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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Encore Presentation: Julia Roberts' Success Story

Aired July 21, 2001 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From small-town Georgia to big-time Hollywood, she's the kind of success story they make movies about.

JULIA ROBERTS, ACTRESS: OK, let's roll!

ANNOUNCER: She seems to have it all -- talent, looks, and, of course...

JOYCE WAGNER, BIOGRAPHER: That spontaneous, earthy, great laugh...

ANNOUNCER: But there's more than a pretty face that goes with this pretty woman.

ROBERT THOMPSON, FILM, TV HISTORIAN: She's a person with an awful lot of clout in Hollywood...

ANNOUNCER: And she's taken that clout far from Hollywood.

ROBERTS: I've come to Haiti to visit with the children.

ANNOUNCER: The story of Julia Roberts on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DARYN KAGAN, HOST: Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Daryn Kagan.

In the new movie "America's Sweethearts," Hollywood's favorite couple splits up. That storyline is something the film's star has just lived in real life. Julia Roberts recently ended her four-year relationship with actor Benjamin Bratt. It made headlines everywhere. That fascination with Julia Roberts is in the tradition of past greats.

From "Pretty Woman" to this Friday's release of "America's Sweethearts," Roberts has become a bona fide leading lady. Here's the story behind the pretty face.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Julia Roberts, she's a brilliant light even among the brightest stars.

LAUREN BACALL, ACTRESS: Her personal authority comes through everything that she does.

SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS: She's just the consummate professional.

ROBERTS: It's just overwhelming, really. I couldn't sum it up. It's just overwhelming. Wow, everybody's here.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: There is something too magical in her to ignore, something singular.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's been incredibly important in the whole industry in the last 15 years since she's been around. But, I mean, really important. She's one of the few actors who, you know, really open movies, and so that's been important for the whole rest of this as well.

KAGAN: Roberts is the box office queen. Eight of her films have grossed nearly $100 million each.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "NOTTING HILL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: How's the pay in movies?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Money provided comic relief in her hit, "Notting Hill."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "NOTTING HILL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Last film you did, what did you get paid?

ROBERTS: Fifteen million dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: In real life, she commands even more -- $20 million per film, joining the megawattage of Tom Cruise and Bruce Willis.

Of course, money isn't everything in Hollywood. Power is. In March, "Forbes" magazine announced its celebrity power list. It combines a star's money with Internet popularity, press clippings, magazine covers, television and radio mentions. Roberts is first among female actors.

ROBERT THOMPSON, FILM, TV HISTORIAN: Julia Roberts, of course, is this powerful businesswoman. She's a person with an awful lot of clout in Hollywood.

KAGAN: Robert Thompson is professor of film, television, and popular culture at Syracuse University.

THOMPSON: I've got to think, what if Julia Roberts hadn't been a star? What if, in fact, she finds herself on Survivor Island or in the Outback? And all I've got to think is Rich Patch (ph), Susan Hawk (ph), look out, because this is a person who I think could tear apart that island, catch the fish, kill the pig, build the hut, make sure everybody likes her so much that they don't vote her off, and ultimately go home with the million bucks, the Pontiac Aztec, and probably the deed to the island.

KAGAN: Power, money, and this year, respect. In February, Roberts was honored by her peers at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

ROBERTS: I've never been nominated for a SAG award before. I've never been to this event. And it's a really incredible night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: If this was a prom, this would be, like, the best school ever to go to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: To be sitting across table from, you know, Annette Bening, to have her come over to me and say, "I just want to say, you know, I thought you were great in your movie," I'm just, like, "Well, I just want to drool all over you. Can I?"

KAGAN: Roberts spent the entire spring on red carpets, taking home a Golden Globe award and the Golden Man himself, the Oscar, all for her performance in "Erin Brockovich."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ERIN BROCKOVICH")

ALBERT FINNEY, ACTOR: ... think that you said that...

ROBERTS: There's two things that aggravate me, Mr. Masrey (ph). Being ignored, and being lied to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN SODERBERGH, DIRECTOR: To go to work every day on "Erin Brockovich" and see someone with so much talent comport themselves with such grace and such wit and such generosity of spirit was not only instructive but inspiring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no movie star who shines more brightly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: It's been an up year for the golden girl, but fame has a downside. When the story of Julia Roberts continues, love, intimacy, and the pursuit of privacy.

