“I’m too tall to be a girl, I never had enough dresses to be a lady, I wouldn’t call myself a woman. I’d say I’m somewhere between a chick and a broad.”—Julia Roberts.
It seems hard to believe, but Julia Roberts has been a fixture in Hollywood for three decades now. There were her early breakout roles in Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman, her time dominating the ’90s with rom-coms like My Best Friend’s Wedding, and later meaty roles like Erin Brockovich and 2018’s Ben Is Back. When you take a look at Julia Roberts’ filmography, there’s no denying she’s a talented, well-rounded, incredible actress. But she’s also more than just a pretty face, from her formerly-tumultuous personal life to her incredible yet tragic family history. Here are 38 little-known facts about Julia Roberts.
38. Body Double
If you look closely at the movie poster for Pretty Woman, Roberts’ body is not actually featured. Her head was pasted onto her body double’s body.
37. How Do You Even Do That?
It’s pretty gross, but Roberts used to bite her toenails instead of clipping or cutting them. We hope her feet were clean at least.
36. No Skeletons in Her Closet
Despite her toenail biting, Roberts still has great teeth, and is well known for her pearly whites. When archaeologists found a female, 9,000-year-old skeleton in 2004 in Bulgaria, they gave her the name “Julia Roberts” because of the skeleton’s great teeth. Did they have dentists back then?
35. Million Dollar Smile
The actress has those famous teeth insured too, for $30 million.
34. Six Degrees of Martin Luther King Jr.
Try and follow along: Roberts’ parents co-founded the Atlanta Actors and Writers Workshop, and they also had an acting school for children in nearby Decatur, Georgia when Julia was still in the womb. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King enrolled their kids in the acting school, and Julia’s dad personally coached their daughter, Yolanda Denise King. Mrs. King would (literally) repay the couple by footing the hospital bill when Julia was born. Yeah, that’s a lot to take in.
33. Completely Different Career Path
When she was young, Roberts played the clarinet in the band and wanted to become a veterinarian. She ended up studying journalism at Georgia State University, though she never actually completed her degree. It’s never too late to go back, Julia!
32. Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made
Roberts moved to New York City once she graduated high school in 1985. She lived with her sister and brother when she got there, signed on with a modeling agency, and started taking acting classes.
31. Young and in Love
Her first acting gig was on the TV show Crime Story. Following that, she starred in the movie Satisfaction. She and co-star Liam Neeson, who was 16 years her senior, fell in love and moved in together, but it didn’t last long. The couple broke up after just a year.
30. Looking for Love
Some other famous men Roberts dated include Dylan McDermott, Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Lyle Lovett (to whom she was married for 21 months), Matthew Perry, and Benjamin Bratt. “I realized immediately that he is someone who will always challenge me in that great way that keeps you moving forward,” Roberts said of Bratt in an interview with McCall’s in 2000. “[He] is all a girl could ever ask for.”
29. Settling Down
Roberts later married cameraman Daniel Moder in 2002. At the wedding, guests were treated to hot dogs, hamburgers, and corn on the cob for their dinner. The pair had twins, Phinnaeus and Hazel, in 2004.
28. What’s in a Name?
The couple’s third child, Henry, originally may have been a George. Roberts changed her mind on the name, thinking people would assume she was naming her son after George Clooney.
27. Give Her a Break
Her big break came in 1988 in Mystic Pizza, but it was her role as Vivian in 1990’s Pretty Woman that really cemented Roberts as an actress. She would earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for the role.
26. Reversing Roles
Ironically, Meg Ryan turned down the role in Pretty Woman, and Roberts turned down Ryan’s role in Sleepless in Seattle. We can only wonder what those movies, and each lady’s career, would have been like if they had reversed those roles?
25. Breaking Barriers
When she starred in Mona Lisa Smile in 2003, Roberts made $25 million for her role, something that had, until that point, also never happened for an actress.
24. Left, Left, Left Right Left
For her role in Erin Brockovich, Roberts had to learn to do things the “right” way. She herself is a lefty, while the real-life Brockovich is right-handed.
23. Not-So Secret Admirer
Canadian singer-songwriter Chantel Kreviazuk wrote a song about the actress. “Julia” was written after Kreviazuk spotted Roberts at a restaurant in Los Angeles.
22. Video Didn’t Kill the Movie Star
In 2005, Roberts starred in a music video for the Dave Matthews Band’s “Dreamgirl.” She’s said that she’s a big fan of theirs.
21. Girl Crushing
Roberts is also a huge fan of Meryl Streep. “I’ve never seen anyone work harder than she does,” Roberts has said. “She doesn’t just snap her fingers and be a genius. To work with Meryl Streep is a dream come true for anyone. To know her is an honor.”
20. Knit Two, Purl One
She’s a knitter! “I sit on the set and knit,” she has said. “It’s a very social hobby, as opposed to reading at work—I can chat with people and still be fully engaged.” Can you make us some hats, please?
19. Pillow, Please!
When she’s having her makeup applied on set, Roberts lays on her back. She claims that it gives her a more relaxed look.
18. Mona Lisa Art Class
If you studied art history at New York University around 2003, you may have seen Roberts hanging around. She took the classes in order to prepare for her role in Mona Lisa Smile. That film wasn’t the first time she played an art historian, either—she also played one in 1996’s Everyone Says I Love You.
17. Red Om not Red Rum
Roberts co-runs the production company Red Om Films (read “Red Om” backwards—it’s her hubby’s last name). Between 2004 and 2008, she executive produced the first four American Girl films, based on the book and toy line of the same name.
