Julia Fiona Roberts (born October 28, 1967) is an American actress and producer. She became a Hollywood star after headlining the romantic comedy Pretty Woman (1990), which grossed US $464 million worldwide. She has won three Golden Globe Awards (out of eight nominations) and has been nominated for four Academy Awards for her film acting, winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Erin Brockovich (2000).
Her films Mystic Pizza (1988), Steel Magnolias (1989), Pretty Woman (1990), Flatliners (1990), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), Hook (1991), The Pelican Brief (1993), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Conspiracy Theory (1997), Notting Hill (1999), Runaway Bride (1999), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Ocean’s Twelve (2004), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Valentine’s Day (2010), Eat Pray Love (2010), Mirror Mirror (2012), and Money Monster (2016) have collectively brought box office receipts of over US$2.7 billion, making her one of the most successful actresses in terms of box office receipts. She received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie nomination for her performance in the HBO television film The Normal Heart (2014).
Roberts was the highest-paid actress in the world throughout most of the 1990s and in the first half of the 2000s. Her fee for 1990’s Pretty Woman was US$300,000; in 2003, she was paid an unprecedented US$25 million for her role in Mona Lisa Smile (2003). As of 2007 Roberts’s net worth was estimated to be US$140 million. She has been named People magazine’s “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” a record five times.
Early life and family
Roberts was born on October 28, 1967, in Smyrna, Georgia, to Betty Lou Bredemus (19342015) and Walter Grady Roberts (19331977). She is of English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, and Swedish descent. Her father was a Baptist, her mother a Roman Catholic, and she was raised Catholic. Her older brother, Eric Roberts, from whom she was estranged until 2004, sister Lisa Roberts Gillan, and niece Emma Roberts, are also actors.
Roberts’s parents, one-time actors and playwrights, met while performing theatrical productions for the armed forces. They later co-founded the Atlanta Actors and Writers Workshop in Atlanta, off Juniper Street in Midtown. They ran a children’s acting school in Decatur, Georgia, while they were expecting Julia. The children of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King attended the school; Walter Roberts was their daughter Yolanda Denise King‘s acting coach. As a thank-you for his service, Mrs. King paid Mrs. Roberts’s hospital bill when Julia was born.
Her parents married in 1955. Roberts’s mother filed for divorce in 1971; the divorce was finalized in early 1972. From 1972, Roberts lived in Smyrna, Georgia, where she attended Fitzhugh Lee Elementary School, Griffin Middle School, and Campbell High School. In 1972, her mother married Michael Motes, who was abusive and often unemployed; Roberts despised him. The couple had a daughter, Nancy Motes, who died at 37 on February 9, 2014, of an apparent drug overdose. The marriage ended in 1983, with Betty Lou divorcing Motes on cruelty grounds; she had stated that marrying him was the biggest mistake of her life. Roberts’s own father died of cancer when she was ten.
Roberts wanted to be a veterinarian as a child. She also played the clarinet in her school band. After graduating from Smyrna’s Campbell High School, she attended Georgia State University but did not graduate. She later headed to New York City to pursue a career in acting. Once there, she signed with the Click Modeling Agency and enrolled in acting classes.
Roberts made her first big screen appearance in the film Satisfaction (1988), alongside Liam Neeson and Justine Bateman, as a band member looking for a summer gig. She had previously performed a small role opposite her brother, Eric, in Blood Red (she has two words of dialogue), filmed in 1987, although it was only released in 1989. Her first television appearance was as a juvenile rape victim in the initial season of the series Crime Story with Dennis Farina, in the episode titled “The Survivor”, broadcast on February 13, 1987. Her first critical success with moviegoers was her performance in the independent film Mystic Pizza in 1988; that same year, she had a role in the fourth-season finale of Miami Vice. In 1989, she was featured in Steel Magnolias, as a young bride with diabetes, and received both her first Academy Award nomination (as Best Supporting Actress) and first Golden Globe Award win (Motion Picture Best Supporting Actress) for her performance.
Roberts became known to worldwide audiences when she starred with Richard Gere in the Cinderella/Pygmalionesque story, Pretty Woman, in 1990. Roberts won the role after Michelle Pfeiffer, Molly Ringwald, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Karen Allen, and Daryl Hannah (her co-star in Steel Magnolias) turned it down. The role also earned her a second Oscar nomination, this time as Best Actress, and second Golden Globe Award win, as Motion Picture Best Actress (Musical or Comedy). Her next box office success was the thriller Sleeping with the Enemy, playing a battered wife who escapes her abusive husband, played by Patrick Bergin, and begins a new life in Iowa. She played Tinkerbell in Steven Spielberg‘s Hook in 1991, and also played a nurse in the 1991 film, Dying Young. This work was followed by a two-year hiatus, during which she made no films other than a cameo appearance in Robert Altman‘s The Player (1992). In early 1993, she was the subject of a People magazine cover story asking, “What Happened to Julia Roberts?” She was offered the role of Annie Reed in Sleepless in Seattle (1993), but turned it down.
Roberts co-starred with Denzel Washington in The Pelican Brief (1993), based on John Grisham‘s 1992 novel of the same name. In 1996, she appeared in season 2 of Friends (episode 13 “The One After the Superbowl“). She had a relationship with cast member Matthew Perry at the time. According to an audience member, Roberts said to Perry about their on-screen kiss, “I’m glad we rehearsed this over the weekend.” She was offered the role of Lucy Eleanor Moderatz in While You Were Sleeping (1995), but turned it down.
Roberts co-starred with Liam Neeson in Michael Collins (1996). Over the next few years, she starred in Stephen Frears‘ Mary Reilly (1996), followed by My Best Friend’s Wedding in 1997. In 1998, she appeared on Sesame Street opposite the character Elmo, demonstrating her ability to change emotions. She was offered the role of Viola de Lesseps in Shakespeare in Love (1998) but turned it down. She starred in the films Stepmom (1998), alongside Susan Sarandon,Notting Hill (1999), with Hugh Grant, and, also in 1999, in Runaway Bride, her second film with Richard Gere. Roberts was a guest star on the Law & Order television series episode “Empire” with series regular Benjamin Bratt (at that time her boyfriend). She earned a nomination for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
In December 2000, Roberts, who had been the highest paid actress through the 1990s, became the first actress to make The Hollywood Reporter‘s list of the 50 most influential women in show business since the list had begun in 1992.
In 2001, Roberts received the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Erin Brockovich. Roberts’ acceptance speech for the award went over the allowed time limit but did not mention the real-life Brockovich, for which Roberts later apologized, saying she forgot. While presenting the Best Actor Award to Denzel Washington the following year, Roberts made a gaffe, saying she was glad that Tom Conti wasn’t there; she meant the conductor, Bill Conti, who had tried to hasten the conclusion of her Oscar speech the previous year, but instead named the Scottish actor.
Roberts’ first film following Erin Brockovich was the road gangster comedy, The Mexican, giving her a chance to work with long-time friend Brad Pitt. The film’s script was originally intended to be filmed as an independent production without major motion picture stars, but Roberts and Pitt, who had for some time been looking for a project they could do together, learned about it and decided to sign on. Though advertised as a typical romantic comedy star vehicle, the film does not focus solely on the Pitt/Roberts relationship and the two shared relatively little screen time together. The Mexican earned $66.8 million at the U.S. box office. Later in 2001, she starred in the romantic comedy America’s Sweethearts along with Billy Crystal, John Cusack, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Directed by Joe Roth, the Hollywood farce centers on a supercouple, Gwen and Eddie, who separate when she dumps him for another man. Roberts portrayed Gwen’s once-overweight sister and assistant who has been secretly in love with Eddie (Cusack) for years. Reviews of the film were generally unfavorable: critics’ felt that despite its famous cast, the movie lacked “sympathetic characters” and was “only funny in spurts.” A commercial success, it grossed over US$138 million worldwide, however.
In fall 2001, Roberts teamed with Erin Brockovich director Steven Soderbergh for Ocean’s Eleven, a comedy-crime caper film and remake of the 1960 Rat Pack film of the same name, featuring an ensemble cast including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. Roberts played Tess Ocean, the ex-wife of leader Danny Ocean (Clooney), originally played by Angie Dickinson, who is dating a casino owner played by Andy Garca. In preparation for her role, Roberts studied Dickinson’s performance by watching the original film at least seven times in order to get her part right. A success with critics and at the box office alike, Ocean’s Eleven became the fifth highest-grossing film of the year with a total of US$450 million worldwide.
In 2003, Roberts was cast in Mike Newell‘s drama film Mona Lisa Smile, also starring Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Julia Stiles. Roberts received a record US$25 million for her portrayal of a forward-thinking art history professor at Wellesley College in 1953 the highest ever earned by an actress until then. The film garnered largely lukewarm reviews by critics, who found it “predictable and safe”.
In 2004, Roberts replaced Cate Blanchett in Mike Nichols‘s Closer, a romantic drama film written by Patrick Marber, based on his award-winning 1997 play of the same name. The film also starred Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen. Also in 2004, she reprised the role of Tess Ocean in the sequel Ocean’s Twelve. The film was deliberately much more unconventional than the first, epitomized by a sequence in which Roberts’ character impersonates the real-life Julia Roberts, due to their strong resemblance. Though less well reviewed than Eleven, the film became another major success at the box office, with a gross of US$363 million worldwide, mostly from its international run. Unlike all the male cast members, Roberts did not appear in the series’ third and final installment, Ocean’s Thirteen (2007), due to script issues. In 2005, she was featured in the music video for the single “Dreamgirl” by the Dave Matthews Band; it was her first music video appearance.
Roberts appeared in The Hollywood Reporter‘s list of the 10 highest-paid actresses every year from 2002 (when the magazine began compiling its list) to 2005.
Roberts had two films released in 2006: The Ant Bully and Charlotte’s Web. Both films were animated features for which she provided voice acting. Her next film was Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), with Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman, directed by Mike Nichols; it was released on December 21, 2007.Fireflies in the Garden (2008), also starring Ryan Reynolds and Willem Dafoe, was released at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2008 and was subsequently shown in European cinemas; it did not get a North American release until 2011.
Roberts made her Broadway debut on April 19, 2006, as Nan in a revival of Richard Greenberg‘s 1997 play Three Days of Rain opposite Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd. Although the play grossed nearly US$1 million in ticket sales during its first week and was a commercial success throughout its limited run, her performance drew criticism. Ben Brantley of The New York Times described Roberts as being fraught with “self-consciousness (especially in the first act) only glancingly acquainted with the two characters she plays.” Brantley also criticized the overall production, writing that “it’s almost impossible to discern its artistic virtues from this wooden and splintered interpretation, directed by Joe Mantello.” Writing in the New York Post, Clive Barnes declared, “Hated the play. To be sadly honest, even hated her. At least I liked the raineven if three days of it can seem an eternity.”
In 2009, Lancme announced that Roberts would become their global ambassador for their company.
Roberts starred with Clive Owen in the comedy-thriller Duplicity for which she received her seventh Golden Globe nomination. In 2010, she appeared in the ensemble romantic comedy Valentine’s Day, with Cooper, and starred in the film adaptation of Eat Pray Love. Eat Pray Love had the highest debut at the box office for Roberts in a top-billed role since America’s Sweethearts. Later in the year, she signed a five-year extension with Lancme for GB32 million. In 2011, she co-starred as Mercedes Tainot in the romantic comedy Larry Crowne opposite Tom Hanks, who directed and played the title role. The movie received generally bad reviews with only 35% of the 175 Rotten Tomatoes reviews giving it high ratings, although Roberts’s comedic performance was praised. Roberts appeared in the 2012 Tarsem Singh adaptation of Snow White, titled Mirror Mirror, playing Queen Clementianna, Snow White’s evil stepmother.
In 2013, Roberts appeared in August: Osage County, playing one of Meryl Streep‘s character’s three daughters. Her performance earned her nominations for the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Critics’ Choice Award, and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, amongst other accolades. It was her fourth Academy Award nomination.
In 2014, Roberts narrated “Women in Hollywood”, an episode of season 2 of Makers: Women Who Make America. Roberts appears in Givenchy‘s spring/summer 2015 campaign. In 2016, she starred in the film Mother’s Day.
In June 2017, Roberts announced she will be starring in a limited series for HBO, based on the Maria Semple novel, Today Will Be Different. This will be Roberts’ first television series.
Roberts runs the production company Red Om Films with her sister, Lisa Roberts Gillan, and Marisa Yeres Gill. Through Red Om, Roberts served as an executive producer of the first four films of the American Girl film series (based on the American Girl line of dolls), released between 2004 and 2008.
Relationships and marriages
Roberts reportedly had romantic relationships with actors Jason Patric, Liam Neeson, Kiefer Sutherland, Dylan McDermott, and Matthew Perry. She was briefly engaged to Sutherland; they broke up three days before their scheduled wedding on June 11, 1991. On June 25, 1993, she married country singer Lyle Lovett; the wedding took place at St. James Lutheran Church in Marion, Indiana. They separated in March 1995 and subsequently divorced. From 1998 to 2001, Roberts dated actor Benjamin Bratt.
Roberts and her husband, cameraman Daniel Moder, met on the set of her film The Mexican in 2000 while she was still dating Bratt. At the time, Moder was married to Vera Steimberg. He filed for divorce a little over a year later, and after it was finalized, he and Roberts wed on July 4, 2002, at her ranch in Taos, New Mexico. Together, they have three children: twins Hazel Patricia and Phinnaeus “Finn” Walter Moder (born November 28, 2004) and son, Henry Daniel Moder (born June 18, 2007).
Roberts disclosed in a 2010 interview for Elle magazine that she believes in and practices Hinduism. Roberts is a devotee of the guru Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaj-ji), a picture of whom drew Roberts to Hinduism.
In September 2009, Swami Daram Dev of Ashram Hari Mandir in Pataudi, where Roberts was shooting Eat Pray Love, gave her children new names after Hindu gods: Laxmi for Hazel, Ganesh for Phinnaeus and Krishna Balram for Henry.
Roberts has given her time and resources to UNICEF as well as to other charitable organizations. On May 10, 1995, Roberts arrived in Port-au-Prince, as she said, “to educate myself”. The poverty she found was overwhelming. “My heart is just bursting”, she said. UNICEF officials hoped that her six-day visit would trigger an outburst of giving: US$10 million in aid was sought at the time.
In 2000, Roberts narrated Silent Angels, a documentary about Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder, which was shot in Los Angeles, Baltimore and New York. The documentary was designed to help raise public awareness about the disease. In July 2006, Earth Biofuels announced Roberts as a spokeswoman for the company and as chair of the company’s newly formed Advisory Board promoting the use of renewable fuels. She also supports Gucci‘s “Chime For Change” campaign that aims to spread female empowerment.