She’s a go-to star for big screen heists, thrillers and ensemble dramas, but back in the 1990s, Julia Roberts was better known as a romantic-comedy queen.
Whether she played a down-on-her-luck prostitute who found unlikely love with a rich and dashing businessman ( “Pretty Woman,” 1990) or a famous film star who found unlikely love with the owner of a bookstore (“Notting Hill,” 1999), she carried audiences along for the laugh-infused love stories.
Until she didn’t.
With few exceptions, Roberts seemed to step away from rom-com roles back in 2001, after filming “America’s Sweethearts” opposite John Cusack, and now she’s sharing the reason behind her extended absence from the genre.
“What I’ve learned is that you always want to do what you’re not doing,” she explained in an interview with The New York Times Magazine. “Whenever I’m in a comedy, I think I just want to be at a table with a cup of tea sobbing over something. Then you’re doing that, and you think, ‘Oh to be wearing a pretty dress and laughing.’”
But it wasn’t simply a craving for dramas that brought her rom-com streak to an end.
“People sometimes misconstrue the amount of time that’s gone by that I haven’t done a romantic comedy as my not wanting to do one,” she continued. “If I had read something that I thought was that ‘Notting Hill’ level of writing or ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ level of madcap fun, I would do it.”
According to the 54-year-old, rom-com scripts of that caliber simply dried up — for a while.
“They didn’t exist until this movie that I just did that Ol Parker wrote and directed,” she said.
That film is called “Ticket to Paradise,” and it’s due out in the fall. However, finding a worthy script was just one part of the process.
“Even with that, I thought, ‘Well, disaster, because this only works if it’s George Clooney,’” she said of the leading man needed to pull off the project. “Lo and behold, George felt it only worked with me. Somehow we were both able to do it, and off we went.”
Now, being able to go back and forth with her work, from projects like her new political thriller series, “Gaslit,” to the romance and fun in “Ticket to Paradise,” Roberts says she's living her "acting dreams.”
When asked if she had any advice to help budding actors make their own dreams come true, she recommended not taking advice from other actors at all.
"Because everybody’s experience is unique — should be unique," she said.