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Five Surprising Secrets and Little-Known Facts About America's Sweetheart Julia Roberts Even Her Most Devoted Fans May Not Know

Photographed by Arthur Elgort, Vogue, September 1988


5 Things You Didn't Know About Julia Roberts


April 22, 2017

"After her screen test, I remember I called [former studio head] Jeffrey Katzenberg and said, 'We've got to get a guy, but the guy's not so important because we're going to make it with this girl," Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall recalled in a 2006 interview. "She's got it." At the time, the fresh faced 21-year-old Julia Roberts had only two films to her name, and the part was one that many actresses (including Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, and Sarah Jessica Parker) had turned down. Little did they know that a film with an unpopular pitch would go on to put its lead on the path to becoming one of Hollywood's most beloved actresses.

From that point onwards, Roberts has earned critical acclaim for a string of roles portraying many versions of America's sweetheart: a mother trying to make ends meet for her children; a neurotic food critic who will stop at nothing to get the guy; a disgruntled daughter who goes head-to-head with her mother in a scorching performance opposite Meryl Streep.

It seems that there is something for everyone in the the arsenal of Julia Roberts films, and to ring in her record-setting fifth go-round as People's Most Beautiful, here are five things you didn't know about her.

1. She was early to Hollywood's equal pay conversation.Roberts was famously the first actress to be paid $20 million (for Erin Brockovich)— the going rate at the time for major male stars like Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks. When in negotiations with the studio, her agent reportedly called out the double standard, noting that the actress's films had collectively grossed over $100 million—more than most of her male counterparts. Roberts didn't just let her agent do the talking, either: In the movie Notting Hill, when Roberts's movie star character Anna is is asked how much she makes, she responds with "$15 million dollars"—the amount Roberts was paid for the film, even though the line in the script originally called for $10 million. When the director asked why she kept changing it, she said, "I'm kind of tired of lowballing."

2. She won't touch Botox.Last September, Roberts spoke candidly about aging gracefully. "I want my kids to know when I'm pissed, when I'm happy, and when I'm confounded," she said. "Your face tells a story, and it shouldn't be a story about your drive to the doctor's office." To Roberts, the physical signs of getting older shouldn't be fought, which adds a sense of gravity to People's latest title. "It's unfortunate that we live in such a panicked, dysmorphic society where women don't even give themselves a chance to see what they'll look like as older persons," Roberts has said. "I want to have some idea of what I'll look like before I start cleaning the slates."

3. Her Pretty Woman scenes were occasionally a team effort.Roberts was very young when she filmed Pretty Woman, and the experience was not without hiccups. Everyone reportedly pitched in to help with her nerves, from director Garry Marshall tickling her feet outside of the shot to make her laugh, to Richard Gere improvising the famous setup with the necklace and jewelry box. Legend has it that shooting the love scene made her so nervous that a vein protruded from her forehead quite visibly, and Marshall and Gere massaged it down until she felt better. Roberts even reportedly got a little too into the scene in which Vivian listens to music through her headphones with her eyes closed in the bathtub… eventually opening her eyes to find the cameraman and crew had left.

4. She is a practicing Hindu.Though Roberts was raised in a Baptist and Catholic household in Georgia, she converted to Hinduism after shooting Eat Pray Love. "I have been attracted and deeply fascinated by many facets of the multidimensional Hinduism," she has said. Her family goes to temple together, and she even had her children given Hindu names, assigned by the guru she visited in India.

5. Just like you, she also has a major soft spot for My Best Friend's Wedding.Earlier this month, Roberts told Michael Strahan on Good Morning America that she's looking forward to sharing the popular '90s romantic comedy with her kids. "There's nothing more thrilling than creating a piece of work and feeling like you have some triumph to bring home and lay at the feet of your family," she said. "In a few years, there are some [films] that I'm really looking forward to [their seeing]. . . I can't wait for [my daughter] to see My Best Friend's Wedding. That will be sweet, and I think they'll be pleased with how I spent my 20s and 30s." As one of her most popular films, it also stands out also for her participation behind the scenes: Roberts was the one who reportedly suggested both Cameron Diaz and Dermot Mulroney for the roles of Michael and Kimmy.

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