ROBERTS: People are welcome to know whatever they wish to know, as long as they want to be honest about it, and also respect the fact that we don't sit and ask them, you know, What's your life like? By getting married. You know, where do you live? What do you do? What makes you guys happy? Do you know? I don't do that to other people unless they're friends of mine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: It may seem like Julia Roberts is always in the headlines, but she does share them occasionally with others. Let's take a quick look now at some of those people in this week's headlines with "Passages."

ANNOUNCER: Publishing legend Katharine Graham died Tuesday from injuries received in a fall. She was 84. Graham became a widely respected editorial force in the early '70s, guiding "The Washington Post"'s aggressive coverage of the Watergate and Pentagon Papers scandals. Her husband ran the newspaper until his suicide in 1963. Katharine picked up the reigns and, over the next two decades, transformed the mediocre paper into a journalism powerhouse.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. will not serve prison time for his most recent drug charges. Under a plea agreement reached Monday, the 36- year-old actor must undergo a year-long rehabilitation program. He must also pay a fine and stay on probation for three years. Downey is allowed to take acting jobs while in rehab, but for now his attorneys say recovery is his top priority.

Love is in the air for two tennis greats. According to Germany's "Bild" newspaper, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf are planning to tie the knot in January. The wedding will take place after the December birth of their child. The marriage will be the first one for Graf, the second for Agassi. He divorced actress Brooke Shields in 19999.

To find out about other celebrity courtships, pick up a copy of "People" magazine.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Daryn Kagan continues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN (voice-over): Today's queen of Hollywood began life in modest surroundings nearly a continent away, in Atlanta, Georgia. Julia Fiona Roberts debuted at Crawford Long Hospital on October 28, 1967. Julia went home to a two-story house in Midtown, one of Atlanta's middle-class neighborhoods.

Her parents, Walter and Betty Roberts, ran a writing and actor's workshop. The children of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., were enrolled there. It was the only integrated children's theater group in Atlanta.

Dexter King is now a writer, Yolanda King, an actress and producer.

YOLANDA KING: Mr. Roberts was so imposing. I loved him, but I was also a little intimidated by him too. And -- but he was -- I mean, he taught me so much., and he and Mrs. Roberts, about the work, and just about living and being really open, grabbing life and making the best of it.

ROBERTS: the only thing my father ever directly said to me about acting was, "Don't ever say anything unless it means something, unless you're telling people something they don't already know. There's no reason to speak unless you're doing that.

KAGAN: Biographer Joyce Wagner says despite years of trying, the acting studio failed.

JOYCE WAGNER, BIOGRAPHER: It was the great dream, but I think it turned into a financial nightmare. They were always hard-pressed for money, and it collapsed at one point, and that was it.

KAGAN: Julia's parents' marriage was also over. Betty Roberts remarried and moved with her daughters to Smyrna, a small town just north of Atlanta. Her brother, Eric, remained in Atlanta with their father, who took a job at a local department store.

WAGNER: After the divorce, Julia didn't see much of her father.

KAGAN: There were weekly phone calls and vacation visits, but while Julia was still in grade school, that limited contact came to a tragic end.

WAGNER: Walter died in 1977. Julia was either 10 or very close to 10 years of age at that point. Ironically, he was very young when he died, he was in his mid-40s.

KING: I remember being so upset and distressed, because he really died very unfulfilled, and he had lost the workshop, and I know he was very disillusioned.

KAGAN: Julia says it was her sister, Lisa, just 2 years older, who provided love, support, and good counsel. Julia joined Lisa at Smyrna's Campbell High School. It was in the high school library that Julia began her longest love affair, her love of literature. She says she picked up Walt Whitman and never let go.

This spring, Oprah Winfrey asked Julia Roberts what was on her bookshelf at home. Her response ran the gamut from Faulkner and Hardy to McCullers and Diamont (ph).

Julia didn't spend all her time with books. She played on the high school tennis team. And while there were no drama classes offered in high school, she couldn't resist the lure of the family business. At age 17, the recent high school graduate moved from small-town Georgia to the big city, New York. And like her older brother and sister, she went to pursue a career in acting.

