Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 11, 2001, in the Chicago Sun-Times. Charmian Carr spoke to the Sun-Times ahead of her appearance at a sing-along screening of “The Sound of Music” at the Music Box Theatre.
Although she had studied acting, singing and dancing, Charmian Carr never set out to be an actress. She got an audition for the role of Liesl in “The Sound of Music” through an agent friend of her mother’s.
“I didn’t even know who Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer were,” said Carr, laughing. “I ended up working with some of the most wonderful people in the business.”
Carr says she loved acting but didn’t like the waiting around for jobs. Eventually she married, had two daughters and developed a career as an interior decorator. For eight years, Carr worked for singer Michael Jackson, decorating the house on his massive estate.
Here are her thoughts on some moments in her life.
On almost not getting the role: “It came down to the intense blueness of my eyes. In those days they couldn’t adjust the color or have me wear contact lenses. But they figured out how to light the scenes so my eyes wouldn’t stand out. This was my first clue about Hollywood and how little control you have over your life when you are an actress.”
On her favorite thing about filming: “I loved the song `16 Going on 17.’ And I also loved the physicality of the movie. We were always running, jumping, falling into water, climbing trees and dancing. We were just a bunch of kids and all this was great fun.”
On almost being cast in “Peyton Place”: “When (director) Robert Wise heard I was about to be cast in `Peyton Place,’ he had a fit. He felt it would forever ruin my character in his movie. So instead, I was sent on a two-year tour promoting `The Sound of Music.’
On being the movie’s newly discovered sex symbol: “I never realized how many times I got wet in the movie, getting caught in the rain, falling in the lake. When the sing-alongs started, audience members started commenting on it. It is a little embarrassing.”
On decorating Michael Jackson’s house: “I was hired solely because of my connection to `The Sound of Music,’ a movie he loved. We started from scratch on 11,000 square feet. The most challenging job was when he said he didn’t want any furniture in his bedroom, that he would sleep on the carpet. And then there were the manniquins he wanted posed around the house. I’d probably still be working for Michael if it weren’t for the entourage that surrounds him. It was so overwhelming. He became so successful that it became too hard to get through to him.
On her book Forever Liesl: A Memoir of “The Sound of Music”: “When Christopher Plummer heard I was writing a book, he suggested I write something about the two of us having a mad, passionate affair during the filming of the movie. He said it would sell more books; he was probably right.”
On why she didn’t continue acting: “It was simple. I got married and wanted to have a family and I realized I couldn’t do both well.”
On the recent televison movie “On Golden Pond,” starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: “I thought Christopher was too virile, in too good of shape to play a frail old man ready to die. But I’ve never seen him in anything in which he wasn’t great. And Julie? Well, she’s always wonderful.”
On rumors of a Playboy pictorial: “It wasn’t Carr who posed for the cameras. It was Heather Menzies, who played Louisa, another of the von Trapp children.”