It was third time lucky when she won an Oscar for 'Erin Brockovich'. The 'pretty woman' is as much known for her love life as her roles in Hollywood
Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts was actually christened Julie Fiona Roberts. She was born into a large family that boasted English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish blood among its ancestors.
Julia’s father, Walter, is said to have been something of an outsider. By all accounts, he was a sensitive, artistic man, who had once tried to become an actor. During the 1950s, Walter joined the U.S. air force, which was offering free education to members at that time. He was stationed at the Keesler base in Biloxi, Mississippi, when he decided to take part in a stage production of 'George Washington Slept Here', and it was whilst acting in this amateur show that he met Julia’s future mother, Betty Lou Bredemus.
Betty Lou originally came from Minneapolis, and was partly of Swedish extraction. She and Walter were soon married, and then moved back to Atlanta, where Betty Lou gave birth to three children: Eric, Lisa and Julie. Both Julia’s parents were keen theatre-lovers, and even established a children’s theatre in their home. Julia grew up in middle-class, urban Atlanta, and spent much of her early childhood watching her parents produce plays at home. Sadly, Betty Lou and Walter’s marriage failed when Julia was just four-years-old, and Betty Lou then moved to Smyrna, Georgia with her daughters, whilst Walter remained in Atlanta with Eric, who was aged 16 at the time of the split. Betty soon re-married, and Julia’s new stepfather was called Michael Motes.
In Smyrna, Julia attended school at the Fitzhugh Lee Elementary School, Griffin Middle School and Campbell high School. She loved animals, and often followed the local vet on his rounds: on occasion, she would even bring stray and injured animals home! Rumour has it that Julia was teased at school for having a big mouth, and for wearing glasses, and for many years afterwards, she still thought of herself as geeky and unattractive.
Julia was a good sportswoman; she loved riding, and also excelled at tennis - she even played tennis for the school team. Whilst still at school, Julia developed a passionate love of poetry; she spent many long, happy hours in the school library, where she discovered the works of Walt Whitman, who soon became her favourite poet. Julia is still a keen reader, and is said to number Faulkner, Hardy, Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald among her favourite writers.
When she was only 10, Julia’s beloved father Walter died of cancer, and she was totally grief-stricken by this sad event. Her brother Eric, however, was going from strength to strength in his acting career: by 1977, he was already acting in the soap opera Another World, and the year after, he became an overnight success in a film called 'The King of The Gypsies', where he starred alongside Shelley Winters and Susan Sarandon.
Julia graduated high school in 1985, and soon took off for New York, where she shared a flat with her sister Lisa: the two sisters both dreamed of becoming famous actresses. She signed up for acting classes, and even enrolled as a model at the Click agency, so as to help pay her way. She needed a union ticket to work, but then discovered there was already another actress called Julie Roberts - that was the life-changing moment when she officially changed her name to Julia! By now, her brother Eric, was doing amazingly well; he was even nominated for an Oscar in 1985, for his role in 'Runaway Train'. Eric’s example showed Julia what was possible, and she was determined to make a success of her chosen career as an actress.
Eric, meanwhile, did his utmost to help his little sister Julia secure that all-important “big break”. He helped her land a part in 'Blood Red', a film about Sicilian immigrants; Eric was playing the hero, and funnily enough, Julia got to play the part of his sister! But the movie was not particularly successful, so Julia had to wait a few more years for that coveted “big break”.
This came in 1988, when she appeared in 'Mystic Pizza', which was her first really substantial success. Earlier that year, she’d also acted in a movie called 'Satisfaction', where she met Liam Neeson, whom she dated for a time. In 'Mystic Pizza', Julia played a poor Portuguese-American girl who falls for a “preppie”, and this film marked her first success in romantic comedy movies.
Next, she was given the chance to show her mettle in a more serious role, when she landed a part in 'Steel Magnolias', thanks to the helpful intervention of older actress Sally Field. Set in a beauty parlour in Louisiana, Julia played the part of Selby, the ill-fated daughter of Sally Field, who tries to live life to the full whilst her health goes rapidly downhill. Julia won a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for 'Steel Magnolias', and this second critical success opened the door to much bigger and better opportunities for her - and also boosted her earning power considerably! She also got engaged to co-star Dylan McDermott, but the engagement was short-lived.
Next came one of Julia’s biggest ever box office hits, when she landed the female lead opposite Richard Gere in 'Pretty Woman'. Julia played a prostitute who’s hired as a week-long escort by a handsome corporate raider, and the unlikely couple wind up falling in love in a Cinderella story with a twentieth-century twist. The film was a runaway smash hit: it cost $14 million, but grossed $178 million in America alone! Julia won a second Golden Globe for her role and she was widely hailed as Hollywood’s latest female superstar.
