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Tue, November 30, 2004

Double Bill
Roberts has another set of twins on way: Holiday movies Closer & Ocean's Twelve

HOLLYWOOD -- When Julia Roberts missed press interviews for her holiday movies Closer and Ocean's Twelve, it wasn't a boycott or publicity stunt. She really was confined to her hospital bed. Roberts' doctors had advised she could do only a few phone interviews because her twins would likely be born prematurely. That proved to be the case on Sunday, when the 37-year-old star gave birth to son Phinnaeus Walter Moder and daughter Hazel Patricia Moder almost six weeks before their January due date.

In her absence, cast members and directors from both films talked about their famous co-star.

Mike Nichols, who directed Roberts in the dark relationship drama Closer that opens Friday, says her greatest attribute is her transparency.

"You can see blood rushing under Julia's skin. You can see what she is thinking," says Nichols "Her vulnerability and transparency is what makes her so accessible to audiences."

Roberts was a last-minute replacement for Cate Blanchett, whose pregnancy prevented her from reprising the role of the aloof photographer she had created in the stage version of Closer.

"It's Julia's immense professionalism that enabled her to take the role at short notice and that made us all confident she could and would do it," recalls Nichols. "For a star of her status, her work ethic is legendary."

Ironically, it was while she was filming Ocean's Twelve -- shortly after completing Closer -- that Roberts learned she was pregnant.

George Clooney, who plays her love interest in the Ocean films, recalls "it was during the first month of shooting on Ocean's Twelve we read in the papers she was pregnant. We all knew we had to completely rethink her role."

For early scenes, director Steven Soderberg shot Roberts sitting down or blocked her body with furniture. But once her character got to Italy, Roberts had to be an essential part of a museum heist. So Soderberg came up with the idea of having her character Tess impersonate a pregnant Julia Roberts.

Clooney says everyone loved the idea but wondered if "Julia was willing to do something as ballsy as that. We were asking her to make fun of herself or celebrity or whatever."

He admits "it's a very hard thing to do because you're using yourself as the target but Julia just jumped in with both feet."

Matt Damon, who has most of the screen time opposite Roberts in these scenes, says "it was probably the most fun any of us had.

"Don Cheadle and I, who were following Julia's lead, realized it was a series of incredible pratfalls and really over the top. Those scenes were a blast to shoot. As George says, it was a ballsy chance Julia was taking, so we just went with her. The broader she went with the scenes, the broader we went."

It was Roberts who brought the glamour to Ocean's Eleven -- but not so with Ocean's Twelve. When a journalist pointed out that Roberts looks "positively dowdy compared to Catherine Zeta-Jones", producer Jerry Weintraub was quick to jump to his star's defence.

"She's Julia Roberts. She could have worn anything she wanted. She has her own stylists and make-up people," says Weintraub. "These were her choices.

"Julia dressed for the character she was playing. She chose her hairstyle to say something about how Tess is now content with being Danny's wife and how much she wants a home life for them."

Weintraub predicts "when audiences leave screenings of Ocean's Twelve, it will be Julia's scenes they'll be talking about because they are so much fun."

Director and studio mogul Joe Roth, who has been Roberts' friend for years, says the actress "is one of the few people in this business who really is control of their career.

"I think Julia will choose to be a mother for some time now. I think she'll put her career on a back burner but when she wants to come back, the industry will welcome her with open arms."

Next story: Stewart to croon at MTS

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