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One of the few bankable female stars of the 1990s, actress Julia Roberts remained an iconic figure whose assured, winsome performances underscored her undeniable public appeal. Following a breakthrough role in "Mystic Pizza" (1988), Roberts earned critical acclaim and award recognition for her portrayal of the ill-fated Shelby in "Steel Magnolias" (1989). But it was her performance as a hooker with a heart of gold opposite Richard Gere in "Pretty Woman" (1990) that propelled Roberts into the upper tier of Hollywood actresses. Roberts quickly became one of the highest paid stars - male or female - in the world, eventually raking in $25 million for a film. Equally in the limelight for a torrent of high-profile and often rocky romances, Roberts managed to maintain an output of projects that consistently topped the box office. While sometimes accused of lacking the chops to be a serious actress, she erased all doubts with her Oscar-winning performance in "Erin Brockovich" (2001), as well as other acclaimed roles in "Closer" (2004) and "Charlie Wilson's War" (2007), all of which underscored Roberts' unique ability to be both a huge box office draw and an accomplished performer.Born Oct. 28, 1967 in...
One of the few bankable female stars of the 1990s, actress Julia Roberts remained an iconic figure whose assured, winsome performances underscored her undeniable public appeal. Following a breakthrough role in "Mystic Pizza" (1988), Roberts earned critical acclaim and award recognition for her portrayal of the ill-fated Shelby in "Steel Magnolias" (1989). But it was her performance as a hooker with a heart of gold opposite Richard Gere in "Pretty Woman" (1990) that propelled Roberts into the upper tier of Hollywood actresses. Roberts quickly became one of the highest paid stars - male or female - in the world, eventually raking in $25 million for a film. Equally in the limelight for a torrent of high-profile and often rocky romances, Roberts managed to maintain an output of projects that consistently topped the box office. While sometimes accused of lacking the chops to be a serious actress, she erased all doubts with her Oscar-winning performance in "Erin Brockovich" (2001), as well as other acclaimed roles in "Closer" (2004) and "Charlie Wilson's War" (2007), all of which underscored Roberts' unique ability to be both a huge box office draw and an accomplished performer.
Born Oct. 28, 1967 in Atlanta, GA, Roberts was raised by her father, Walter, a vacuum cleaner salesman and her mother, Betty, a former church secretary-turned-real estate agent. Despite solid middle class jobs, her parents were also part-time actors who ran the Atlanta-based Actors and Writers Workshop out of their home. But in 1971, her domestic tranquility was shattered when her parents divorced. Roberts moved the following year to Smyrna, CA with her mother and sister, Lisa, while her brother, Eric, stayed behind with their father. Though she was intent on becoming a veterinarian, Roberts was suddenly interested in acting after landing her first stage role playing Elizabeth Dole in a mock election campaign. Immediately following graduation, she moved to New York City to pursue acting alongside her sister. After losing her thick Georgia accent with the help of a speech coach, Roberts worked at an Athlete's Foot and an ice cream parlor to make ends meet, while she honed her craft in classes - which she quickly dropped - and looked for acting work.
With very little experience to speak of, Roberts made her feature debut when she was tapped by her brother, Eric, to star opposite him in "Blood Red" (1989), a period drama that was filmed three years prior to its release. But noticing that her older brother was scoring some success, Roberts decided pursue acting fulltime. She first gained notice starring in "Mystic Pizza" (1988), playing a recent high school grad working with two friends (Annabeth Gish and Lili Taylor) at a Connecticut pizza parlor who is unsure what she wants from life, even to the point of doubting her relationship with a law school dropout (Adam Storke). Also that year, she co-starred in "Satisfaction" (1988), a forgettable comedy-drama about the lives and times of an all-girl rock band over the course of an entire summer. Roberts landed her big break in "Steel Magnolias" when fellow actress Meg Ryan backed out to star in her own breakthrough film, "When Harry Met Sally " (1989), though Roberts went through a tough audition process in order to land the part of Shelby, the diabetic daughter of a woman (Sally Field) dealing with both happiness and hardships with her female friends (Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis) in a small Louisiana town. Roberts earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her affecting performance as the doomed daughter.
