Known for her leading roles in films of several genres, from romantic comedies and dramas to thrillers and action films that helped her to become the world's highest-paid actress throughout the majority of the 1990s, Julia Fiona Roberts, one of the most bankable stars of Hollywood, was born on 28 October 1967 to Betty Lou Bredemus and Walter Grady Roberts in Smyrna, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Her parents, one-time actors and playwrights, ran a children's acting school in Decatur, Georgia, while they were expecting Julia.
In that school, Walter Roberts served as acting coach of Yolanda Denise King, the first-born child of Martin Luther King Jr and as a token of appreciation for his service, Mrs King paid the hospital bill when Julia was born. However, her parents divorced in early 1972 and her mother married Michael Motes, who was abusive and often unemployed. Nevertheless, living in Smyma since 1972, Julia attended Fitzhugh Lee Elementary School, Griffin Middle School and after graduating from Campbell High School, attended Georgia State University for studying journalism, although she wanted to be a veterinarian since her childhood, due to her love of animals. However, when her brother, Eric Roberts, achieved some success in Hollywood, Julia left the University before her graduation and headed to New York City to pursue a career in acting, where she signed up with the Click Modelling Agency and enrolled in acting classes.
Following her first television appearance as a juvenile rape victim in the first season of the series Crime Story, in the episode The Survivor, Julia Roberts made her big screen debut in Satisfaction (1988) as Daryle, a band member looking for a summer gig, along with the independent romantic comedy Mystic Plaza (1988), in which she appeared as Daisy, a Portuguese-American teenage girl working as a waitress at a pizza parlour. Both the two youth-oriented movies introduced her to a new audience who instantly fell in love with her pretty presence, while the famous film critic Roger Ebert described her as a major beauty with fierce energy.
However, before those two films, Julia appeared in a very small role, when recommended by her older brother, actor Eric Roberts, she played a bit part with only two words of dialogue, as his sister in Blood Red (1989), a drama set in the late 1800s. But although technically it was her first film, completed in 1986, it was not released until 1989.
Nevertheless, Julia’s career took off with her portrayal of a young bride with diabetes in Steel Magnolias (1989), featuring Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis and Daryl Hannah.
The film was a critical and commercial success when it was released and although director Herbert Ross was notoriously tough on Julia and Sally Field admitting that he went after Julia with a vengeance, she won her first Golden Globe Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role and also earned her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in the film.
However, Julia Roberts established herself as a leading actress and gained worldwide recognition when she starred in the signature movie Pretty Woman (1990), in which she played the role of Vivian Ward, an assertive hooker with a heart of gold, opposite Richard Gere, playing the role of a business tycoon. Eight actresses, including Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Daryl Hannah, turned down the role before Julia Roberts was offered it and it ignited her superstar career. While the film was a huge hit, it made Julia a household name and for her performance in the film, she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical. Eventually, the film became a genuine phenomenon, grossing nearly half a billion dollars worldwide and the red dress Julia wore in the film, became one of the most famous gowns in cinema.
In her next film Flatliners (1990), a supernatural thriller, Julia Roberts appeared as one of five medical students conducting bizarre experiments, putting themselves into near-death experiences, trying to understand what happens after death. After that, in Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), she played a battered wife, who fakes her death and moves to escape from her controlling abusive husband. The film was panned by critics, but was a box office success. She then starred with Denzel Washington in the commercially successful thriller The Pelican Brief (1993), in which she performed the role of a young law student who uncovers a conspiracy, putting herself in danger. However, her subsequent films, which include I Love Trouble (1994), Prêt-à-Porter (1994), Something to Talk About (1995) and Mary Reilly (1996) failed to impress the public and the critics. However, the historical drama, Michael Collins (1996), in which she portrayed Kitty Kiernan, the fiancée of the assassinated Irish revolutionary leader, was the second-highest-grossing film in the history of Ireland, behind only Titanic, although overlooked by the American audience.
Nevertheless, Julia Roberts enjoyed renewed success in the romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), in which she starred opposite Dermot Mulroney and Cameron Diaz and played Julianne Potter, trying to sabotage the wedding of her best friend, as she realized that she is in love with him, which gave the genre fresh life that had been missing in Hollywood for some time. Considered to be one of the best romantic comedies of all time with a charming performance from Julia Roberts, the film was a global box office hit. In Stepmom (1998), her first time working as an executive producer, Julia appeared alongside Susan Sarandon, revolving around the complicated relationship between a terminally-ill mother and the future stepmother of her children. The film mostly focused on Sarandon and Roberts and they both earned a lot of critical praise for their work.
