Julie Andrews said the voice acting is “kind of putty in the hands of the director”
Julie Andrews’ place in film history is marked by her roles in two iconic musicals. But younger generations of moviegoers are more likely to know the actress for her voice acting in some of the biggest animated movies of the past few decades.
Everyone largely understands how voice acting works, but the actual details of what goes on in a professional performance aren’t discussed as often as on-camera acting.
In a video for Vanity Fair discussing the greatest moments of her career, Andrews opened up about her journey into voice acting, how it differed from other acting styles, and the amount of feedback she received about her character in the Despicable Me franchise.
Julie Andrews has made a name for herself as an award-winning superstar in musicals
Andrews began her career on stage, impressing in several Broadway productions. Yet the choice to choose her as the titular nanny in 1964 Mary Poppins was a surprising move considering Andrews had never appeared in a movie before, let alone in a starring role. It turned out to be a role she was born for.
Mary Poppins was a box office hit and well-loved in the film industry. It was nominated for 13 Oscars and won five, including Best Actress for Andrews. She commemorated the moment by throwing shade at the film adaptation of my lovely lady during his acceptance speech. The producers had passed her over due to her lack of fame, even though she had starred in the original Broadway version.
Andrews headlined another timeless musical the following year, The sound of music, and she was again nominated for an Oscar. Andrews has also appeared in many non-musicals like Emily’s Americanization, Torn curtain, and Victor/Victoria. But her singing abilities were a catalyst for her most timeless roles. They made the loss of his voice from a botched operation all the more devastating.
Voice acting requires a different approach to traditional acting
Andrews eventually found the resolve to pivot and embark on a new career primarily as a voice actor. She first entered the Stand in 1952 when she was part of the English dub of the Italian animated film The singing princess. Andrews reprized it in the 2000s as Queen Lillian in the Shrek franchise and as the narrator of Delighted. In her vanity lounge interview, the 86-year-old explains how portraying a character this way requires a different skill set.
“I have to tell you, it’s a wildly different technique, nothing to do with making a movie,” Andrews said. “You walk into a studio and offer all kinds of verse readings imaginable. And finally, the director takes the reading that he prefers and that is what ends up in the film. You literally figure it out as you go, and you’re kind of putty in the hands of the director.
The lack of control over the final product can be difficult for actors who don’t often do voice acting. It’s a different discipline. But that means Andrews can show up to work in a much more casual outfit: “It’s very nice because you don’t have to go to the studio; you can just go in your dressing gown if you want. But above all, you don’t have to do your hair and makeup, you just have to give a voice.
Julie Andrew’s most recent projects have introduced her to a new audience
Andrews’ biggest roles over the past decade have been voicing neglectful mother Marlena in the Despicable Me and Minions movies. The enlightenment actually gave her the leeway to name the character herself. Andrews was inspired by a legendary mid-20th century artist.
“In Despicable Me, the company said, “You name it. What will she be called? And she’s such a terrible woman and so full of herself that she thinks she’s the best thing since God knows what,” she recalled. “So I thought she would think of herself as a kind of Marlene Dietrich. That’s her image of herself. For those who don’t know, Dietrich was a German-American actress and singer whose talent, the bold style and confidence in her sexuality made her an icon of classic Hollywood.
Andrews also voices Lady Whistledown in Bridgerton. She may not be able to sing like she used to, but her voice is still precious.
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