Already a star on the rise, Roberts was catapulted into the stratosphere of stardom with her next performance in Garry Marshall's charming and immensely successful rags-to-riches saga, "Pretty Woman" (1990). Roberts played a free-spirited prostitute hired by a self-absorbed corporate executive (Richard Gere) so she can escort him to various functions after a break-up with his girlfriend. While he tries to transform her from call girl to respectable lady who lunches, she manages to soften his heart and earn his genuine affection with her charming, down-to-earth take on the world. Thanks to her winning performance - which earned her a surprising Oscar nod for Best Actress - and box office triumph, Roberts became one of Hollywood's most popular and bankable stars overnight. Roberts added her newfound star status to otherwise routine fare, playing a medical student who cheats death with a few of her classmates (Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, William Baldwin) by putting themselves in near-death-like states in "Flatliners" (1990). In "Sleeping with the Enemy" (1991), another big box office hit, Roberts played a battered wife who fakes her own death and assumes a new identity to escape an abusive marriage, only to be discovered by her husband (Patrick Bergen). Her next film, a weepy romance called "Dying Young" (1991), faltered at the box office, giving her an early taste of disappointment.
Roberts followed up with another ill-fated project, playing Tinkerbell in Steven Spielberg's abysmal update of the Peter Pan myth, "Hook" (1991). Roberts' toothsome portrayal of the feisty fairy revealed no insights into the tiny winged character, while she struggled gamely with the physical and artistic rigors of doing most of her scenes alone on a special effects soundstage. Rumors of bad blood between Roberts and Spielberg cast a pall on a project already doomed from the start. Meanwhile, at the peak of her early fame, Roberts took an unexpected break from acting to get her highly publicized personal life in order. Romances with costars Liam Neeson, Dylan McDermott - with whom she was briefly engaged - and most notably Kiefer Sutherland - whom she left just days before their wedding after discovering he was in the company of prostitute Amanda Rice - all petered out. Adding to her laundry list was a whirlwind romance with odd-looking singer Lyle Lovett that resulted in a bare-footed marriage in 1993 only three weeks after meeting. But just two years later, the couple separated and eventually divorced. Her film hiatus also served as a time of reflection for the shell-shocked star, leading magazines like People to do cover stories, asking "What Happened to Julia?" The young actress would later admit that the overwhelming success of "Pretty Woman" and the relentless spotlight on her personal life had virtually frightened her into seclusion for a time, while she wrapped her head around the fact that she was now one of the most famous women in the world.
During her brief abstinence from acting, Roberts managed to make a cameo appearance as herself in Robert Altman's "The Player" (1992). Once her affairs were in order, Roberts made her much ballyho d return to the screen after two years, reasserting her commercial magic opposite Denzel Washington in the political thriller, "The Pelican Brief" (1993), though she lost a bit of ground opposite Nick Nolte in the middling romantic comedy, "I Love Trouble" (1994). Having difficulty finding her footing, Roberts' next few film roles proved rather spotty: she was merely passable as a journalist in Robert Altman's limp comedy about high-end fashion, "Ready to Wear/Pret-a-Porter" (1994), but spunky as a woman coping with marital problems in the romantic comedy "Something to Talk About" (1995). She was dour in the period horror film "Mary Reilly" (1996), which failed to find audience or critical favor. Meanwhile, as Woody Allen's leading lady in his musical comedy "Everyone Says I Love You" (1996), Roberts fared slightly better and even displayed a mildly pleasant singing voice. Cast opposite old beau Neeson as his love interest in Neil Jordan's biopic of the famed Irish revolutionary "Michael Collins" (1996), Roberts gave a gallant try, but was hampered by a wavering Irish accent.
