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Julia Roberts on-screen

Julia Roberts on-screen — We take a look at her history in movies such as ”Mystic Pizza,” ”Steel Magnolias,” and ”Pretty Women”

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Julia Roberts on-screen

From her early ensemble pieces to her recent tailor-made vehicles, Julia Roberts has outshone almost every movie she’s been in. Lately, Hollywood has seemed content to let her star power light up some very clanky old formulas, but Roberts, the biggest female box office draw in decades, has proven she can rise to the occasion-even if she’s on the end of a wire: Her next role will be Tinkerbell in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Hook. Here’s a look at her meteoric career trajectory.

Satisfaction (1988)
Roberts is strictly a backup in this musical dud about four girls in a rock & roll band. Justine Bateman and Trini Alvarado are the featured performers, yet when NBC aired the movie last April — under the new title The Girls of Summer — the network shamelessly hyped Roberts as the main attraction. Imagine the surprise of fans when they discovered that their Julia was only the bass player. C-

Mystic Pizza (1988)
As a proud pizza waitress in love with a rich preppie, Roberts plays one of three young small-town women dreaming of better things and shares screen time equally with Annabeth Gish and Lili Taylor. But in her first real chance to strut her stuff, she walks away with this sleeper hit. A future star is born. B+

Blood Red (1989)
This woeful Western-about Italian settlers struggling against a ruthless railroad baron-was actually Roberts’ first movie: It was shot in 1986, barely saw theatrical release, and vanished into video purgatory. Playing screen sister to real brother Eric, Roberts has a couple of inconsequential scenes, then fades into the background. Eric and the rest, including Dennis Hopper and Giancarlo Giannini, probably wished they could have done the same. D

Steel Magnolias (1989)
Roberts plumbs previously untapped depths as the doomed daughter of Sally Field in this laugh-through-the-tears crowd pleaser. Her costars got the laughs, Roberts took care of the tears, and the performance netted her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, making her the lone nominee in a cast that included Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, and Daryl Hannah. B

Pretty Woman (1990)
Playing a golden-hearted hooker as modern Cinderella, Roberts won the heart of corporate raider Richard Gere and of moviegoing America: That million-dollar smile. That improbable combo of guilelessness and street smarts. Women wanted to be her friend. Men wanted to take care of her. Many critics (including EW‘s) savaged the film for its questionable premise, but Roberts’ winning performance redeems it. Unexpected bonus: an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. B+

Flatliners (1990)
Filmed before Pretty Woman hit the stratosphere, this MTV-style supernatural thriller placed Roberts in an ensemble that also featured Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, and future fiance Kiefer Sutherland. They play med students who fool around with near-death experiences, but never quite manage to breathe life into a seriously silly script. Roberts’ beauty is a welcome distraction, but her toned-down performance gets lost in the effects. C-

Sleeping With the Enemy (1991)
Sheer star power turned this plodding thriller into a smash hit. As an abused wife who fakes her own death and starts life over in another town, Roberts elicits an empathy that the film’s calculated preposterousness could never have earned. C

Dying Young (1991)
Roberts played nurse and lover to dying Campbell Scott, but the crowds never showed up. Was it because the actress’ working-class persona seemed formulaic, or simply that summer audiences weren’t out for a good cry? Whatever the reason, this weepie was perceived as the first Roberts vehicle to fall short at the box office, earning a disappointing $33 million. What people failed to note was that, without her, it might have made 10 cents. C-