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Julia Roberts - Biography & Career

Julia Roberts was born in Lorain, Ohio. Her father, Walter Grady Roberts, actor and writer of Irish, Scottish, and Welsh extraction on behalf of his father, Walter Thomas Roberts, and English-Scottish descent on the part of his mother, Beatrice Beal. Julia's mother, Betty Lou Bredemus, a church secretary and actress, was born in Minneapolis in 1934, daughter of football player Wendell John Bredemus (whose mother Eleanor Johnson was born in Sweden) and Elizabeth Ellen Billingsley.

While Mrs. Roberts was pregnant with Julie, she and her husband ran an acting school for children in Decatur, GA. The children of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King attended the school. As a thank-you for their service, Mrs. King paid the hospital bill when Mrs. Roberts gave birth to Julie.

Roberts' parents divorced when she was four, and her mother remarried. Her father died of cancer when Roberts was nine. Her elder brother Eric Roberts, from whom she is estranged, is also an actor. So is her niece, Emma Roberts, whom she would often take along on sets when she was younger.

Roberts wanted to be a vet as a child, but soon after graduating from Smyrna's Campbell High School [1], and attending Georgia State University, she headed to New York to join her sister and pursue a career in acting. Once there she signed with Clicks modeling agency [2] and enrolled in acting classes. She changed her name to "Julia Roberts" when she found that there was already a "Julie Roberts" registered with the Screen Actors Guild.

Julia Roberts made her film debut playing a supporting role opposite her brother, Eric, in Blood Red (she gets just two words dialog), which although completed in 1986 was not released until 1989. She once appeared on Sesame Street opposite the character Elmo, actively showing her ability to change emotions.

Roberts first caught the attention of moviegoers with her performance in the independent film Mystic Pizza in 1988. The following year she was featured in Steel Magnolias as a young bride battling diabetes, garnering her first Oscar nomination (as Best Supporting Actress) for her performance. She catapulted to worldwide fame when she co-starred with Richard Gere in the Cinderella story Pretty Woman in 1990.

The role also earned her a second Oscar nod, this time as Best Actress. Her next box office success was the thriller Sleeping with the Enemy, playing a battered wife who escapes her demented husband and starts a new life in Iowa. She played Tinkerbell in Steven Spielberg's Hook in 1991, which was followed by a two-year period of no acting roles other than a cameo appearance in Robert Altman's The Player (1992). In early 1993, she was the subject of a People magazine cover story asking, "What Happened to Julia Roberts?"

She starred alongside Liam Neeson in the 1996 film Michael Collins Later that year, she co-starred with Denzel Washington in the successful The Pelican Brief, based on the John Grisham novel. For the next few years, she starred in a series of films that were critical and commercial failures, primarily because she was cast in roles that strayed too far from her film persona. She broke her losing streak with the hugely popular comedy My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), and eventually regained her earlier reputation as an actress who could open a movie and guarantee box office success. She also starred with Hugh Grant in the hugely popular 1999 film Notting Hill.

In 2001, she won critical acclaim and finally received a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich, who helped wage a successful lawsuit against energy giant Pacific Gas & Electric. Her acceptance speech was one of the longest in Oscar history and became fodder for late-night comedians. At the same time, Roberts' win created a mild uproar in the film community for beating out Ellen Burstyn for her wrenching portrayal of Sara Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream. Roberts' win over Burstyn is frequently cited as an example of the Academy's tendency to award popularity over artistic merit. Subsequently, Roberts would team up with Erin Brockovich director Steven Soderbergh for three more films: Ocean's Eleven, Full Frontal, and Ocean's Twelve.

Roberts recently enjoyed her broadway debut as Nan in "Three Days of Rain" opposite Bradley Cooper, and television star, Paul Rudd, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. Although the play grossed nearly one million dollars in ticket sales its first week out, and continued to be a commercial success throughout its limited run, most critics have heavily criticized Roberts' performance and the play itself. Even New York Times' critic Ben Brantly, a self proclaimed 'Juliaholic', described her as being fraught with "self-consciousness (especially in the first act) [and] only glancingly acquainted with the two characters she plays." Three Days of Rain received two Tony Award nominations in stage design categories, but took home neither prize. Julia Roberts did, however, receive a Broadway.com audience award (a minor theatrical prize) for her peformance.

As of January 2006, Roberts' films have grossed 2.09 billion dollars at the American Box Office making her the biggest female movie star in history.

Roberts' personal life has often been in the spotlight, a fact reflected in her Notting Hill, a romantic comedy about a famous actress falling for a bookstore owner played by Hugh Grant. Her character, Anna Scott, was said to be closely modeled on Roberts herself. (When asked in one scene how much she was paid to appear in a movie, Scott replies "fifteen million dollars" Ч precisely the amount Roberts had received to appear in the film.)

Roberts was engaged to actor Kiefer Sutherland, whom she met on the set of Flatliners in 1991, but ended the relationship just days before the wedding. Roberts went to Europe with Jason Patric after she and Sutherland broke up. She later eloped with country and western singer Lyle Lovett shortly after meeting him. The ceremony was noted by her being barefoot. They divorced in 1995, due to their respective career demands keeping them apart, but they still remain friends. Roberts also briefly dated Friends star Matthew Perry and actor Daniel Day-Lewis. For a time she lived with actor Liam Neeson and dated Benjamin Bratt from 1998 to 2001.

Roberts met her husband, cameraman Danny Moder, on the set of her movie The Mexican in 2000. He was already married to Vera Steimberg Moder, but they eventually divorced. Roberts and Moder were married on July 4, 2002, at her ranch in Taos, New Mexico. On November 28, 2004, they became the parents of twins, daughter Hazel Patricia and son Phinnaeus Walter.

Roberts bought a penthouse in Manhattan's Gramercy Park neighborhood. She reportedly loves to shop anonymously, buying her own organic greens on weekends at the market in nearby Union Square. She and her family divide their time between their homes in New York City, Malibu, California, and their 50-acre retreat in Taos.

She is reportedly a fan of the long-running soap opera Days of our Lives. She loves to knit, often knitting between takes on movie sets.

Roberts has a production company called Red Om Films ("Moder" spelled backwards; formerly "Shoelace Productions") and has given of her time and resources to UNICEF as well as to other charitable organizations. She has made trips to Haiti, India, and other countries, promoting peace, goodwill, and help for others in need. In July 2006, Earth Biofuels announced that Roberts became a spokesperson for the company and will chair the companyТs newly formed Advisory Board promoting the use of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol.

She has been named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" a record-setting ten times.