Within two short years, Roberts landed a role in the low-budget film "Satisfaction." The movie closed soon after it opened in 1988, but for Roberts, there was one upside. The film's producer was then married to Sally Field. The veteran actor would become a mentor to Roberts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "STEEL MAGNOLIAS")

SALLY FIELD, ACTRESS: Now, I must have missed the passage...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Just one year after the making of "Satisfaction"...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "STEEL MAGNOLIAS")

FIELD: ... I'm the mother of the bride...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: ... Field would push, yank, and push some more to get Roberts into the ensemble cast of "Steel Magnolias."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "STEEL MAGNOLIAS")

ROBERTS: He's really cute, and I thought he was a pest at first. But then he kind of grew on me, and now I love him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Julia's like a sponge. She wants to know, and she's smart enough to know who best to learn from than older actresses who have trod the same path.

KAGAN: After Roberts wrapped "Steel Magnolias"...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MYSTIC PIZZA")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ROBERTS: I think maybe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: ... "Mystic Pizza" opened. Now it's a video favorite, but in 1988, it was not a box office hit. So Field would again have to step in on Roberts' behalf to convince Disney to give her a chance at comedy in the form of a charming prostitute. The picture, "Pretty Woman."

Director Garry Marshall described 21-year-old Roberts as a blend of Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and Bambi.

GARRY MARSHALL, DIRECTOR: I said, "Richard, when she goes to look at the box, just kind of click the box on her fingers." Her reaction to that was so honest, and it was so spontaneous and so natural that when I saw it on film later, I just left it in. WAGNER: That spontaneous earthy, great laugh set it all in motion, as far as I'm concerned. That was the turning point. That's what separated her from the Meg Ryans and all the other girls coming up the ladder.

KAGAN: People poured into the theaters to see "Pretty Woman."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PRETTY WOMAN")

ROBERTS: You're talking 24 hours a day. It's gonna cost you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: In its first four weeks, it grossed more than $150 million and became the highest-grossing film of 1990. And it earned Roberts her first Oscar nomination for best actress.

After some fizzles at the box office, Roberts hit the big time again in 1997 with yet another romantic comedy, "My Best Friend's Wedding."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING")

ROBERTS: I'm a busy girl. I've got four days to break up a wedding and steal the bride's fellow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: The film grossed $127 million, and other hits followed, "Notting Hill," "Runaway Bride."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE MEXICAN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You know, a lot of people are under the impression that you get to choose who you love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Her box office hits, like this year's "The Mexican," are often all about love.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE MEXICAN")

ROBERTS: Well, you're a man, of course you are. You take me (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You love him. You said so yourself. It's all that matters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Julia had a series of romances with her leading men, and she once was quoted as saying, "Well, where else am I going to meet men? I'm not working in a veterinarian office, you know."

KAGAN: In the beginning, she was like a deer in the press headlights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1991)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you cope with the onrush of fame that has happened to you?

ROBERTS: The best I can. That's all I can do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Toughest thing about it?

ROBERTS: Doing this kind of stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Today, at age 33, she's got maturity and actor Benjamin Bratt at her side. And Roberts seems to feel more at ease with her personal and public lives.

ROBERTS: I can accept the things that come with being famous, and I really love my job, so I accept the other elements that come along with it.

KAGAN: When we continue our story of Julia Roberts...

ROBERTS: They need food, they need health care, they need education.

KAGAN: ... a look beneath the glamour.

BETTY MOTES, MOTHER: She was taught that it's what inside you that counts, not the color of your skin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Up next, Julia Roberts takes leave of Hollywood to turn the spotlight on others.

But first, a look at a former Roberts co-star who left Hollywood for a much different reason. Here's "Where Are They Now?"

ANNOUNCER: In 1988, Justine Bateman was the one getting top billing in one of Julia Roberts' first films, "Satisfaction." The actress earned a name for herself playing Mallory on the 1980s TV hit, "Family Ties." So where is Justine Bateman now?

