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Roberts loved mocking her own image

LOUIS B. HOBSON, Special to The Free Press   2004-12-06 01:34:32  

HOLLYWOOD -- When Julia Roberts missed the recent press interviews for her holiday movies Closer and Ocean's Twelve it wasn't a boycott or publicity stunt. She was in a hospital bed, sending word that doctors had advised she could do only a few phone interviews because her twins would likely be born prematurely.

That proved true eight days ago when she gave birth to a son, Phinnaeus Walker 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 costar.

Mike Nichols, who directed her in the dark relationship drama Closer 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 own pregnancy kept 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 discovered she herself was pregnant.

George Clooney who plays Roberts' love interest in the Ocean films, recalls it was during the first month of shooting and "we all knew we had to completely rethink her role."

For early scenes, director Steven Soderberg shot Roberts sitting down or blocking her body with furniture.

Once her character gets to Italy, however, Roberts had to be an essential part of a museum heist.

Soderberg came up with the idea of having Roberts' 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.

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

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. 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 "postively 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 makeup people," says Weintraub.

"These were her choices. Julia dressed for the character she was playing. She chose her hair style 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 obout because they are so much fun."

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