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Julia Roberts: Back on Top

Julia Roberts: Back on Top

I am mystified by anyone who doesn’t think that Julia Roberts knocked one out of the box office park with Eat Pray Love this weekend. It was her best opening since America’s Sweethearts: her fans welcomed her back with open arms. (Of course the movie will have to continue to chug along from here, on a global scale, to be truly successful.) Here’s a sampling of my latest Career Watch column.

When you open a female-skewing picture like ‘Eat Pray Love’ to the tune of $23.7 million despite often savage reviews, you are clearly a star. And Julia Roberts — the most successful actress of all time, with more than $2.4 billion in U.S. ticket sales — practically defines the term. Still, until this past weekend, with no starring-role blockbusters since 2000’s ‘Erin Brockovich,’ the 42-year-old actress appeared to have reached a career plateau. Luckily, she is reportedly game for more success: ”I haven’t done a main part in a movie in a long time,” she told Reuters recently, “and I wondered if that kind of workload would still be interesting to me, and I was very happy at the end of this that I felt incredibly fulfilled as a creative person.” Could it be that Julia Roberts is back?

Latest Misfire: After six years of voice performances (‘Charlotte’s Web’) and supporting roles (‘Valentine’s Day,’ ‘Charlie Wilson’s War,’ ‘Closer’,’ ‘Oceans Twelve’) — which came while she was happily raising three young kids with husband Danny Moder — Roberts returned to her first starring role since ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ with 2009’s ‘Duplicity.’ The well-reviewed heist thriller/romance, co-starring Clive Owen, may have been too smart for the room: It tallied just $81 million worldwide.

Next Step: Roberts enjoys acting with her friends, including ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ star Tom Hanks, who is also directing her in the upcoming comedy drama ‘Larry Crowne,’ alongside Bryan Cranston and Taraji P. Henson. Other projects Roberts is reportedly considering: ‘Our Wild Life,’ about a Kenyan animal conservationist; the Lolly Winston adultery novel ‘Happiness Sold Separately’; and Mike Binder’s version of the novel ‘The Friday Night Knitting Club.’ She’s also developing a number of projects to possibly produce or star in, including ‘Hothouse Flowers,’ based on Margot Berwin novel about a divorced advertising exec who flees her life in Manhattan for an unplanned adventure. Sounds familiar.

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