Veteran actor Eric Roberts had picked up three Golden Globe nominations before his little sister, Julia, had even made her screen debut. In time, though, it would be Julia who would go on to become by far the most famous Roberts. And over the years, the siblings have had a complicated relationship. It’s one that can hardly have been helped, either, by claims that Eric made in a 2018 interview with Vanity Fair.
Born in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1956, Eric Roberts began his professional acting career in 1977, playing Ted Bancroft on the long-running NBC soap Another World. Then, a year later, he delivered a Golden Globe-nominated performance in the film King of the Gypsies; he would earn a second such honor in 1983 thanks to his turn in Star 80.
What’s more, Eric ultimately picked up an Academy Awards nomination for his portrayal of an escaped con in 1985’s Runaway Train. And while he didn’t win the Oscar, he nevertheless got to take a statue home after receiving a Theatre World Award for his performance in the Broadway production Burn This. During the 1990s, meanwhile, Eric enjoyed various supporting roles in high-profile films including Final Analysis, The Specialist and the made-for-TV Doctor Who: The Movie.
And Eric remained a regular screen presence during the early years of the 21st century, too. That period saw the actor adding the likes of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, DOA: Dead or Alive and The Dark Knight to his resume, for instance. He also played Will Butler in the ABC sitcom Less Than Perfect from 2002 to 2005.
Plus, the veteran star has racked up more than three dozen big-screen credits since 2010, with roles in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, porn-star biopic Lovelace and controversial horror The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence among them. Eric also landed the recurring role of Charles Forstman in the drama series Suits and has starred as Bo’s father in a season of Canadian TV’s Lost Girl.
But although Eric has been a highly prolific and successful actor, his career has been somewhat overshadowed by that of his younger sister Julia. Indeed, starring roles in Mystic Pizza, Pretty Woman, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Notting Hill have made Julia arguably one of the most popular stars of her generation. And unlike her brother, she has an Oscar, too, for Erin Brockovich in 2001.
Furthermore, Eric’s relationship with Julia hasn’t always run smoothly, to say the least. The pair, who are separated by a 11-year age gap, were literally parted after their parents divorced in the early 1970s. Eric stayed with father Walter in Atlanta, while Julia went with mother Betty to live elsewhere in Georgia. And, sadly, brother and sister would remain estranged for much of the next 30 years.
In a 2018 interview with Vanity Fair, though, Eric admitted that his issues with substance abuse were in part to blame for his difficult relationship with Julia. “I was exhausting to be around,” he said. “Complainy, blamey, unable to enjoy enjoyment. Everyone in my world needed a break sometimes, and that must have included Julia.”
Eric’s drug problems had first come to light in 1987 when he was arrested for carrying marijuana and cocaine. Rather unwisely, though, he attempted to assault a cop during his apprehension. The troubled actor was subsequently held in jail for a day and a half and freed after he pleaded guilty to the charge of harassment. Then, in 1995 Eric was arrested again after he pushed his wife, Eliza, into a wall.
However, Eric’s substance abuse didn’t just affect his personal life; it impinged on his professional career, too. Indeed, the star would also tell Vanity Fair how drugs had impacted his acting opportunities. “I would go to meetings with people that mattered, like Oliver Stone and Sean Penn, and I would go stoned,” he confessed. “Woody Allen. I met him very stoned, and he dismissed me – as well he should have. I did that for about ten years.”
And Eric first discussed his complicated relationship with Julia when he appeared on The Howard Stern Radio Show in 2001. Then, the actor admitted that his drug addiction had been to blame for their continuing estrangement. Julia’s support of his ex-girlfriend during a custody battle for daughter Emma had apparently caused a rift as well, too. Nevertheless, three years after the Howard Stern revelations, Eric revealed to People magazine that he and his sister had made amends.
That reunion came, moreover, shortly after Julia gave birth to twins in 2004. And, initially, Eric and Eliza had only intended to drop off some presents at the hospital where Julia gave birth. Instead, though, Eric was “ushered into their room and was immediately awash in brotherly and uncle-ly love.” Happily, Eric and Julia have since shared many Thanksgivings together and are frequently in touch via email.
Eric also insisted to Vanity Fair that he had never stopped loving Julia and his other sister, actress Lisa Roberts Gillan, during their extended periods of estrangement. “They were precious to me, and we had times of great closeness,” he said. “We all felt very protective of each other, but the hardest person to protect yourself from is yourself.”
Nevertheless, Eric still believes that Julia would not have an acting career if he hadn’t paved the way for her. He also makes that bold claim about his daughter Emma Roberts, who was raised by his former girlfriend, Kelly Cunningham. Rising star Emma has followed in her family’s footsteps by appearing in the likes of Palo Alto, We’re the Millers and American Horror Story.
Emma’s dad didn’t hold back, either, when he told Vanity Fair, “If it wasn’t for me, there would be no Julia Roberts and no Emma Roberts as celebrities, as actresses, and I’m very proud of that.” Eric also added, “When Julia first came to New York, I went into William Morris and I said, ‘Which one of you is going to sign my sister Julia?’”
Furthermore, the veteran movie star was keen to remind everyone just how successful he was before Julia came along. Eric boasted in the Vanity Fair interview, “I am so proud that everybody knows I was first, because I was first by a long shot. I was first to get Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations, so I’m proud of that.”
But bearing in mind an interview Julia gave to U.K. newspaper The Observer in 1994, there may be some validity to these claims. At that time, Julia freely admitted that she was in her brother’s shadow when she first arrived in Hollywood. She explained, “I started out being Julia, Eric Roberts’ sister, then I was Julia Mystic Pizza Roberts. So getting saddled with Pretty Woman was not the worst moment of my life.”
And Eric has insisted that he’s not bitter about not being on Hollywood’s A-list. In fact, the actor has deemed himself to be more than satisfied with how his career is going, despite not having the name recognition of his younger sister.
As Eric enthused to Vanity Fair, “I started having fun at the craft. I’m a f**king groupie for it! I can do it every day, all day. But then everybody started making fun of me, and I turned to Eliza with the question ‘Why?’” His wife then reassured him by replying, “Sit tight… because, even when you’re s**t, you’re f**king awesome.”
And Eric shows no signs of slowing down; his IMDb page lists almost 30 films and TV appearances scheduled for 2018, in fact. In stark contrast, his sister has just two projects lined up that are yet to be screened. So, in one aspect of his career at least, Eric is overshadowing Julia at last.