Julia’s private life, however, made her a popular subject in the tabloids. Whilst shooting her next movie, 'Flatliners', which tells the story of a group of medical students who undertake a macabre experiment in order to learn more about the afterlife, she enjoyed a whirlwind romance with co-star Keifer Sutherland, which culminated in yet another engagement. Yet just as the couple were about to get hitched, Julia discovered that Sutherland had had an affair with a stripper, and she decamped to Ireland with Kiefer’s best friend, Jason Patric.
Next came the 1991 movie, 'Sleeping With The Enemy', where Julia played an abused wife. Julia followed up this thought-provoking and disturbing movie with 'Dying Young', where she co-starred with Vincent D’Onofrio, her co-star from 'Mystic Pizza'. She was then cast as Tinkerbell in Steven Spielberg’s offbeat rendering of the Peter Pan story, 'Hook' - but the movie wasn’t popular, and was panned by the critics.
Amazingly, Julia had been working on a volume of her own poems during this hectic period of film-making, but eventually decided not to publish them. She decided to slow down and reduce her workload, and became far more selective about the parts she played. Interestingly, she turned down lead parts in 'Basic Instinct' and 'Sleepless in Seattle', but returned to the big screen by playing a cameo role as herself in Robert Altman’s 'The Player'. Then in 1993, she appeared in 'The Pelican Brief', a thriller based on the novel by John Grisham, where she played a law student who discovers a connection between the assassination of two Supreme Court judges and encounters some highly dangerous characters along the way…
Julia’s private life was also a major priority over this period. She got married to the musician Lyle Lovett, whom she’d met on the set of 'The Player' in 1992. Lovett’s unconventional looks were widely criticised in the tabloids, but Julia was drawn to his maturity (he was 10 years older than her) and his breadth of worldly wisdom; he was widely read, and had studied journalism. However, the pressures of Julia’s career caused the marriage to fall apart within a short period of time, and the couple were divorced in 1995. Julia then threw herself headlong into a hectic work schedule, taking on new and ever more challenging roles.
In 1996, she played the part of an Irish housemaid in Stephen Frears’ movie, 'Mary Reilly', demonstrating deeper dimensions of her prodigious acting ability. In 1997, she scored another box-office hit, when she starred in 'My Best Friend’s Wedding', co-starring with Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett and Cameron Diaz, thus consolidating her position as one of Hollywood's top romantic comedy heroines. She repeated this success in 'Notting Hill' and 'Runaway Bride' (where she starred with Richard Gere once again), and also scored a massive hit in the tear-jerker drama 'Stepmom', alongside Susan Sarandon - who also happens to be one of Julia’s best friends in real life…
Julia’s attempts to master more serious roles paid off big-time when Stephen Soderbergh cast her as the brassy, busty, politically aware single mum in 'Erin Brockovich', where she plays a lowly employee in a law firm who stumbles across a major cover-up by a public utility company. The movie was based on a real-life story and Julia’s superlative acting in the title lead won her an Oscar for Best Actress, as well as her third Golden Globe. She followed up her Oscar success with 'The Mexican', acting opposite Brad Pitt, where she plays the girlfriend of a petty criminal who’s sent to Mexico to collect a priceless gun. Romance blossomed for Julia too, as it was whilst working on the set of 'The Mexican' that she met and fell in love with cameraman Daniel Moder, whom she married in 2002.
Since her marriage to Daniel Moder, Julia’s life has alternated between major movie successes, such as 'Ocean’s Eleven', again directed by Stephen Soderbergh, and 'America’s Sweethearts', where she played the “ugly duckling” sister of Catherine Zeta-Jones, and the growing demands of motherhood. Julia gave birth to twins in 2004, named Phinneas Walter and Hazel Patricia; in June 2007, Julia gave birth to a baby boy, Henry Daniel Moder.
In 2007, she played the role of Joanne Herring in 'Charlie Wilson's War'. The movie tells the tale of how liberal Texas congressman Charlie Wilson, played by Tom Hanks, joins forces with his sometimes lover, Houston socialite and active anti-communist Joanne Herring and CIA Operative Gust Avrakotos (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), in the largest and most successful covert operation in history - the arming of the Afghan freedom fighters in their fight against the Soviet Union. Her latest roles include 'August: Osage County' (2013) and 'The Normal Heart' (2014).
Despite her early struggles to establish herself as an actress, Julia is now one of the highest paid actors in the world, male or female, and her films have taken over $2.5 billion at the box office. Julia has her own film production company, Shoelace Productions, which produced 'Stepmom', 'Mona Lisa Smile', and a TV series called 'Queens Supreme'. She owns homes in New York and the Hollywood Hills, and also has a ranch in Taos, New Mexico. Like many leading Hollywood ladies, Julia balances her blockbusting movie career with extensive fund-raising for charity, and works for UNICEF, Paul Newman’s Hole In The Wall charity, and also has lent her name to help mobilise support for the Rett Syndrome charity - this is a rare, sometimes fatal disease, that strikes little girls between the ages of 2 and 6.