During a career spanning six decades, Julie Walters has earned two Oscar nominations and appeared in such Hollywood hits as the “Harry Potter” franchise and “Mamma Mia!”.
However, she’s now ready to pack it in, revealing in an interview with The Times that she no longer plans to take on anymore acting work.
Walters, 70, tells The Times that her decision came in large part from being diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in 2018 in the midst of filming “The Secret Garden”, requiring surgery and chemotherapy.
Now cancer-free, Walters admits her response to the diagnosis was mixed.
“I had a weird reaction to it,” she says. “Part of me was going, ‘Oh my God! I’ve got cancer! Oh my God!’ And I’m dealing with the shock of that, and it’s all systems go to have it treated. But there was also an element of going [she sighs and smiles, as if hugely relaxed], ‘I don’t have to do any more work. I can actually get off this treadmill.’ Because I had been working really hard and it seemed like a big excuse not to do anything. Cancer trumps everything. So there was a huge relief in it, which is strange. But I needed something to stop me.”
Ironically, Walters had been busier than ever in her sixties, an age when roles typically become fewer and further between for female actors — something she now understands drove her to work more than she probably should have.
“It was a feeling that, ‘I’m in my sixties and these parts are coming in, so I should do it,’” she says. “It was almost as if somewhere you know that you’re going to be stopped. I must do it before I can’t. Whereas now I think, ‘Oh, gosh, I don’t need that.’ And my husband constantly says, ‘You don’t need to do that.’ And so I don’t. And I think once you get something like cancer, something has to change. Otherwise you’re just going to get it again.”
Walters explains that her painstaking approach to acting led her to experience a lot of stress, which was not great for her health.
“The oncologist said to me, ‘What do you think has caused the cancer?’ And the first thing that came to my mind was acting. Acting caused it. Because of the way that I approach it. I have to be totally in it. Everything has to be just so. It’s very stressful,” she says. “You’re immediately above the parapet. You’re being judged. It’s a stressful job and I don’t sleep when I’m working. It’s not good for me.”
Does this mean she’ll never take another role. “Well, never say never,” she says.
“After I had the operation and I was thinking about the future, I thought, ‘I don’t want to work again,'” she admits, but adds a caveat: “Unless it’s another ‘Mamma Mia’!”