16. All in the Family
Her brother is actor Eric Roberts, whose daughter is actress Emma Roberts. The two were actually estranged for many years, after Julia sided with Emma’s mother/Eric’s ex-girlfriend in a custody case. They reconciled in 2004 after Roberts gave birth to her twins.
15. But it Wasn’t Purple Rain
In 2006, she starred in her first Broadway play, Three Days of Rain. However, she had terrible reviews, and it only lasted for 70 shows. Still, the play, which also starred Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper, took in almost 1 million dollars in just its first week and was generally considered a commercial success.
14. Making Smart Choices
Roberts took a two-year break from acting in 2007, and made her return in 2009’s Duplicity. Of the break, she told People magazine, “I don’t have the bug to work. I have the bug to make good movies, and those don’t come along very often.”
13. That’s a Lot of Pasta
While in Italy filming Eat Pray Love, she says she gained 10 pounds just because of all the pasta she was eating. Don’t worry Julia, we gained 10 pounds just watching the film.
12. Gonna Need Some Aloe Vera For That Burn
Kiefer Sutherland wasn’t the only married man that Roberts quickly got engaged to. When she met Danny Moder on the set of The Mexican, she was still dating Benjamin Bratt and he was already married to a makeup artist named Vera Steimberg. Roberts reportedly offered $10,000 to Steimberg to agree to a quickie divorce from Moder. True or not, Moder filed for divorce in 2001. At some point in the whole ordeal, Roberts was spotted wearing a t-shirt with the words “A Low Vera” on it, which drew a lot of tabloid attention at the time.
11. Hoping for a Co-Star
For the 2015 film Secret in Their Eyes, she emailed Nicole Kidman the script with the note “Will you do this with me?” attached. That must have been the easiest casting process Kidman has ever gone through!
10. Ole, Ole Ole Ole!
She’s a fan of soccer, and a supporter of Manchester United FC. She’s also said to be friends with midfielder Paul Pogba and was seen attending training camp in California during the team’s preseason tour in the US in 2017.
9. Finding Inner Peace
In 2010, Roberts announced that she is a practitioner of Hinduism; she was initially drawn to the religion after seeing a photo of a guru. The year before, while filming Eat Pray Love, a Swami gave all three of her children names of Hindu gods.
8. Stepping Outside the Acting Zone
Roberts is also really into giving back. Amongst other charitable organizations, she has donated her time and resources to UNICEF, even traveling to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1995. She has also narrated a documentary about Rett syndrome aimed at raising awareness about the neurodevelopmental disorder.
7. Beautiful Julia
Roberts has had the honor of being named People’s Most Beautiful Woman an incredible five times! She’s won in 1991, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2017. We would have to agree with the assessment.
6. Not an Easy Road
Despite her parents’ shared love of the performing arts, they divorced when she was just 4 years old. Her mother remarried with a man named Michael Motes, who was abusive, and who Roberts hated. On top of it all, when Julia was 10, her father died after a battle with cancer.
After having a daughter together named Nancy, Julia’s mother Betty Lou and Motes divorced, with Betty Lou citing cruelty. This all happened before Julia even graduated from high school. Her half-sister Nancy Motes died in 2014 from an apparent overdose. Through the years, the two sisters appeared together in public frequently, but in the press, Motes also accused Roberts of being mean to her.
5. Intruder Alert
Julia Roberts remembers the exact moment she knew she was famous. It happened in a public bathroom. Roberts was in a stall when a girl asked if she’d been in Mystic Pizza, but that wasn’t even the weirdest part. When Roberts replied in the positive, the girl then asked her for her autograph and slid a napkin under the stall door. Roberts then (understandably) asked her to wait until she was done.
4. Long-Held Grudges
Everyone’s gotta have a Hollywood feud. Roberts’ is with Nick Nolte. They two starred together in the 1994 film I Love Trouble. They clashed on set and Roberts once called Nolte “completely disgusting” in an interview. Roberts had apologized from some of her youthful diva behavior on set in recent years, but she showed Nolte no mercy in 2009 when she did an impression of a bratty actor throwing a tantrum and revealed it was based on Nolte.
3. Runaway Bride
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Roberts had a reputation as something of a runaway bride (perhaps leading to her casting in a film of the same name in the late ’90s). She became engaged to Dylan McDermott after they appeared in Steel Magnolias together, but broke it off when she met Kiefer Sutherland while making Flatliners. Sutherland was already married at the time with a child, but he soon announced his engagement to Roberts.
A huge wedding was planned, but three days before, Roberts called it off and ran away to Ireland with Sutherland’s good friend Jason Patric. Recently, Sutherland revealed he holds no grudges about the whole debacle, saying that Roberts was smart to get out while she did.
2. A Different Type of Peter Pan Syndrome
The action fantasy film Hook should’ve been the biggest film of 1991. It had Steven Spielberg, Robin Williams, and Julia Roberts in the role of Tinkerbell, fresh off of Pretty Woman. It was also around the time that Roberts had just broken off her engagement with Kiefer Sutherland, resulting in a media circus, and after she was recovering from a bad bout of illness.
Rumors flew about her unruly and disrespectful behavior on set. An article in Premiere used the name “Tinkerhell” and claimed she was often either somber or “on the edge of hysteria.” The film didn’t live up to its expectations, and Spielberg remains disappointed in it to this day.
1. Keep the Change
Notorious prankster George Clooney once sent Roberts, his good friend, an envelope that he’d filled with a note and a 20 dollar bill. He sent the note when he found out that she’d joined the cast of Ocean’s Eleven, and it said “I hear you’re making 20 a picture now,” referencing the fact that she was the first actress to earn $20 million when she starred in Erin Brockovich, and it’s rumored that she’s earned at least $20 million for each role ever since.