In 1997, the actress reasserted her position as both America's sweetheart and a box-office winner with her starring role in the hit comedy, "My Best Friend's Wedding." Cast as a scheming restaurant critic who sets out to break up the wedding of the man she thinks she loves, Roberts turned what could have become an unsympathetic character into an audience favorite through the sheer force of her natural charm and vibrancy. She was abetted by Rupert Everett's scene-stealing supporting turn as her gay editor and a subtle script by Ron Bass that inverted many of the clichés of screwball comedy. In contrast, Roberts' much-anticipated teaming with Mel Gibson in Richard Donner's "Conspiracy Theory" (1997) proved to be somewhat disappointing, thanks to a muddled script. Ron Bass was one of several writers who worked on the script of "Stepmom" (1998), a comedy-drama that cast Roberts as the much younger girlfriend of a divorced man coping with his two children and his saintly ex-wife (Susan Sarandon). Most critics dismissed the film as sentimental pap, but audiences lapped it up and made it a modest box-office success.
Roberts followed with a turn as a world-famous movie star who falls in love with a bumbling British bookseller (Hugh Grant) in "Notting Hill" (1999), an uneven romantic comedy that nevertheless did extremely well at the box office. The much ballyho d reunion with Richard Gere under Garry Marshall's guidance in "Runaway Bride" (1999) brought out the crowds, but the film could in no way compete with the "Pretty Woman" legacy that came before. Together these films earned over $300 million domestically, justifying the actress' standing as the highest paid female actor. Just as critics thought she was all charm and no real acting chops, Roberts took on the role of her life, essaying the real-life legal secretary who assisted in turning a water poisoning case into one of the largest class-action lawsuits in U.S. history, in "Erin Brockovich" (2000). In perhaps the best performance of her career, Roberts was in top form, thanks in part to the direction of Steven Soderbergh. Roberts earned just about every accolade in 2001, including an Academy Award for Best Actress.
After such a heavy project, Roberts made a welcome return to comedy, playing the frustrated girlfriend of a low-level, somewhat bumbling gangster (Brad Pitt) in the "The Mexican" (2001). Although she and Pitt were not on screen together for very long, the pair shared an easy chemistry, though she had better rapport with James Gandolfini as the hit man who kidnaps her as insurance. Despite fielding many offers and after already playing a movie star on screen, Roberts opted this time to play the personal assistant to the movie star (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in the disastrous, critically reviled comedy, "America's Sweethearts" (2001). To recover from that mess, Roberts teamed up again with Soderbergh for a small role in his remake of "Ocean's Eleven" (2001). Playing Tess Ocean, George Clooney's perpetually disappointed wife, Roberts did her best to keep up with Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Andy Garcia. Robert's next project was also with Soderbergh, in "Full Frontal" (2002), the non-narrative sequel to his first film, "Sex, Lies and Videotape" (1989). Roberts' character, wearing an extremely unattractive hairdo, was shockingly uninteresting and unimportant to the story - such as it was.
Thanks to her collaborations with Soderbergh, Roberts was the only female member of a new Brat Pack crowd of actors that included Clooney, Pitt, Damon and Don Cheadle. She joined Clooney for his directorial debut, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002), the life story of game show producer and host, Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell), who supposedly led a double life as a CIA hit man. Roberts delivered a game performance as a spy femme fatale who tries to ensnare Barris into a web of deceit. Roberts settled into more standard fare with "Mona Lisa Smile" (2003), playing Katherine Watson, a liberal-minded educator who takes a feminist position at Wellesley in the 1950s and quickly comes under fire for teaching her female students to aspire to something other than marriage and kids. While the film's premise and storyline - a female spin on the familiar "Dead P ts' Society" model - was predictable, Roberts' delivered a mature and engaging performance that in ways different from her previous efforts had audiences once again rooting for her.
Just as Roberts began filming the anticipated sequel "Ocean's Twelve" (2004), the actress, who was by then onto her second marriage to cameraman Danny Moder, announced to the world that she was pregnant with twins. Perhaps due to the impending birth, Roberts appeared to be having more fun than in the first "Oceans," gamely playing off of her pregnancy and - in a harder-to-swallow plot spin - her character's uncanny resemblance to movie star Julia Roberts. Just prior to the release of that film, Roberts made international headlines when she gave birth to a boy and a girl, Phinnaeus and Hazel, in November 2004. Hot on the heels of that arrival was the debut of the Mike Nichols-directed drama "Closer" (2004), in which she played an American photographer in London caught up in the heated, sometimes erotic, often cruel love/sex gender war amid two shifting sets of couples (Jude Law and Natalie Portman; Roberts and Clive Owen). The highly literate film received excellent reviews and brought Roberts' her best notices since "Erin Brockovich."
