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Tooth Fairy – Julie Andrews on having fun and flying again

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Tooth Fairy - Julie Andrews
Silver screen icon Julie Andrews stars as tooth fairy matriarch Lily © Fox

It’s been 46 years since Julie Andrews flew as the magical nanny, Mary Poppins. In her new movie, Tooth Fairy she portrays Lily, the no-nonsense matriarch of Fairyland, where she once again she gets to take flight.

When bad boy hockey player Derek Thompson (Dwayne Johnson) discourages a young child from believing in his dreams, he is summoned to Fairyland where the stern Lily sentences him to perform the job of Tooth Fairy for two weeks. It’s a role that’s perfect for the British icon, and one she was eager to play.

What was it about Tooth Fairy that enchanted you?

Tooth Fairy - Julie Andrews
Tooth fairy matriarch Lily (Julie Andrews) presides over all of Fairlyland’s activities © Fox

The thing that really sold me on doing Tooth Fairy was its message that children must be allowed to dream and fantasize and use their imagination. I think what makes a good family film is quality of joy and perhaps a certain innocence. It’s great for a film to be funny and smart, but children also need a sense of wonder. We all need it.

It seems to me that part of the criteria for you to select a project these days is that you want to have fun.

I think it depends what each piece is saying. It really depends on the script as much as anything else. This one really resonated. If one is fortunate enough to have a script slide across one’s desk these days, its about, ‘Does it resonate? Do I feel like I can help it and do something for them, and with it?’ This one was very easy to say ‘yes’ to.

It was nice to see you flying again, by the way.

Thank you, yes. I needed to brush up on that a bit. It took a bit of effort this time.

Tooth Fairy - Dwayne Johnson, Stephen Merchant and Julie Andrews
Newly-minted tooth fairy Derek (Dwayne Johnson) receives key instructions from caseworker Tracy (Stephen Merchant) and head tooth fairy Lily (Julie Andrews) © Fox

You seem to have been having a lot of fun with Dwayne Johnson in some of these scenes. Was it fun being a hard-ass?

[laughing] Yes. I loved it, loved it! I mean, it’s very hard to tell [that] big guy off, you know?

How cathartic was it for you to write your autobiography? Are we going to see a part two anytime soon?

I’m not sure about a part two. A lot of people have very nicely and kindly been asking, but I’ll have to think about it. It was cathartic. Don’t forget that I’ve had a number of years to think about it and dwell on what it is I might like to say. I did want to be truthful. It seems silly to write something and not just say it as it was. It was also something that I’ve lived with for years and none of it bothers me in any way. It’s something that I’ve just said, ‘Well, that was my beginning, that was my existence.’

I would never have finished it if it hadn’t been for my lovely daughter, with whom I do write books sometimes. She encouraged, pushed, and interviewed me and helped transcribe. She really did an enormous amount of work that nudged me.

Was it very painful to re-live some of those early childhood memories?

No, oddly enough, you have to understand that I had dealt with them, or thought about them, for a very long time. Actually, what was really painful was getting all of my dates right. I mean I’ve been around for quite a while now. Just remembering, ‘Was it 1952? Was it 1954? Was it 1948?’ just being sure that all the facts were right. And thank God for the Internet these days. I would have never have gotten them right.

Why you would think so hard about doing the next book which would cover all your successes?

Well, I took the first book up to Mary Poppins, and I think that everybody knows what happened after that. I had thought for years ‘Why publish a biography? I could always give it to my kids but why come out with it?’ Eventually, I thought not many people know about those early and last dying days of British vaudeville. If I could give them a picture of what that was like then that was the reason to do the book.

Tooth Fairy - Director Michael Lembeck
Director Michael Lembeck on set © Fox

Your director on Tooth Fairy, Michael Lembeck, calls you a ‘cultural icon’.

It was the wings!

How do you feel about being referred to as a cultural icon? Are you comfortable with that definition?

Comfortable? I’m so flattered! I don’t believe it for a second. Everybody’s very kind. I don’t [see that] and neither do my kids [she laughs]. I guess if you stick around long enough…

What about the singing? You are going to be performing again?

I’m doing a concert in May, in London, which is the beginning of a small but international tour. It’s the same concert that I did at the Hollywood Bowl last year and around the country. I’m just taking it to Europe.

What size venues are you going to be performing in?

I’ll be at Michael Jackson’s haunting house, the O2.

That’s huge! How is your voice?

I’m not singing. I would like to be very clear about that. I have about five good bass notes, which is what I said last year to my audiences. I host the evening, I narrate it, I tell stories, I sing/speak as best I can. If you are looking for me to sing The Sound of Music I could not, sadly, now. I wish I could. But I do come up with some surprises and I think that the audience has a good time. I feel that they do, otherwise I wouldn’t do it.

Christopher Plummer still doesn’t speak kindly about The Sound of Music

I think he used not to, but he freely admits that he was young and foolish, and thought he was being hip. Actually, if you catch him on a quiet day, he’s tickled to death.

You did a great interview with him on the bonus features for the 40th anniversary Blu-Ray of the film. You kind of brought him out of that whole thing.

He’s a pussycat really. He just likes to pretend to be a bad boy.