The Julia Roberts Interview

by Tony Phillips

When William Shakespeare penned the line, “Beware the ides of March,” he should have appended it to read, “except for Julia Roberts.” This superstar has the proverbial “no worries” cornered this month. Riding high on her Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in Erin Brockovich, Julia is not only busy picking out a dress for that ceremony on March 25th, but also one for the premiere of her new movie, The Mexican, which bows in March as well. We caught up with her in the tiny breather she allowed herself between both films. Julia greeted the press in towering Sergio Rossi mules. Possibly a hold-over from her Steel Magnolia days, the heels were pink, her character Shelby’s “signature color.” Like her mules, Julia can’t be thinking anything but pink as she rolls into her very own Women’s History Month. In the following interview, the superstar takes on Erin’s enhanced bosom, casting a vote for herself in the age of chads and that 20 million dollar paycheck.

What was the appeal of playing Erin Brockovich?
The energy with which she approaches her life is really appealing as an actress.

How did you approach such an outrageous character?
My only concern was, when you take someone who visually is so – by my sort of modest and conservative standards of dress – provocative and really puts it out there, you don't want it to look like a movie contrivance. You want to seem authentic and you want it to seem as much a part of her as her hair, her voice, or anything else. That was really my only trepidation.

Erin’s got a mouth on her; she uses some foul language and lots of four-letter words.
I think that her use of language is to demand – “Listen to my voice. Stop looking at my shoes and listen to what I'm saying to you.”

Was this movie a test for you to get away from romantic comedies a la Notting Hill?
I just do the movies that are good. If they were all good romantic comedies, that’s all I'd do.

What accounts for your stellar career and your continued success?
It’s a combination of things. It’s never just one element of what makes it the best whatever. It’s a lot of things. And in this case of Erin Brockovich, it’s a great part and really great story. And it’s more cleavage than God ever saw fit to give me. It’s a lot of things; you can never reduce good or bad down to one thing. Ergo, when a movie sucks, it’s not just me.

Will you vote for yourself on the Oscar ballot?
Honey, you’d vote for yourself if you saw your name on that ballot. It’s an easy check.

Did you feel at ease in the revealing, skin-tight get-ups you wore in Erin Brockovich?
It was a little bit of an adjustment because I have something in my closet that I would call a dress. And then Erin has something in her closet that I would call a dre–. The whole part that covers your ass just isn’t there. So, yeah, it did take a minute, but then you realize you’re either gonna do it or you’re not gonna do it. So you just kinda gotta go with it. Once I got used to it and the crew got used to it – because I’d come to rehearsals in my little T-shirt and my sweatpants and my flip-flops and everybody’s cool – and then I’d come on the set to shoot and everybody’s like, “How did that happen?” So once we all got comfortable with it, it was easy.

Did men like you better when you were dressed as Erin Brockovich?
No, they like me lots all the time!

You work nonstop.
I’m taking a little break. I’m taking a little time off. It’s a break, man, and the length of time will reveal itself when I decide to go back to work. Which tomorrow, if I read a great script, I guess my break is over. When something good comes along, then I’ll take it.

Talk to me about your evolution from Mystic Pizza to Erin Brockovich.

I’ve never felt so 50 in my life. Yeah, she’s a different girl. Jeez, I hope so. That was 15 years ago. She weighed about 20 pounds more and she knew about 50 things less, so I’d say different.

What motivates you in your career?
The reason I do what I do has always been the same and has always been clear to me, so I think that’s what makes the more challenging bits easier. I like it and that it’s fun and that it’s a great gig to have.

What about the constant media scrutiny?
This is my chosen profession and I really love it. The good had always outweighed the bad. Scrutiny is the comments of a stranger who's not willing to say it to your face. So what does that really amount to? Not a lot, really. Would I be a dental hygienist and have no one say bad things about me? No.

Are you happy about where you are now?
I feel very good about it. I am a grown up. I’m all grown up, honey.

What about that band you wore to The Golden Globes? It resembles a wedding band. Tongues are wagging about the possibility of you marrying Benjamin Bratt.
Those tongues are blind people. I was wearing the same stuff at the People’s Choice and the same stuff last year at the Emmys.

Any thoughts on your place at the top of the Hollywood food chain?
That’s good. You know what it is, it’s kind of like the bonus round where it has nothing to do with why or what I’m doing or how I’m doing it. It’s kind of the bonus round of Twenty-One.

And your $20 million paycheck for Erin Brockovich?
It doesn’t make me a better actor. It doesn’t make me work harder or less hard. Nothing changes because of how much you get paid except for how much you get paid and the fact that everyone wants to talk about how much you get paid – which, where I come from, is an inappropriate question to ask someone, no offense.

How would you define your relationship with the media?
You guys aren’t as aggressive as you used to be. I don't respond to two things: Stupidity and disrespectfulness. All I do here is all I do when I’m at work, which is react.

How do you cope with being Julia Roberts, the big movie star?
I’ve been Julia Roberts for 33 years, so I’m pretty down with it.

It seems like some of Erin’s fiery, outspoken personality has rubbed off on you while shooting the movie.
Normally, you’re waiting around. You’ve gone through rehearsal and you really need some caffeine. On this particular movie, I’d be like: “Where the fuck is my cappuccino? What is the matter with you people?” I don’t normally ask for things like that.

It’s been reported that you don’t get along with all your male leads.
You act your ass off, and nobody will ever appreciate it, because you don't go to the press and go, “Yeah, wasn’t it great? The chemistry was great and I hated him.” And you're sitting at home going, “Where is my Oscar for enduring?” and nobody will ever know, except your mama.

What’s the biggest misconception out there about you?
That I'm a bitch. That's probably the biggest misconception. Because I'm tall and I'm really smart. You know what it is? I have lots of ideas and I'm willing to share them. But I think that when you're energetic and aggressive about things, it can be intimidating to people who are not very smart themselves.