After taking time off to enjoy her twins and family time on her Taos, NM ranch, Roberts returned to work - this time, surprising many by accepting a role on Broadway. In April of 2006, Roberts headlined the Richard Greenberg drama, "Three Days of Rain," co-starring Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper. Although her reviews were lukewarm, the play sold out its 12-week run, proving Roberts' appeal extended beyond the big screen and magazine covers. Turning to animation, Roberts voiced Nurse Ant Hova in "The Ant Bully" (2006), then took on the more familiar characterization of Charlotte the Spider in the endearing adaptation of the children's classic, "Charlotte's Web" (2006). Roberts then delivered another tour-de-force performance in "Charlie Wilson's War" (2007), playing a wealthy, anti-communist Texas socialite who helps bankroll a bachelor congressman (Tom Hanks) and his covert operation to fund mujahedeen warriors fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. Roberts earned rave critical reviews and a Golden Globe Award nomination for her compelling performance in the Mike Nichols film. She managed to keep a low profile for two years until 2009 when she starred in two very different films. "Duplicity," a witty spy thriller that paired her with Clive Owen as a duo who attempt to put their rocky romantic past behind them to pull of a heist, was a well-received romp that did well at the box office and earned Roberts another Golden Globe nomination Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Also that year, Roberts returned to her strong roots in family drama with "Fireflies in the Garden" (2009), playing the ill-fated matriarch of a suburban family. Despite a heavy-hitting cast including Willem Daf and Ryan Reynolds, it was dismissed by critics as overly melodramatic. The following year, Roberts took on the lead in an adaptation of "Eat, Pray, Love" (2010), portraying the soul-searching author Elizabeth Gilbert in the film version of the best-selling book.
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In 1993, Roberts became the highest-paid actress to date, reportedly receiving $8.5 million per film. For "Mary Reilly" in 1996, she reportedly earned $10 million while a year later, she was paid $12 million for "Conspiracy Theory". In 1999, Roberts cracked the $20 million mark, making her once again the highest-paid female actor in Hollywood.
"If only, somehow, Julia Roberts could be as complicated on-screen as the feelings she prompts in one who looks carefully at her career. If that were possible, she might become a real actress, instead of remaining just a great beauty who gives off an uncanny sense of being flawed or damaged, and needing to be rescued. The flirt's secret message to her viewers is, after all, exactly that: RESCUE ME. But the serious actress must learn that that task is hers alone."---From "In Defense of Julia Roberts" by David Thomson, Movieline, April 1997.
"I don't think I'll ever really understand the fascination with [my private life]. And I comprehend less the idea that when there is nothing to report, something has to be manufactured."---Roberts to USA Today, June 20. 1997.
"Julia's smile is like a thousand-watt bulb. Everybody falls for it, but there's nothing like it when she smiles and laughs. You can't help but be drawn into it."---Dermot Mulroney, Roberts' co-star in "My Best Friend's Wedding" quoted to People, July 7, 1997.
"... there's no mistaking the tough core of intelligence and wit in her work, not just a willingness to take chances but a growing delight in doing so. Here's to future gambles in the still-surprising career of Julia Roberts. Risk looks good on her."---Peter Travers writing in US, August 1997.
"I'll tell you something, not long after 'Pretty Woman' came out, suddenly everyone who ever passed through Smyrna's city limits went to high school with me and was my best friend. I was suddenly reading accounts of my would-be life, based on people I had barely known in school. I find it more amusing than anything else ... every day of my life is just the greatest revenge, isn't it?"---Julia Roberts to the London Times, January 3, 1999.
