Julia Roberts: «Could we do Pretty Woman today? Sensitivity has changed

This article is published in number 16 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until April 18, 2023

“Hello, I’m Julia.” We know it, and how if we know it, we’ll answer it, never was a presentation more superfluous. Julia Roberts hints at a laugh, there is no escaping perennial fame. She stood up, holds out her hand and unleashes her boundless smile, the most famous in Hollywood. Here at the Watches and Wonders fair in Geneva she has just left a thick trail of stardom behind her, everyone is looking at her, everyone is trying to photograph her, everyone is comparing her image today – new fringe messed up above the eyes, lilac suit and high heels – with the one seen in one of his films.

We are in a tiny room, she makes herself comfortable and starts chatting: «It’s the first time I’ve been to Switzerland. Is your editorial office in Milan? I’ve never even been to Milan, I would love to see it». Her deep voice, continuous eye contact, she is happy with this business trip: «It is one of the great advantages of my job, seeing new places, meeting people. Today is a beautiful day”. Another smile from hers. You are here as the campaign ambassador Chopard Loves Cinema of the maison, which has just announced that it will use 80 percent recycled steel for its watches. But how do you measure time with Julia Roberts, a rare everlasting Hollywood diva? Her biography says 55 years, almost fifty films, a dozen TV series, a glorious career that began in 1987, dotted with awards (an Oscar for Erin Brockovich), romantic comedies that made history, a 21-year marriage to cinematographer Danny Moder, three children. To devote herself to the family, she has reduced her commitments on the set in recent years, her last film dates back to last year, Ticket to Paradisewith George Clooney.

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Didn’t she miss working?
«No, because when I had my children, I had already been working for 18 years. I felt I had earned the freedom to take as much time as I wanted to be with the kids. The great thing is that having three children is a great adventure, so I didn’t miss the other great adventure, that of leaving to go to a set».

Had she always wanted a family?
«I think so, I’ve never consciously made plans, I’ve never thought about how many children I wanted to have. But once I met my husband I knew we were going to have children and today we are so lucky to have three sweet and healthy boys.” He bangs his knuckles on the table. “This is for superstition.” He laughs.

She has been married for 21 years, such lasting marriages in Hollywood are rare. How you do it?
«I simply met the right person, he is my partner. I can’t tell what the secret is, it’s really magic».

Is it true that you write letters to each other?
“Yes, it’s true. We speak the same language, we understand each other deeply. I think this is the basis of the best relationships, love or friendship».

What makes you happy today?
“Being with my family.”

She has always been the queen of rom-coms, but has only starred in recent years Ticket to Paradise. Is the era of rom-coms over?
«I don’t think it’s over, rather it’s rare to find good or otherwise suitable scripts for me. Having done so many rom-coms in the past, I didn’t realize how difficult it is to make good ones. Mine was not a choice: the right proposals never arrived. Then it came Ticket to Paradise with George (Clooneyed) and it was a dream to work with him».

You are longtime friends.
“Yes, we met many years ago and the great thing is that we became friends instantly.”

What binds you?
“Joy. We are happy people, we like to make others feel good. He’s one of those who makes me laugh a lot, when we were in Australia filming Ticket to Paradise we spent a lot of time together, singing and playing. In a way, we are like brother and sister.”

«There are so many films that, if seen again today, would lead us to ask ourselves questions about the climate of the gods times where they were made

Speaking of romantic comedies, do you think it would be possible to make a film like that today pretty woman? The change in sensitivity is enormous, I quote two comments I read on the Internet: «pretty woman suggests that sex workers want to be saved” and “only a man can save Cinderella”.
“There are so many films that, reviewed now, would lead us to ask ourselves questions, to question ourselves about the climate of the times in which they were made. Even if today we watched some television programs from when I was young, we would be amazed at how much some things could make us laugh. But that’s why we keep telling different stories. Times change”.

Let’s talk about our times. Who are the most interesting actors of today?
«There are historical periods in which the best are concentrated in a specific age group: forty-year-old women, thirty-year-old men. Today, however, that is no longer the case. Anyway, to answer his question: my niece (Emma Roberts, ed) is an excellent actress, Florence Pugh. Lucas Hedges and Timothée Chalamet both make very interesting choices».

Will his children follow in his footsteps?
«I don’t think so, they are still teenagers looking for their interests, but they seem more attracted to me by the direction of photography, which is my husband’s job, even if for now it’s a hobby».

Are they proud to have a movie star for a mother?
“They don’t see me like this: for them I’m just their mother.”

Among the most famous jokes of your characters, which is the one they repeat most often? «Nice mistake», to the snobbish saleswoman of pretty womanor “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy and asking him to love her,” she tells Hugh Grant in Notting Hill?
“’I’m just a girl’ etc. It’s a very sweet joke, Richard Curtis wrote it, my dear friend. When someone repeats it to me I feel great pride».

What is your favorite part of your job?
“I like everything. When I read a script and start imagining bringing the character to life, when I’m on set and feel the pressure to do well. Maybe that’s why I’ve been able to do this job for so many years: a huge sense of devotion. I love”.

Time passing is often a problem in Hollywood. Michelle Yeoh, in her Oscar acceptance speech, said: “Ladies, don’t let anyone tell you that you are already past your moment of glory. Don’t give up.” What do you think?
“It’s a beautiful speech, he expressed an emotion that came from the heart at a time when it is so difficult to organize one’s thoughts”.

There is a problem with ageismdiscrimination against older people, in Hollywood?
«Of course, it’s not a secret, it’s there for all to see. We have made some progress, but there is great room for improvement».

Have you ever had it?
“No, never tried. But there is always time…».

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