Julia Roberts takes on a new dramatic challenge with the movie "Ben is back"


Julia Roberts is sitting on a couch in a hotel in Soho when Lucas Hedges comes in and frantically searches for his phone, blowing up the cushions.

"That's what I tell Finn," Roberts tells the 21-year-old actor in reference to one of his three children. "Where did you go after here, dear?"

Roberts' maternal instincts play an important role in his most recent film, "Ben Is Back." Written and directed by Peter Hedges (director of "Dan in Real Life" and Lucas' father), "Ben Is Back" is about a son (Lucas) who returns home from rehab for Christmas. The short visit rekindles demons from past and present temptations for Ben, testing the balance between trust and mistrust of his anxious mother (Roberts).


It's Roberts' second prominent role this fall. The actress also starred in Amazon's acclaimed conspiracy thriller "Homecoming," a government social worker who persuaded soldiers to re-enter civilian life. It's a more dramatic chapter for Roberts, the prototype of the movie stars, who at age 51 turns away from the romantic comedies that helped build his career.

"With age, more complex roles are possible," Roberts said in a recent interview. "You know, I'm happy and I have fun at home, so it's hard when someone comes and says," Look, you can play this role where you're happy and have fun. "Well, I already do this at home!

Removing Roberts from your home can require a lot of work. Hedges suggested in a joke that they film "Ben Is Back" in their backyard. She is notoriously selective – she usually only makes one film a year – and this has become more uncertain considering, as she says, "all the math" that her children's and husband's school calendars, the director of photography Danny, imply. Moder Roberts went far enough and, with satisfaction, the center of attention. She weaves, plays Mahjongg with her friends once a week and can watch "Point Break" every time she watches on TV.


But he still plays the movie star with the same comfort as ever, and in person is – almost on a sweeping level – exactly what is expected. She remains genuine, carefree and simply herself, a quality that made countless people feel as if they really knew her. Roberts admits that the public's impression of her is "likely and relatively correct", something that very few of those who grace so many tabloid covers can say. "I mean, I'm not interested in trying to look cooler than I am," he says.

Even so, Roberts, nominated for four Oscars and winner of one (for "Erin Brockovich"), is also linked indelibly to the pre-digital cinema era of the 1990s and 2000s when stars, not superheroes They dominated the box office. Times have changed; the movie that launched her to stardom in 1990, "Pretty Woman," is now a Broadway musical. Roberts recently had the out-of-body experience of attending a show with Barbara Marshall, the wife of the late director of the film, Garry Marshall.


"I was not ready to see all the improvisations I've created right now in a Broadway script," Roberts said. "People saying things I was inventing, lines that I improvised."

And long before pay equity was a problem in the film industry, Roberts was among Hollywood's best-paid stars. When asked about the #MeToo movement and gender parity in Hollywood, Roberts replied that "you can never rest."

"You do not think it's going to be unfair?" He said, and noted some advances, such as fair pay for female surfers and the launch of a Manchester United women's team. "Things like this give me hope that our industry can continue to progress, because every year is the year of the woman who thinks: again? Let's just have the year of the artists always.If we have to keep highlighting the genre and the genre of it, in a way we spoiled everything. "

Lately, Roberts has been trying some new things. In June, he joined Instagram and ventured on TV with "Homecoming." Roberts insisted that Sam Esmail ("Mr. Robot") direct all the episodes and that all the scripts were ready before beginning to film.

In a similar vein, he helped shape "Ben Is Back". He pressed for Peter Hedges to give him the role of his son, the emerging star of "Manchester by the Sea," a difficult task because Lucas was deliberately trying to make a name out of his father's shadow.


"When Julia read the script and met with me, I brought a list of actors that I thought might be good for the role, and Lucas was not on that list," Peter Hedges said over the phone. "Before I could show him the list, he said:" Lucas should do that role. "I said," One, I do not think it's available, and two, I do not think that I wanted to make a movie with me. "Once she signed it, she started a very persuasive and elegant campaign. He made an effort to let her know she thought he should do the movie with her."

It's hard to say no to Julia Roberts. The actress then invited Lucas to her home in Malibu, where he says he became part of the family, spending time with his children and taking them to the beach. For her, "Ben Is Back" was more about establishing a relationship with her fictional son than about channeling her own maternal nightmares.

"Spending time with Lucas meant having quality time with him, and that's what I meant for the movie," Roberts said.

Like many of Roberts' best recent works, including "Wonder" and "August: Osage County" (for which he received an Oscar nomination), "Ben Is Back" revolves around family, both inside and outside the home. until then. And despite his upcoming film, "Little Bee," is also a drama, he does not rule out that he can make another romantic comedy.

"It's like spending months wrapping a gift for people," Roberts said. "They're really hard to do well, so I do not envy their absence because I'd rather not see too bad (romantic comedies)."

But "Ben Is Back" and "Homecoming" allowed him to expand on the dramatic work he did with Steven Soderbergh ("Erin Brockovich") and Mike Nichols ("Closer," Charlie Wilson's War) the actress. : "His face was made by God to express ideas and feelings."

What's left to prove? For Roberts, that's not the point.

"I've never been in the demonstration business, but I live very humbly in the business of & # 39; I want to impress," said Roberts. "My husband would be at the top of the list. I remember the feeling of going on set every day with my beloved Mike Nichols and thinking: what can I do today in my work that makes me think" I did not see that happen? "


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