The Canadian actress talks childhood fame, the Robert Urich Foundation and her role in The Sound of Music.
Strolling around New York City...
Spending time with her three kids...
These are a few of Heather Menzies' favourite things.
Much like the characters who sing the famous song in the 1965 musical, The Sound of Music, Menzies always finds comfort in the little things life has to offer.
"Spring in New York City is a particular favourite of mine," she says. "And planting flowers at my cottage in Canada. Just being there, in Picton, Ont., is a favourite thing of mine."
Audiences familiar with the Oscar-winning musical extravaganza will immediately recognize Menzies from her role as the flaxen-haired Louisa von Trapp, the second-eldest daughter of the gruff Captain von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). Loosely based on the hardships suffered by the Von Trapp Family singers, one of most famous concert groups in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War, The Sound of Music featured the star power of songbird Julia Andrews and an eclectic cast of child performers, including Menzies who was tackling her first major movie role.
Now 67, the Toronto-born Menzies has only fond memories of her days working on the film that thrust her into the limelight at the tender age of 14. And, like any teenager, memorable moments often include meeting personal idols.
"There was a one time a screen test [for The Sound of Music] fell on a Friday, so I had to miss school and take classes on the set," Menzies recalls. "There was a trailer out back that acted as our schoolroom for the day. When I got there I saw all of these child actors I'd grown up watching, like Johnny Provost [from the Lassie TV series] and Kurt Russell. I'd grown up worshipping these people and there I was in this schoolroom with them—only now they were peers of mine!"
After her breakout role, Menzies went on to guest star in countless TV shows (including The Love Boat and The Bob Newhart Show) before landing the lead role as Jessica 6 in the successful, albeit short-lived, 1977 series, Logan's Run, and starring in Roger Corman's cult classic Piranha (1978).
But it was while filming a commercial spot for Libby's Corned Beef Hash in the mid-70s that Menzies met the love of her life. Her late husband, actor Robert Urich, was also signed on to appear in the TV spot and the two formed a close bond on set. "We always joked that, if our relationship didn't work out, we could say that Libby's made hash out of our lives," she joked in Parade. "But it did work—we were very happily married."
Sadly, Urich (who starred in Vega$, Spenser: For Hire and the critically-acclaimed Lonesome Dove miniseries) died in 2002 at age 55 of a rare form of sarcoma, leaving behind Menzies and their three adopted children. Since his death, Menzies has devoted herself to The Robert Urich Foundation, which she created in 2007.
"It makes me feel good to be a part of finding funds to put towards much-needed research," she says. "It takes up a big part of my life, but it's not work to me."
We caught up with Heather Menzies to talk childhood fame, the Robert Urich Foundation and her role in The Sound of Music. Click through to read the full Q&A.
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