Since Julia Roberts was considered one of the biggest movie stars of the ‘90s, it was all but obvious that she would be the automatic choice, if a film needed somebody to play a movie star. Naturally, Julia was paired with Hugh Grant in the romantic comedy Notting Hill (1999), portraying a famous actress who falls in love with a struggling bookstore owner. The film, an exemplar of modern romantic comedies in mainstream culture, was received well by critics and proved to be the biggest British hit in the history of cinema, while Julia was described by the press as the queen of romantic comedy. In the same year, Julia reunited with Richard Gere, her hero in Pretty Woman, for Runaway Bride (1999), in which she appeared as Maggie Carpenter, a spirited and attractive young woman with several unsuccessful relationships, who has left a trail of fiancés waiting for her at the altar on their wedding day, nervous about being married. The film received generally negative reviews from critics, but was a commercial success, grossing $309 million worldwide.
Julia Roberts became the first actress to be paid $20 million for appearing in the leading role, the role of real-life environmental activist Erin Brockovich (2000), a law-office clerk who helped the citizens to win a multimillion-dollar settlement against a utility company for health problems caused by the company’s pollution of their drinking water. For her performance in the film, Julia Roberts earned the Academy Award for Best Actress and became the first actress to be inducted into the Hollywood Reporter’s list of 50 most influential women in show business. Following the success of Erin Brockovich, Julia Roberts appeared in her first road gangster comedy film, The Mexican (2001), with her long-time friend Brad Pitt, although the two shared relatively little screen time together. Her other two films in the same year include America’s Sweetheart (2001), in which she played the sister and publicist of Gwen Harrison, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and the blockbuster comedy Ocean’s Eleven (2001), also starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.
The subsequent important films of Julia Roberts during the first decade of the 2000s include Monalisa Smile (2003), which garnered largely lukewarm reviews by critics; Closer (2004), co-starring Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen; Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), in which she starred as socialite Joanne Herring, the love interest of Democratic Texas Congressman Charles Wilson, opposite Tom Hanks and earned her sixth Golden Globe nomination. She played a CIA agent collaborating with another spy to carry out a complicated con, opposite Clive Owen, in the comic thriller Duplicity (2009), for which Julia received her seventh Golden Globe nomination. After that, Julia played a US Army captain on a one-day leave in the romantic comedy Valentine’s Day (2010) and then starred as an author travelling to far-flung exotic locations to find her inner self following a divorce in Eat Pray Love (2010). In the family drama August: Osage County (2013), Julia Roberts starred alongside Meryl Streep, who played her savagely critical mother in a dysfunctional family that re-united into the family house when their patriarch suddenly disappeared. Her performance in the film earned her nominations for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award and Screen Actor’s Guild Award, among other accolades.
In her personal life, Julia Roberts had romantic relationships with several actors, namely Jason Patric, Dylan McDermott, Liam Neeson and Matthew Perry. She was briefly engaged to British-Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland, whom she met while filming Flatliners in 1990. However, Roberts broke the engagement three days before the wedding scheduled on 14 June 1991, allegedly because Sutherland had been meeting with a nightclub dancer, Amanda Rice and on the day of the scheduled wedding, she went to Ireland with Sutherland's friend Jason Patric. She married country singer Lyle Lovett on 25 June 1993, but they separated in March 1995 and eventually divorced. After that Julia began dating actor Benjamin Bratt in 1998 and announced that they are no longer a couple in 2001. She met her husband, cinematographer Daniel Richard Moder, on the set of The Mexican in 2000, while she was still dating Benjamin Bratt. However, as Moder was married to Vera Steimberg, he filed for divorce and after it was settled, they wedded on 4 July 2002, at her ranch in Taos, New Mexico. Today, they are living happily with their three children.
Throughout her career, Julia Roberts lent her support to numerous charitable organizations, including UNICEF and the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and has made visits to many different countries to promote goodwill. In 2002, she stated that she has been converted to Hinduism for spiritual satisfaction and in September 2009, gave her children new names after Hindu gods.