After years in limbo, the small (but star-studded) family drama ''Fireflies in the Garden,'' is hitting theaters. We asked Roberts, 43, and Reynolds, 34, to write about their foray into indie filmmaking

By EW Staff
Updated October 07, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Julia Roberts My husband, Danny Moder, is a cinematographer. He was asked to shoot a film in Texas. The director, Dennis Lee, had written this story, not based on his life but inspired by his beloved mother’s untimely death. Danny asked me to consider playing the mother. I guessed that Julianne Moore wasn’t available, as she is a house favorite. I took the part; it’s critical but small. I was pregnant with our third child, so I could leave the heavy lifting to others who could, well, bend at the waist. My husband is played brilliantly and brutally by Willem Dafoe. My son is played painfully, humorously, and touchingly by Ryan Reynolds. Yes, I did say ”my son.”

Ryan Reynolds In the interest of scientific plausibility, it’s worth mentioning she mostly portrays my mom in flashback sequences, when my character is a little boy. When I found out I was going to be working with Julia, I automatically assumed she’d be playing the love interest. But no. I wouldn’t say it was a ”letdown.” More like a thick buttress of pure disappointment and injustice.

Roberts We packed up and moved to Texas to shoot the movie. Summer in Texas is a bit how I remember a few girls from high school — hot, focused, relentless.

Reynolds My agenda was simple: Examine Danny’s psyche for weaknesses. Exploit them. And then move into his house to raise his kids with my new wife, Julia Roberts. But Danny is handsome, charming, smart, and caring. Depending on the time of day and how drunk you are, I can be only one of those virtues at a time.

Roberts I was drawn to my character because she reminded me in ways of my mother. And it was mesmerizing to go head-to-head with Willem.

Reynolds I portray a guy in pain. Generally guys in pain should be avoided. They’ll ask for the keys to your heart. Then they’ll have a few cocktails, take it for a joyride, and wrap it around a telephone pole on a dark desert highway. Real men deal with their anger, inadequacies, and torment. Boys, on the other hand, simply express them with dim-witted non sequiturs, and I’m single, ladies, call me.

Roberts Fireflies in the Garden is a movie about family. It’s simple and sad and delicate. There were moments when it seemed like it would not get a theatrical release. We had a poster, a trailer, and I had even discussed it not once but twice on Letterman. It had to come out. Everyone worked so hard. It was so hot. Ryan Reynolds has a beard — and a cool sex scene! But finally it is making its way to theaters. And my big belly in the movie? We named him Henry. He is a happy 4-year-old preschooler who has no idea he was ever in a movie.