The Rolling Stone Interview: Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts is on the phone, and she’s pissed. She tries to deny her mood; she’s claiming she’s “really apathetic” about reports that her marriage to Lyle Lovett, 36, is finished. But after she is asked to set the record straight about the trouble she’s stirred up by dancing close in a Manhattan restaurant with Reality Bites star Ethan Hawke, 23, Roberts’ terse tone is tough to misinterpret.
“I danced. Is that a felony?”
Then it’s all bullshit?
“Sure it is,” she says. The 26-year-old actress’s voice goes soft. “I guess people have nothing better to do.”
Trouble seems to follow Roberts — it’s in the title of her new reporters-in-love comedy with Nick Nolte, I Love Trouble, and in nearly all of the media coverage of her off-camera doings. “You guys are like the voice of doom,” she recently told the press in London, where she’s filming Mary Reilly (she plays the chambermaid to John Malkovich’s Dr. Jekyll) and fending off questions about the absence of her husband and her wedding band. Almost immediately after she sneaked off to Indiana to marry country maverick Lovett on June 27 of last year, the tabloids began predicting the odd coupling of the Pretty Woman and the self-professed geek wouldn’t last much longer than their whirlwind three-week courtship. The evidence cited: Roberts and Lovett keep separate residences — his house in Texas, her apartment in New York City — and don’t spend much time together even in the house they rent while working in Los Angeles. Many cynically recalled that Roberts had always shown a clear-cut MO when it came to romance: Love them and leave them.
In 1988, Roberts split from her Satisfaction co-star Liam Neeson, then 36; the next year she canceled her engagement to Steel Magnolias co-star Dylan McDermott; two years after that, she called off her wedding to Flatliners co-star Kiefer Sutherland three days before the ceremony and flew off to Ireland with Sutherland’s friend and Lost Boys co-star Jason Patric. Then Roberts and Lovett both appeared in The Player, Robert Altman’s Hollywood satire. Cut to May of this year with the groom in Paris taking on another acting role, in Pret-a-Porter — Altman’s spoof of the fashion industry in which Roberts has a cameo as a reporter — and the bride in New York taking on Hawke on the dance floor. In a press release, Roberts made it clear that she and Hawke were out with others and that dinner was purely business. They may co-star in the film Pagan Babies.
While one might reasonably assume that where there’s smoke, there’s two sticks being rubbed together, Roberts insists that, once again, it’s the media obsessively fanning thin air. When she took a two-year break in her career after Hook, the media suggested a series of causes: anorexia, heroin addiction, nervous breakdown. Roberts denied all charges. Her blockbuster return six months ago in The Pelican Brief was a vindication. But it’s clear that Roberts is sick of the whole situation. “Everybody has a job to do,” she says. “I appreciate that. But at the same time, my job is to act, not to clear things up, not to fill in the dotted lines of the ifs, ands, buts, whys and hows of my life. I have too often succumbed to the pressure of feeling that’s my responsibility. I have been fleeced enough times, lied about enough times, raked over the coals, misrepresented, misunderstood and misconceived enough.”
Since she previously told me how happy she and Lovett are, I suggest it would be unfortunate both if the marriage were over and if a story ran in which she proclaimed fealty to a passion that no longer existed. Also, Roberts has a history of springing surprises. She did a series of interviews just days prior to her marriage in which she kept mum about the impending news. Her right, certainly, but since she was so good at keeping secrets, we had to ask if there were any more in store.
“It’s interesting,” says Roberts, measuring her words. “This is where the press, in their zeal to cover a story, can bother me. Do I find it really unfortunate that a person like yourself, with whom I’ve talked, laughed and had really good times, is approaching me with a line of questioning that I find insulting? This is what the press has the potential to do — you’ve done it in this moment — and it shows how power can be so grossly misused.”