Today this 35-year-old is a frock star, producing her own line of knit clothing. Bateman bid her acting manager adieu after a visit to a local knitting shop inspired her with ideas. Fans of the Bateman label include pop stars Christina Aguillera, Gwen Stefani, and members of the group Matchbox 20.

PEOPLE IN THE NEWS will continue in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Here's Daryn Kagan. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN (voice-over): Dexter and Yolanda King, children of Martin Luther King, Jr., first met Julia Roberts in the late '60s while attending her parents' acting workshop in Atlanta.

KING: It was an extended family, it really was. And all of these black kids and white kids getting along, no problems. We had no problems whatsoever, racial problems.

KAGAN: Racial equality was preached within the Roberts home.

MOTES: She said in "Rolling Stone" that she was brought up in a liberal family, and she was, and she was taught that it's what inside you that counts, not the color of your skin.

KAGAN: Color became an issue for Roberts during the filming of the thriller "Sleeping With the Enemy." It was the spring of 1990, and Roberts was on location in a small town in South Carolina. A casual night out turned ugly when a member of the film crew was denied entrance to a local bar because he was black. Roberts had a fiery argument with the bar owner.

ROBERTS: I was enraged, I was out of my mind.

KING: And she just went off. And I can see her doing that, I mean, in just that outrageous, just outrage, the righteous indignation. I can see it pouring forth from her. And rightly so.

KAGAN: And it's that characteristic, just behaving like a person with far less money and far less fame, that might explain why fans adore her.

ROBERTS: OK, I'm so on the verge of giggles anyway.

KAGAN: Julia Roberts comes across as genuine. She gets mad, she has fun.

ROBERTS: I want my man to see this. Look at the muscle. Forget the award, just look at the muscle. This weighs 14 pounds. It does.

KAGAN: She seems like she could be one of us.

ROBERTS: That is not a light little piece of machinery.

THOMPSON: You don't think of her living in this sort of esoteric world of the movie star. This is a woman you can almost imagine coming over for pot roast, you know, on Sunday night.

KAGAN: Roberts is often compared with another natural beauty, also with a social conscience, Audrey Hepburn. In 1993, the Screen Actors Guild honored Hepburn with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Too ill to attend, Hepburn asked a friend to accept the award on her behalf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GREGORY PECK, ACTOR: ... beautiful, spunky lady, Julia Roberts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Roberts had long admired Hepburn's commitment to the world's children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: If anyone has ever questioned the idea of angels on earth, the answer to that question is right there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: In 1992, Hepburn traveled to Africa for the United Nations Children's Fund. Following in Hepburn's footsteps, Roberts traveled to a turbulent Haiti in 1995 as a good will ambassador. She spent six days visiting children.

ROBERTS: These children cannot be left to deal with the consequences of a political situation that has nothing to do with them, you know. They need food, they need health care, they need education.

KAGAN: Back in the U.S., Roberts has supported Rosie O'Donnell's Kids Foundation, a charity clearinghouse for children.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: I love this woman. She's a good woman, and we should all work a little harder to be a little more like her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: And among other projects, she's narrated "Silent Angels," a documentary to help raise the awareness of and money for children with Rett syndrome, a genetic neurological disorder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SILENT ANGELS")

ROBERTS: ... it's been really wonderful to see how the growing awareness about Rett syndrome has inspired more and more people to become involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: Friend and co-star Rupert Everett predicts Roberts' philanthropy will continue.

RUPERT EVERETT, ACTOR: She's even more beautiful off screen than she is on.

KAGAN: He sees her at age 50, shirt sleeves rolled up, washing babies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: I am proof positive that anything is possible in your life. I am just a girl from Smyrna, Georgia, who wanted to be in movies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Roberts' latest movie, "America's Sweethearts," started playing in theaters on Friday. An extra in the movie, her 10-year-old niece, Emma Roberts, daughter of brother Eric.

And speaking of Eric, both he and sister Lisa still make their living as actors.

For more on Julia Roberts, logon to our Web site at CNN.com/people.

Next week: He was the son of an Evangelical preacher who now is at the epicenter of the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy. The often contradictory life of California Congressman Gary Condit.

That's it for now. I'm Daryn Kagan. For all of us here at PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, thanks for watching.

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