Quick - who is the first actress you think of when you hear the phrase “America’s Sweetheart”? If you said the actress who starred in Pretty Woman, then you may be surprised to hear these dark Julia Roberts stories. The Georgia-born Academy Award winner with the million-dollar smile may have captured the hearts of audiences around the world, but these true Julia Roberts stories may make you think twice about her squeaky-clean, nice-girl image.
Roberts hit the big screen with a bang in 1988 in the comedy Mystic Pizza, and went on to appear in a few other films before catapulting to stardom with her portrayal of a prostitute with a heart of gold in Garry Marshall’s 1990 smash romantic comedy Pretty Woman. Roberts was just 23 years old and could light up a room with her smile, movie-star glamour, and sweet girl-next-door persona.
But it was not long before Julia Roberts's personal drama took over the tabloids. A rumor emerged that, during filming of Steven Spielberg’s 1991 film Hook, Roberts was such a diva on the set in her role as Tinkerbell that the crew began to refer to the actress as “Tinkerhell.” Was Julia Roberts's romantic life to blame for her bad behavior? After all, she had just called off her marriage to Kiefer Sutherland mere days before their wedding, only to run away to Ireland with Jason Patric.
The Erin Brockovich star has not had an easy life. According to her brother, fellow actor Eric Roberts, her stepfather was abusive. Her contentious relationship with her brother has also made more than a few headlines. Read more about these 11 dark Julia Roberts facts that suggest one of modern cinema’s most beloved actresses may have more than a few skeletons in her closet.
Her Sister's Fiance Blames Julia For Her Tragic Suicide
In 2014, Julia Roberts's half-sister, Nancy Motes, committed suicide by way of drug overdose. Motes left a 12-page suicide note that blamed her famous sister for driving her to lethal ends. Motes’s fiance, John Dilbeck, spoke about the sisters' tumultuous relationship during an interview. He explained:
Nancy felt bullied by Julia her whole life. Julia tormented Nancy about her weight and called her a fat failure. Nancy spiraled into a pit of depression and took her own life. I put the blame for that firmly in the hands of her family. If Nancy hadn’t been Julia Roberts’s kid sister I believe she would still be alive.
Among many other claims, Dilbeck alleged that his fiancee's family did not invite him to the funeral, even though he and Motes had been together for five years before he proposed.
Roberts Allegedly Responds Very Poorly To Criticism
Writer and critic Roger Friedman accused the actress of being “rude, downright nasty, and dismissive” during the 2009 premiere of Roberts's film Duplicity.
"She snubbed me in front of other people to make her point, and later cut in between me and director Tony Gilroy to make her point," Friedman wrote of the Notting Hill star. "Her behavior was unexpected and chilling."
When Friedman asked Roberts’s publicist, Marcy Engelman, what the problem was, she replied, “She knows you broke the embargo on her play and wrote bad things about her.”
In fact Friedman's early review of Roberts in her first Broadway show, Three Days of Rain, in 2006, was one of the few that were positive.
Friedman's second review of the play, after it'd opened, was also complimentary to Roberts’s performance, though Friedman pointed out that other critics were panning her stage acting. Perhaps she was given incorrect information, or someone mistook Friedman for another critic?
In his description of Roberts's reaction, Friedman concluded: “I wouldn't have thought that what I wrote about Roberts in her play could have justified the scene at last night’s party. It was not pretty, and it was meant to be devastating. Her associates said, 'This is what she was told.' And that’s even worse: to think that most people in Hollywood start many conversations with these words: 'I was told you wrote (blank).'"
Nick Nolte Said Roberts Is Not A Nice Person And That Everyone Knows That
Julia Roberts and her I Love Trouble (1994) co-star Nick Nolte reportedly hated each other so much that they had to film scenes separately using stand-ins. Roberts did not keep her feelings about Nolte to herself. She told The New York Times that while her co-star could be "charming and nice, he's also completely disgusting."
Nolte's reply to Roberts's public diss possibly confirmed the hush-hush rumor that the Pretty Woman actress is not as congenial as her nice-girl persona would suggest. He retorted: "It's not nice to call someone 'disgusting.' But she's not a nice person. Everyone knows that."
Even 15 years after the forgettable romantic comedy left theaters, Roberts still hadn't forgotten about her public beef with Nolte. In 2009, the actress appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and told an unpleasant story about a particular actor she had worked with in the past. Roberts then went into her best profanity-filled Nick Nolte impression for Letterman: "What the f*ck is that? Did you not f*cking hear me? You don’t know what you’re talking about!"
The Crew On The Set Of 'Hook' Nicknamed Roberts 'Tinkerhell'
Though Steven Spielberg has not had a lot of missteps in his career, 1991's Hook failed to impress critics. One possible weak point may have been Roberts's mental condition during production. Her role as Tinkerbell in the movie was not a huge part, but it was an especially tumultuous time for the actress.
Roberts was in her early 20s in 1991, and she had just called off her engagement to Kiefer Sutherland days before their wedding. The actress was reportedly an emotional wreck during production. In fact, when Spielberg was asked during an interview with 60 Minutes if he would ever work with Roberts again, he replied, "No."
He added, "It was not a great time for Julia and I to be working together."
Roberts's behavior was so prima donna-like that the Hook crew reportedly nicknamed her "Tinkerhell."
However, there are two sides to every story. During a 1991 interview with Vanity Fair, Roberts had her say about Spielberg's remarks and the negative press she'd received:
Hand to God: not a thing I read about that was truthful, and it really hurt my feelings. Because not only did it make me sound mean, but it was a situation where people who knew the truth talked about it in a way that wasn’t untruthful. I saw that and my eyes popped out of my head. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that this person that I knew and trusted was actually hesitating to come to my defense... It was a hard lesson to learn.