First off, I just wanted to say what a treat it was to see a G-rated film that could be enjoyed by people of all ages. ^ I’m glad you feel that way. That’s wonderful news for Garry and for Disney. And me!
How important is it for you to be in family-friendly films like this? ^ It’s not unimportant. I think a lot of movies are very valid, though some aren’t. It’s entertainment and I am just glad to be a part of that. I mean obviously my earlier movies all dealt with that kind of thing– no drugs and all.
So what drew you to The Princess Diaries? ^ The main first reason I took this role was to work with Garry. I have always admired him and I think he is a wonderfully funny, darling man. I just love his movies and I have always hoped to do a Garry Marshall movie. Plus the role was there. I mean, it was a wonderful role that allowed me to dress in all these lovely Armani clothes and wear gorgeous tiaras… I would be an idiot to turn it down!
Now you may not really be a queen, but in the eyes of millions of people you are pretty close to royalty. Why do you think people see you that way? ^ (Laughs) I’m really not at all. I’m from the wrong side of the tracks. My heritage is good ol’ peasant stock. I think the fact that I am English, to some extent, and that I speak funny is what makes people think that. I really don’t know though. It could just be the image I have created over the years, from “The Sound of Music” to “Mary Poppins,” just being around this long.
When I talked to Anne (Hathaway) and Mandy (Moore) earlier, they mentioned how nervous they were at first to work with you. Do you find that is the case with most teenagers today that grew up knowing you from “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins?” ^ You know, they were kind of in awe for about five minutes and then we all bonded. They are so lovely and so smart. Today’s kids are much smarter than I was back then.
Are you at all aware of the music scene today and Mandy Moore’s place in it? ^ I’m certainly dialed into what Mandy is doing because she was in the movie, but if it weren’t for my grandchildren I’d be hopelessly out of date. I am hopelessly out of date, although I try. To be honest though it’s not always where my taste is. I love jazz and was raised on wonderful songs while most of today’s modern music is based on four chords period. But I do admire Mandy’s voice and talent, I do.
As someone who lives in Britain and now has played a Queen, what are your feelings towards the way tabloid papers have treated the royal family in recent years? ^ I’m sort of a royalist because I know how hard they work. The Queen especially has been given sort of a rough deal. When the tabloids really just don’t have anything better to do they just take a huge sideswipe. And they can’t answer back, you see, because all royalty abides by the country. I sat with one of the royals once– I can’t remember which one– and I was saying how appalling I felt it all was and I said, ‘I am surprised you just don’t sue the hell out of those newspapers.’ He said, ‘What you don’t understand is we can’t. You can.’ I was in shock. They are just free to take any pot shot they want and they can get away with it.
Naturally tabloids and stars go together as much as the royal family and tabloids do. Do you feel that you can relate to the royals in the sense that being a celebrity usually means losing one’s privacy? ^ Not in that way. I am much freer than she could possibly be. I mean, if she changes her hairstyle it’s front-page news.
Since you know some of the royals, was there anything that you learned from them that you applied to your role as Queen Clarisse Renaldi? ^ What I say in the film, which I think is very valuable to Anne’s character, is it’s a job. It’s a real job. I mean, I remember when our Queen was a young girl and took the throne and was crowned. Obviously since I am British I have watched her ever since, and she never stops being in a goldfish bowl. She works so hard and she has to. She has dedicated herself to her country.
Knowing what you know about the royal family, if you found yourself in the position of Anne’s character, would you take the crown and accept your responsibilities as a princess? ^ I don’t know if I would take the crown. I honestly can’t say. But I think the thing that gets her in the movie, and would probably get to me, is what might I be able to do. Then you might say, oh I could be a good Ambassador or something. But you have to be a humanitarian at heart, which her character was.
The Princess Diaries deals more with the responsibilities that come with wearing the crown than most Cinderella-like stories like this that have been made in recent years. Do you think that played into your decision at all of accepting your role in the film, especially given your relationship with the royal family? ^ Of course. I think a lot of people think that the royals are all tiaras, handsome princes and living happily ever after. But it isn’t– it’s a job. The royals bring a huge amount of money into Britain; they are the best ad for Britain. I mean, if there were no royals we wouldn’t have the great traditions we do.
Being someone who spends a great deal of time in both the states and England, what do you think of America’s form of government? Does it compare in any ways to yours? ^ I’m not American — I’m still British and I still have my British passport — but I am as much in involved in American politics as I am in England. I can’t speak about it as much, because it wouldn’t be appropriate, but I am married to an American, so I know what’s going on.
You mentioned you still have your British passport after all these years. Is there any reason why you don’t have a green card, especially since you are married to an American? ^ I feel an obligation to represent my country wherever I go. If I can in any small way do a hands across the waters that will help people understand each other, that’s terrific.
You have been accredited as one of the most gifted and beloved Broadway stars ever. Your career is so detailed in the musical side of showbusiness– from films like “The Sound of Music” to stage productions like “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot”– that I wonder what your feelings are towards the recent lack of musicals in Hollywood. ^ It breaks my heart. But look at Moulin Rouge. I applaud any new musical made for film. It’s breaking all the rules of musicals. I haven’t seen it yet, though I have been told about it, but I can’t wait just going off the ads. My kids love it and while it may not be a blockbuster, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Though granted it would be lovely to have both.
What do you think is stopping Hollywood from making as many musical pictures as they did in the past? Even Disney’s Atlantis steered clear of any musical numbers– and Disney’s summer animated films usually tend to be the only musicals that come out these days. ^ I think the problem is the audience. Certainly times change and you don’t burst into song all the time, but there are different ways to do a musical. When we did “Victor/Victoria” I was a cabaret performer so it was okay to do those numbers. I didn’t just sing because there was some moment.
Not to be out of line, but will we ever get a chance to hear you sing again? ^ I hope so. I’m exploring every single avenue I can. I haven’t given up being optimistic about it, my speaking voice alone is so much better than it was. I can sing “Old Man River” perfectly right now though (laughs). I could start a whole new career as a bass, which Carol Burnett swears that I really am. Any career needs to be tailored a bit anyway– even Frank Sinatra.
Besides being a world-renown actress and Broadway singer, you do a lot outside of the acting world. For one, you are the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women. Now what does a woman as busy as you do during those few moments you are away from work? ^ I’m of firm belief to do a little as possible for most of the day. I’m not a fanatic about working out, though I do swim because the bones get a little tired. Otherwise I love to garden and spend some time with my grandkids. I like writing very much, too. I have two new books coming out this fall, actually. Other than that I love watching “The West Wing” and “ER.”
Finally, you’ve accomplished so much as an actress, a singer, a writer and a philanthropist. You’ve won a Golden Globe award, been nominated for an Oscar three times and just recently was honored by the Society of Singers for your achievements. Is there anything left at this point in your career that you still aspire to do? ^ My only goals are to continue to do as much as possible that is different. Musicals, dramas, comedies, writing books– I just love it all.
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Posted on August 2, 2001 in Interviews by Heather Wadowski
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