“My life is a lot more nor­mal”

She is still known as the de­fin­i­tive “pretty woman”, but de­spite public fas­ci­na­tion with her, Ju­lia Roberts is liv­ing a low-key ex­is­tence away from the spot­light

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - In­ter­view by KERRY PAR­NELL

She will al­ways be the de­fin­i­tive “pretty woman” and still has her pick of the best Hol­ly­wood film roles, but Ju­lia Roberts tells Stel­lar that her most re­ward­ing ac­com­plish­ment has been lead­ing an un­event­ful life with her hus­band and three kids.

“All those in­se­cu­ri­ties I had are painful, but in the end it cre­ates a strength”

If your face tells the story of your life as you age, then Ju­lia Roberts has a par­tic­u­larly happy and ful­fill­ing tale to im­part. Hav­ing re­cently turned 50, she re­flects on a the­ory shared with her by friend Owen Wil­son as she sits down with Stel­lar for an ex­clu­sive Aus­tralian in­ter­view. “Owen talks about how you get the face you de­serve – that’s re­ally the face that you earn. There’s a line in the movie [Roberts’s and Wil­son’s new film Won­der]: ‘What’s in­side is where you’re go­ing and what’s on our face is where we’ve been.’ And it’s true – it’s sweet and it’s won­der­ful.”

Given this is the very per­son loved the world over as the eter­nal “pretty woman”, who be­came the most pop­u­lar and bank­able movie star of her gen­er­a­tion, you might say the same about her own life. But Roberts in­sists other­wise.

“Look,” she says as she waves a hand across her face, “there’s a team out there that have done all this.”

The night be­fore meet­ing with Stel­lar in a Lon­don ho­tel, Roberts caught up with her Not­ting Hill di­rec­tor Richard Cur­tis and his part­ner Emma Freud.

“I went to Richard’s for din­ner with he and his dear Emma and their kids,” Roberts says. “And it was so funny be­cause Richard can only tell the truth. He said, ‘I for­get you can do this,’ be­cause I came right af­ter [a day of] work. He said, ‘I for­get this can hap­pen to you!’”

In any event, Roberts in­sists with a shrug, the key to look­ing good – aside from that life well-lived – is pretty sim­ple. “Wa­ter is the an­swer to ev­ery­thing,” she says. “And sleep, which is im­pos­si­ble for most mums, of course. And to find that sense of joy. When I’m grumpy, my eyes are su­per puffy.” She does not pay much mind to mir­rors, and even less so to the nar­cis­sis­tic prac­tice of the selfie.

“We have be­come a cul­ture that’s so self-ex­am­in­ing and so self-pro­mot­ing that it just be­comes too over­whelm­ing,” she says. “Some­times I think, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t even have time to look in the mir­ror be­fore I left the house, what kind of a mess am I drop­ping the kids off at school?’ Maybe less self-ex­am­i­na­tion is the key to be­ing gor­geous.”

De­spite be­ing a typ­i­cally cold morn­ing in Lon­don, Roberts ap­pears nei­ther grumpy nor puffy-eyed. Clad in a red Gucci planet-print py­jama shirt, black skinny jeans and an­kle boots, tor­toise­shell glasses and her trade­mark tou­sled curls, she is as beau­ti­ful as ever. There is no army of press of­fi­cers in the room to mon­i­tor ques­tions, although she makes her dis­plea­sure known when the topic of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in Hol­ly­wood is raised, re­fus­ing to an­swer. (“I’m cu­ri­ous why you would ask me,” she says briskly.) Yet she is gen­uine and open, even giv­ing this writer a friendly hug.

Roberts has long been an ob­ject of fas­ci­na­tion, but she has deftly man­aged to stay out of the gos­sip pages, liv­ing as un­event­ful a life as pos­si­ble with hus­band Danny Moder and their three chil­dren, 12-year-old twins Phin­naeus (Finn) and Hazel, and son Henry, 10.

“I think my life is a lot more nor­mal than peo­ple might ex­pect,” she says of her day-to-day. “I cer­tainly know I have this ex­tra­or­di­nary job and have been to all these great places, but we’re all the same per­son. By six o’clock I am not the only per­son sweat­ing try­ing to get din­ner made and clean­ing up.”

Won­der marks a mile­stone for Roberts – it is her 50th movie. There is a nice sym­me­try to this, given she turned 50 eight days be­fore meet­ing with Stel­lar. Oc­ca­sions like this tend to spark re­flec­tion; asked to con­sider the young woman who made her break­through in the com­ing-of-age drama Mys­tic Pizza in 1988, Roberts gives it some thought be­fore re­ply­ing. “I wouldn’t give her any dif­fer­ent ad­vice,” she says. “My com­pass then – which I feel is my com­pass now when it comes to work – was prop­erly in­tended. I think I al­ways knew why I was do­ing what I was do­ing, and in that re­gard it has all worked out. All the crip­pling in­se­cu­ri­ties I did have as a young per­son, as I think most teenagers have, they ul­ti­mately serve you. They feel so painful at the time, it’s all so aw­ful… but in the end, it cre­ates a strength.”