"If people are going to support me, or pretend to support me, my belief is that they must support my desire to be a good actor, and in order to be a good actor it is my obligation to my desire to try different things. If I did the same thing all the time, how quickly would people get bored? They would be like, 'She's smiling again; oh God, that smile.'"---Roberts quoted in the London Times, April 29, 1999.
"It's nuts that the average person probably knows more about me than they do about their friends and families."---Roberts quoted in Chicago Sun-Times, May 23, 1999.
"What changes with fame, I think, are perceptions of an individual, more than the individual."---Julia Roberts to Stephen Schaefer in Boston Herald, May 28, 1999.
"I work when I want to work, and I work with people that I want to work with. I travel hither and yon to fabulous places. I'm surrounded by wonderful, interesting people. I live a privileged life, HUGELY privileged. It's an EXCELLENT life. I'm rich. I'm happy. I have a great job. It would be absurd to pretend that it's anything different. I'm like a pig in shit."---Roberts quoted in Vanity Fair, June 1999.
"The thing that I'm able to do now is put words to the feelings as opposed to once upon a time when, if someone approached me in a certain way, I might look at them and inside I'm thinking, please go away. Please stop looking at me. Please, please, please. I don't know how to deal with you. I don't know what to do."
"But it was a challenge that obviously I had to have in my life, and I think I was able to draw a lot of things from it. And I regret not a moment of it. Not even at its worst moment of really being apoplectic with ignorance, because my life is now so, I just live my life now. And each little steppingstone leads to the next thing, and it sounds corny, but to remove one element of it is to collapse the whole house of cards."---Roberts quoted in US, August 1999.
On starring in a movie about a woman with commitment problems given her own checkered romantic past, Roberts told US (August 1999): "Look, 'Runaway Bride' is a great title, incredibly evocative, but it doesn't attach to my life at all."
"My agent hates it when I say this, but if someone was making a real good movie and they had a nickel they could spare to get me to do the job, I'd do it. But when someone's making a no-budget independent film, going off to Nebraska to shoot a 105-page movie in 18 days, I don't think I'm the first name that springs to their mind. And that's unfortunate, because I would think it would be a gas."---From US, August 1999.
"Both 'Runaway Bride' and 'Notting Hill' are tailored to the public perception of Roberts herself, the actress who surges from one high profile romance to another. It is therefore easy to accept the fiction of the standard Roberts character as an adorable, slightly daffy commitment-phobe whose biggest problem is making up her mind. When we think of classic indecision, we think Hamlet. When we think of indecision Julia-style, we think of a frightened kitten being lured down from the tree by a kindly fireman."---From "The Trouble With Julia" by Jami Bernard, Daily News, August 8, 1999.
On her role in "Notting Hill": "It's not Julia Roberts. It's Anna Scott. For someone to think that I'm so fascinated with myself that I deserve to be the main character in a movie, they're out of their mind. A, my life is not to be documented in that way and B, I'm not that narcissistic. SO for people to think I'm playing myself is selling me way short. I worked way too hard on that movie. I work hard to look that natural. I can't prevent people from saying that. I'm not trying to change people's minds about me; never tried to, not interested in it. If they think Anna Scott is me playing myself, that's fine. But I didn't write the script. I didn't know the man who wrote it."---From Chicago Sun-Times, July 14, 1999.
On her rocky relationship with the press: "Everybody has a job to do, I appreciate that. But at the same time, my job is to act, not to clear things up, not to fill in the dotted lines of the ifs, ands, buts, whys and hows of my life. I have too often succumbed to the pressure of feeling that's my responsibility. I have been fleeced enough times, lied about enough times, raked over the coals, misrepresented, misunderstood and misconceived enough."---Julia Roberts quoted in Rolling Stone, July 14, 1999.
"I've never discussed this before, but as a child I used to bite my toenails off instead of clipping them. I was very limber."---Roberts to Movieline November 2002.
"The first time I felt famous was when I went to the movies with my mom. I had gone to the loo, and someone in the bathroom said in a very loud voice, 'Girl in stall No. 1, were you in Mystic Pizza?' I paused and said, 'Yeah, that was me.'"---Roberts to People August 22, 1999.
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