Whatever you've heard or read, no, Julia Roberts has not insured her dazzling smile — the one that audiences got to see again and again in hit romantic comedies like Pretty Woman, My Best Friend's Wedding and Notting Hill.
"I mean, if my smile was insured," Roberts told the New York Times Magazine for a story published Friday,"there would be someone at my house on a nightly basis saying, 'You need to floss longer.'"
Audiences will get to see Roberts's famous expression again this fall, when she co-stars with her friend (and regular co-star) George Clooney in Ticket to Paradise, her return to the genre after a long absence. In fact, she hasn't appeared in anything for four years.
"People sometimes misconstrue the amount of time that's gone by that I haven't done a romantic comedy as my not wanting to do one," she said. "If I had read something that I thought was that Notting Hill level of writing or My Best Friend's Wedding level of madcap fun, I would do it. They didn't exist until this movie that I just did that Ol Parker [writer/director of Mama Mia! Here We Go Again] wrote and directed."
There's also the matter of her family, which she keeps private and which she doesn't like to leave for just any reason. Roberts married cinematographer Danny Moder in 2002, with whom she shares three teenagers.
"Here's the thing: If I'd thought something was good enough, I would have done it. But I also had three kids in the last 18 years," Roberts told the magazine. "That raises the bar even more because then it's not only, Is this material good? It's also the math equation of my husband's work schedule and the kids' school schedule and summer vacation. It's not just, Oh, I think I want to do this. I have a sense of great pride in being home with my family and considering myself a homemaker. For so much of my children's younger life they would see their dad go off and I would work a little, but they almost didn't notice. It was like I was only gone when they were napping or something. But as they get older, and particularly with my daughter, I do have a sense of responsibility for showing my children that I can be creative and that it's meaningful to me — so meaningful that for periods of time I will choose to focus on that almost more than my family, which has been hard for me to come to terms with."
In fact, Roberts "almost didn't do" the 2013 movie August: Osage County, for which she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar, because she didn't want to leave her family. Moder convinced her.
"They were going to start filming right as our youngest son was starting kindergarten, and I was like, How could I miss this? I remember talking to Danny about it, and he said: 'At some point you were going to have to leave us to work. Wouldn't you rather roll those dice in a situation like this, where you have a good understanding of what you're going to be doing and the people you're going to be working with?'"
For that one, she was part of an all-star cast that included Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale and more. Clooney was a producer.
"He was right to push me," Roberts said of Moder, "because if he said, 'I don't know,' I would have been like: 'I don't either! I'm not going!' That's the female plight. That feeling of leaving is hard."
Roberts's latest projects, both the reunion with Clooney and Gaslit, a Starz series out April 24, in which she plays Martha Mitchell, an unlikely figure in bringing down the Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal, are allowing her to live her "acting dreams." Her friend Sean Penn — she calls him "the greatest dramatic actor, I think, of my generation" — plays her husband, Nixon attorney general John N. Mitchell.
And, don't worry, Roberts said her rom-com skills, which, if you don't count her minors parts in the Garry Marshall-directed lovefests of the 2010s, came back to her for Paradise.
"I love to laugh and be funny. You get into that mode of those endorphins going off when you're clever and people going, 'Oh!' Then that becomes this automatic thing where you're always thinking in terms of creating fun," she said. "It's a joy to play in that sandbox. It has been a long time."
And she said that the famous grin and the boisterous laugh for which she's known is still genuine.
"If something's funny, I'm going to laugh," she said. "If something's not funny, nothing's going to make me laugh. I would probably get a lot further in my career if I had more control over those things."