Yet Roberts re­cently ad­mit­ted that dur­ing those early years, as she notched suc­cess af­ter suc­cess in Hol­ly­wood, “I was my pri­or­ity, a self­ish lit­tle brat.” She said it took mar­ry­ing cin­e­matog­ra­pher Moder in 2002 to change that. “I mar­ried a won­der­ful hu­man be­ing who I feel has re­ally just rooted me even more in my­self,” she tells Stel­lar.

Still, that early self-de­ter­mi­na­tion clearly served her well. Roberts was the first woman to com­mand $20 mil­lion for a movie, and her net worth is es­ti­mated to be around $170 mil­lion.

She be­lieves Erin Brock­ovich marks the point she fi­nally knew she had truly ar­rived – the 2000 film earned Roberts an Os­car and ce­mented her place in the Hol­ly­wood elite. At the time, Roberts and her peers were in the midst of a run that in many ways marked a fi­nal golden age for Hol­ly­wood – when so­cial me­dia, re­al­ity TV stars and in­flu­encers were still in their in­fancy. Nostal­gists now lament that the likes of Roberts, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt and Ge­orge Clooney were the last of a breed that no longer ex­ists: a good old-fash­ioned movie star.

“Well, we’re not dead!” Roberts protests with a laugh, although she agrees that the sen­ti­ment is pretty much true. “Ev­ery­thing has changed so much from when I, Tom Hanks, Ge­orge and Brad started. So­cial me­dia and Youtube and phones with cam­eras didn’t ex­ist then. It re­ally made the idea of be­ing an ac­tor a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, unique. It wasn’t as ac­ces­si­ble, in­ter­change­able. I think that’s what peo­ple are miss­ing. It’s a by­gone era.”

Roberts now has enough ca­chet and good­will in the in­dus­try that she can af­ford to pick and choose her roles, and she does so care­fully, av­er­ag­ing one movie a year. “It’s easy to say no,” she says. “For­tu­nately, I have found things that hold my heart enough to want to par­tic­i­pate in them.”

The script for Won­der, based on RJ Pala­cio’s best­selling novel of the same name, grabbed Roberts’s at­ten­tion to the point she con­tacted the pro­duc­tion team to say she wanted in.the book, which fol­lows a 10-year-old boy with cran­io­fa­cial dif­fer­ences named Au­gust Pull­man ( Room’s Ja­cob Trem­blay), was a word-of-mouth phe­nom­e­non that sold five mil­lion copies and ended up on school cur­ricu­lums world­wide. Di­rec­tor Stephen Ch­bosky puts it on a par with To Kill A Mock­ing­bird in terms of its im­pact on young read­ers.

Roberts says that as soon as she read the book, she knew she had to play Au­gust’s mum. “I thought, ‘This was the great­est thing I have ever read,’” she says. “I came home on a Mon­day and [told my kids], let’s put the book we’re read­ing aside and we’re start­ing a new one. We all read the book to­gether. My kids were eight and two 10-year-olds at the time. This was some­thing they were all equally in­vested in, equally ea­ger to hear ev­ery night and dis­cuss at din­ner or break­fast, shar­ing what hap­pened. As a par­ent you want to teach your kids to be nice, have man­ners and be com­pas­sion­ate, and this was like a man­ual [for that].”

In the film, Au­gust dreams of anonymity, but as his sis­ter tells him in one scene, “It’s im­pos­si­ble to blend in when you are born to stand out.” Roberts says she can re­late.

“Of course I want to be anony­mous,” she says. “I do get ner­vous around peo­ple and feel shy and protective when I am out with my kids.”

As a rule, she de­clines to take pho­tos with fans, but she ad­mits her chil­dren are teach­ing her to break down a few bar­ri­ers. “They say, ‘So, Mum, if any­body asks you for a pic­ture just say OK.’”

She tells of an en­counter just days ear­lier in San Fran­cisco, when a man asked her to take a pic­ture with him and his dog, say­ing his mother would be thrilled to see he had met Ju­lia Roberts. She obliged. “And as he walked away my son said, ‘Mum, I am so glad you did that, you just made his day’. It made me feel like some kind of su­per­hero of kind­ness. I’m glad they are teach­ing me. It’s like they help me stand up straighter when I walk down the street and not feel em­bar­rassed hav­ing my face stick­ing out there. It’s a nice feel­ing.” Won­der is in cin­e­mas from Thurs­day, Novem­ber 30.

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