Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Julia Roberts' Onstage Voodoo

In recent weeks, it’s become impossible to ignore the bizarre behavior of a beloved, perpetually smiling film star.
I speak, of course, of Julia Roberts, who has confounded public expectations by not making a summer movie and not doing anything scandalous or wildly emotional like getting married, divorced, or having a baby.
Roberts is acting in a play. On Broadway, no less.
That’s just…weird.
But in a good way. Whatever theatre reviewers will say of her performance in Richard Goldberg’s Three Days of Rain, tickets are sold out for the plays’ entire run.
David Edelstein, the film critic for New York magazine, shelled out $250 bucks to see an early preview, and he writes this week about how Roberts, until now a purely cinematic performer, comes across on stage.
Here’s a little of what Edelstein says in The Close-Up Is Her Voodoo

“It’s that somehow those clown-princess features coalesce into one of the best faces ever captured on the big screen.
She’s plainly gorgeous in still photos, but it’s in motion that the real magic happens. She can entrance you with the tiniest shifts in expression. And does she know it!”
UPDATE, April 20: The opening night reviews are in.
The Boston Globe ‘s carries a slam from theatre critic Ed Siegel: he didn’t like her effusive Oscar acceptance speech for Erin Brockovich in 2001, and he reviews her Three Days of Rain performance as if she’d swanned onstage in a vintage gown and started bawling.
Self-confessed “Juliaholic” Ben Brantley of the New York Times was, like Edelstein, entranced by Roberts’ unique beauty, but managed to notice that the play was weak and the role didn’t suit her.
“The only emotion that this production generates arises not from any interaction onstage, but from the relationship between Ms. Roberts and her fans”
“We wanted our Julia to do well,” writes Brantley. “In a smaller, Off Broadway house, she wouldn’t have to worry about projecting and could perhaps relax a bit. (She never seems to know what to do with her body.) And she really should be playing a romantic heroine, of the imperiled or comic variety. Her parts in “Three Days of Rain” are essentially character parts, and Ms. Roberts is not a character actress.”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon