.”

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​How to get over tough times

Her advice for those looking to get past something difficult is to focus on finding what they love. “Keep doing something, because women of my age can keep being useful,” she says. “Now my whole focus is on communicating, teaching, writing and helping the arts as much as I can.” She wants to direct more, write more and host a master class for young singers. “If you can find your way into a song, if you make it a song about how you feel about your husband when he’s standing at the dresser or after his shower or something like that, it’s very, very helpful.”

Andrews recalls her daughter’s response “when I bemoaned my fate one day and was getting a bit teary. She said, ‘Mom, you’ve just found a different way to use your voice.’ The penny dropped, and I became a lot more content” with the life she was living.

A motto to live by

Mary Poppins recommended a spoonful of sugar, but Andrews prefers to say, “Are we lucky or what?” Says Louis-Dreyfus, “According to her daughter, she’ll even say it under the worst of circumstances, like in the middle of a thunderstorm when the power goes out. But a whole lot more than luck has shaped this glorious woman’s incomparable career.”

Part of Andrews’ luck was the advice of her mother

“She used to say, ‘There’s always somebody around that can do it better than you, and so do good things and be grateful, because there are so many people that have talent that don’t get the breaks.”

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