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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Julia Roberts: The reinvention of America’s sweetheart

On Julia Roberts' birthday, we take a look at her rich, versatile body of work which includes hits like Pretty Woman, The Pelican Brief and Erin Brockovich.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
Updated: October 28, 2021 12:21:41 pm
julia robertsJulia Roberts in a still from the movie Pretty Woman. (Photo: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

There are, unfortunately as it may be, only a handful of female movie stars who are showered with adjectives like ‘bankable’ and ‘solid’ long after they have stopped appearing in movies frequently, or giving unmissable hits. Julia Roberts, who turns 54 today, is certainly one of them. She might not be seen as often on our screens anymore, but remains an icon.

The 90s belonged to Roberts, and so did the early noughties. Pretty Woman, Sleeping with the Enemy, The Pelican Brief, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Notting Hill, Runaway Bride, Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Closer — her movies earned top dollars at the box office and starred her as the female lead or in some cases, the singular driving force of the project. Not only did the actor took home the big bucks for the success of these films, but she also managed to cement a place in the hearts of her audience — general public and critics alike. No one could deny the charm and charisma of Julia Roberts, the movie star.

After a decade of unprecedented success, Julia Roberts was finally getting handsomely paid for her hard work. According to an article by The Hollywood Reporter, the actor was given an impressive $25 million for the 2003 movie Mona Lisa Smile, which was unheard at the time. Incidentally, it was also a movie which was panned by the critics at large. It has been a while since Roberts has delivered a hit on the big screen, but she has been making sure to tear away from the past which boxed her as America’s Sweetheart. Not that she ever stopped stunning the fans with her gorgeous smile or her believable performances, but lately, she has been more open to experimenting and challenging herself.

The last few years, Roberts has managed to surprise her loyalists by choosing to opt for meatier, more serious roles. Her performances in the family dramas Ben is Back and Wonder won her accolades, and her digital debut with the Amazon Prime series Homecoming was also well-received. In Homecoming particularly, Roberts, devoid of her trademark million-dollar smile, portrayed a damaged, confused and vulnerable employee who works for a corporate-run facility for veterans.

But Homecoming came out three years ago, and it has been a while since we saw Julia grace the screens again. According to reports, she is set to star in a movie with old friend and contemporary George Clooney. The film, called Ticket to Paradise, is currently in production.

In an earlier interview with Variety, Julia had spoken about the America’s Sweetheart tag she had involuntarily found herself attached to by the media. The label was meant to signify her endearing on-screen persona which many found relatable. “I didn’t feel like it was the beauty pageant sash, like ‘America’s sweethearts.’ It was the name of the movie I was in so it just seemed an easy, ‘Oh, okay, let’s just stitch those two things together.’ I’m very unemotional about stuff like that. I don’t feel like I have to then live up to something or that it’s some sort of pressure understanding of me,” the actor had said.

Julia Roberts might not have embraced all sides of that somewhat tacky tag, but she is without question still a force to be reckoned with.

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