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One of the few bankable female stars of the 1990s and 2000s, 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 "Eat Pray Love" (2010), "August: Osage County" (2013) and "Ben Is Back" (2018), all of which underscored Roberts' unique ability to be both a huge box office draw and an accomplished...
One of the few bankable female stars of the 1990s and 2000s, 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 "Eat Pray Love" (2010), "August: Osage County" (2013) and "Ben Is Back" (2018), 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. This was followed by "Larry Crowne" (2011), a romantic comedy-drama co-written and directed by star Tom Hanks that received middling reviews. Roberts played the evil Queen opposite Lily Collins as Snow White in Tarsem Singh's comedic fairy tale adaptation "Mirror Mirror" (2012), wittily tweaking Hollywood standards of beauty for aging actresses. John Wells' film adaptation of Tracy Letts' melodramatic theater hit "August: Osage County" (2013) received somewhat mixed reviews, but won Roberts another Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Roberts' next high-profile project was the TV adaptation of Larry Kramer's searing AIDS drama "The Normal Heart" (HBO 2014), an ensemble project co-starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons. Roberts was one of many cast members to receive an Emmy nomination for the critically-acclaimed project, getting the nod for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. Continuing her work on the big screen, Roberts starred in the thriller "Secret In Their Eyes" (2015), Garry Marshall's romantic comedy "Mother's Day" (2016) and Jodie Foster's hostage drama "Money Monster" (2016). Roberts' next big screen roles came in the comedy-drama "Wonder" (2017) and family addiction drama "Ben Is Back" (2018), which sandwiched her first major television role in the twisty psychological thriller "Homecoming" (Amazon 2018).
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