Born: October 28, 1967
Born during the late ’60s, Georgia native Julia Roberts was raised in a fervently pro-theater environment. Her parents regularly hosted acting and writing workshops, and both of the Roberts children (Julia and her brother Eric) showed an interest in the performing arts at an early age. Ironically enough, Eric was the first to break into film; in 1978, one year after their father died of lung cancer at 47, Eric_Roberts starred in director Frank_Pierson’s psychological drama King of the Gypsies. Though her older brother would go on to have a solid acting career, it was, of course, Julia Roberts who earned a spot among Hollywood’s elite.
After making her film debut in Blood_Red — which wouldn’t be released until 1989, despite having been completed in 1986 — and appearing in several late ’80s television features, Roberts got her first real break in the 1988 made-for-cable drama Satisfaction. That role, consequently, led to her first significant supporting role — a feisty pizza parlor waitress in 1989’s Mystic_Pizza with Annabeth_Gish, Lili_Taylor, and a then 19-year-old Matt_Damon. While Mystic_Pizza was not a star-making film for Roberts, it certainly helped earn her the credentials she needed to land the part of Shelby, an ill-fated would-be mother in Steel_Magnolias. The 1989 tearjerker found her acting alongside Sally_Field and Shirley MacLaine, and culminated in an Oscar nomination for Roberts.
While the success of Steel_Magnolias played no small part in launching Roberts’ career, and undoubtedly secured her role in the mediocre Flatliners (1990) with former flame Kiefer_Sutherland, it was director Garry_Marshall’s romantic comedy Pretty_Woman with Richard_Gere that served as her true breakthrough role. Roberts’ part in Pretty_Woman (a good-hearted prostitute who falls in love with a millionaire client) made the young actress a household name and cemented what would become a permanent spot in tabloid fodder. Roberts broke off her engagement with Sutherland in 1991, just three days before they were scheduled to be married, and surprised the American public in 1993, when she began her two-year marriage to country singer Lyle_Lovett. Roberts’ personal life kept her name in the spotlight despite a host of uneven performances throughout the early ’90s (neither 1991’s Dying_Young or Sleeping With the Enemy garnered much acclaim), as did a reputed feud with Steven_Spielberg during the filming of Hook (1991).
Luckily, Roberts made decidedly less embarrassing headlines in 1993, when her role alongside future Oscar winner Denzel_Washington in The_Pelican_Brief reaffirmed her status as a dramatic actress. Her career, however, took a turn back to the mediocre throughout the following year; both Prêt-à-Porter and I_Love_Trouble proved commercial flops, and Mary_Reilly (1996) fizzled at the box office as well. The downward spiral reversed directions once again with 1996’s Michael_Collins and Conspiracy_Theory with Mel_Gibson, and led to several successful comic roles including Notting_Hill with Hugh_Grant, Runaway_Bride, and most notably, My_Best_Friend’s_Wedding with Rupert_Everett and a then virtually unknown Cameron_Diaz.
Roberts’ biggest success didn’t present itself until 2000, though, when she delivered an Oscar-winning performance playing the title role in Steven_Soderbergh’s Erin_Brockovich. The film, based on the true story of Erin_Brockovich, a single mother who, against all odds, won a heated battle against corporate environmental offenders, earned Roberts a staggering 20-million-dollar salary. Officially the highest paid actress in Hollywood, Roberts went on to star in 2001’s America’s_Sweethearts with Billy_Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and John_Cusack, as well as The_Mexican with Brad_Pitt. While on the set of The_Mexican, Roberts met cameraman Danny Moder, whom she would marry in 2001 almost immediately after ending a four-year relationship with fellow actor Benjamin_Bratt. Indeed, 2001 was a banner year for Roberts; in addition to America’s_Sweethearts and The_Mexican, Roberts starred in the crime caper Ocean’s_Eleven, in which she rejoined former co-stars Brad_Pitt and Matt_Damon, and acted for the first time with George_Clooney and Don_Cheadle.