Julia: Her Life cover

Julia: Her Live (©2004)

by James Spada

According to Spada, star biography specialist (Barbra Streisand, Bette Davis, Jacqueline Kennedy), Julia Roberts inspires every response, from the accusation by high school classmates that she "liked to steal other girls' boyfriends" to Woody Allen's praise: "She's bright, beautiful, and a pleasure to work with." This duality makes her an intriguing but unsympathetic character here. So much evidence is presented about Roberts pro and con that the book becomes a biographical mystery, inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. A self-proclaimed ugly duckling who "never really fit" in early childhood, Roberts was strongly inspired by actor brother Eric. The book moves briskly from Roberts's breakthrough role in Mystic Pizza to superstardom with Pretty Woman, a part she researched by interviewing prostitutes.

      Roberts "does her emotional homework," declares director Joel Schumacher during their collaboration on Flatliners, a film that co-starred her with one-time fianc Kiefer Sutherland. Other lovers who emerge with colorful clarity include Liam Neeson, Dylan McDermott, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jason Patric and country singer ex-husband Lyle Lovett. Although Spada cuttingly characterizes Roberts and Lovett as "beauty and the beast," he delineates their relationship less sharply than the other liaisons (although Matthew Perry of Friends is a vividly etched presence). Spada recounts the Roberts-Nick Nolte feud during I Love Trouble and highlights the ambivalence so many feel about her by quoting Steven Spielberg, who praised her while directing Hook and criticized her on 60 Minutes. Readers won't be as enchanted with this box-office sweetheart as they were before beginning the story, but they're likely to become caught up in Spada's incisive portrait of her personal and professional tribulations. Agent, Todd Schuster. (Feb.) Forecast: The book's publication date coincides with the 2004 Academy Awards, which could help it get media coverage. It also has the distinction of being the first biography of Roberts published by a major house.