The Power of Julia : How did a 23-year-old actress become such a Hollywood force after only six movies?

<i> Elaine Dutka is a Times staff writer</i>

In 1988, Julia Roberts stepped in as a last-minute replacement for Meg Ryan to play Shelby, a young diabetic in “Steel Magnolias.” It was a major break for a young actress whose only major screen credit was the female coming-of-age film “Mystic Pizza”--and placed her in the midst of some pretty heavy hitters.

Surrounded by Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton and Daryl Hannah, Roberts was surely the lowest-paid and least-recognized--by a long shot.

Three years later, however, she has left them all in the dust. The 23-year-old Roberts commands more money than any other actress in Hollywood--she will get $7 million for “Renegades,” a Western she’ll star in next year with husband-to-be Kiefer Sutherland. When “Pretty Woman” became Disney’s top-grossing film ever, the nation’s theater owners--at their annual convention, ShoWest--selected her 1990 Performer of the Year. And, with only six major movies to her credit, the actress has twice been nominated for an Academy Award and twice won a Golden Globe.


Roberts--despite her brief track record--is considered the Movie Star of the Moment: the only actress in a male-dominated business who can be counted on to bring in audiences. That’s what 20th Century Fox Chairman Joe Roth is banking on when the studio releases her latest movie, “Dying Young”--the story of a woman (Roberts) involved with a man fighting leukemia (Campbell Scott)--on June 21.

“When you have Julia’s name on the marquee, you have the biggest female star in the world, one of less than 10 people in the world who can ‘open’ a picture simply because she’s in it,” he says. “And she’s arguably the only actress on the list. That’s what’s so exciting about this phenomenon: At least at this moment, there’s someone who broke the taboo about gender. Julia is up there with Costner, Gibson, Schwarzenegger. She can carry a picture regardless of genre, domestic or abroad.”

Roberts’ story is a dramatic one--even by Hollywood standards. It’s a tale that not only provides insight into the actress herself, but into the way the industry works. The headaches of breaking in. How each movie alters an actor’s perceived worth. The strategy that takes an actor to the top. And the politics and pressures that come with staying there: During the past three years, Roberts moved from one agency to a competitor, dismissed her publicist and manager and, in a town where litigation is commonplace, she was slapped with a lawsuit.

In the ‘30s and ‘40s, there were few overnight stars. Studios could afford to let actors “build,” investing in their careers and taking chances on them over a long period of time. Bette Davis toiled at Warner Bros. for years, paying her dues in such features as “Parachute Jumper.” Humphrey Bogart was a Grade B gangster for several years and played a stablehand in “Dark Victory.” Later, Marilyn Monroe took one- or two-scene roles in such movies as “All About Eve” before going through the roof. Cagney and Brando did burst on the scene--but neither was lavished with the kinds of salaries thrown at Tom Cruise, the actor whose rise is most like Roberts’. When actors were under contract, the studios took them for granted instead of catering to them, as they do today.

Why? Pictures now cost an average of $40 million to produce and market and far fewer of them are released. With so much money riding on each project, having Julia Roberts in a film first helps justify to the boss of a conglomerate or a studio’s foreign owners the decision to make a film, and maximizes the film’s chances of success. If the picture breaks out, the studio chief can take a bow. If it takes a nose dive, well . . . he spent the dough for the hottest talent around. What more can a guy do?

Roberts’ story begins in 1985 in Smyrna, Ga. (pop. 30,981), when a tall, lanky high school senior headed for New York three days after her graduation determined to pursue an acting career. Walking down Columbus Avenue, she was “discovered” by some show-biz types who helped her line up Bob McGowan as her manager. With no acting credits, she had trouble finding an agent, but worked at Athlete’s Foot and an ice cream parlor to get by.


McGowan suggested that she get rid of her thick Southern accent--which was accomplished only in part with the help of speech coach Sam Chwat. McGowan also told her to get some acting lessons, which the actress picked up and promptly dropped.

“Basically, I’ve learned on the job,” Roberts said, taking a break from “Hook,” Steven Spielberg’s twist on the Peter Pan fable. Sitting in her trailer, her recently shorn auburn hair tucked under the strawberry blond wig she wears as Tinker Bell, she adds: “It’s an instinctive thing with me. I don’t quite know what I’ll be doing until it’s done.”

In 1986, Julia’s older brother Eric, then an up-and-coming actor, roped her into playing his sister in a low-budget Western called “Blood Red.” The film wasn’t released until a few years later--and then channeled straight into video. In order to snag the attention of agents (the key to getting sent out on auditions), McGowan decided that desperate measures were called for.

To get Roberts a role in “Satisfaction,” a movie about an all-girl rock band, he lied. “Julia is a musician,” he informed the casting director--and enrolled her in a crash course in the drums, “the easiest instrument to learn,” he said. Roberts got the part, played guitar in the movie, and came in contact with producer Alan Greisman--the husband of Sally Field, who became instrumental in the actress’ success. When McGowan offered the prestigious William Morris agency 10% of the deal, it agreed to sign her up.

Roberts was assigned to agent Risa Shapiro, who, with Elaine Goldsmith in the company’s West Coast office, joined McGowan in guiding her career. The threesome lined up an episode of TV’s “Crime Story” and a part in the HBO movie “Baja, Oklahoma.” But not until her memorable performance as the fiery Portuguese waitress in 1988’s “Mystic Pizza” did the public and industry take notice.

“A lot of people went up for the movie,” says Goldsmith, whose office walls and tables are filled with Juliabilia--photographs, posters, citations. “But when Julia wants something, she goes after it. Julia’s got passion. She’s very focused. To look more the part, she put black mousse in her hair for the callback the next day. “

Roth has also seen the focused side of Roberts. He recalled having Roberts and fiance Kiefer Sutherland--whom she’s marrying on the Fox lot Friday--over to dinner recently. “My son was playing Nintendo,” he says. “Julia came over and joined him. I saw that look in her eyes that I recognize from the set--’I’m going to do this and win.’ I felt sorry for my 7-year-old. She wasn’t giving him any quarter whatsoever. Still, it’s not about a Machiavellian plan. Not about competing with others. Julia’s drive is about herself.”

Roberts admits she’s ambitious. “I wouldn’t be in this business if I wasn’t,” she says. “But ‘ambition’ has a bad connotation. People don’t understand all the hues. It’s not just money, greed, fame. My ambitions are to seek out challenges, to discover new things about myself--maybe some things I haven’t wanted to deal with. I also want to be part of a group I respect, from whom I can get an influx of ideas and creativity.”

The “Mystic Pizza” ensemble fit that bill, says Roberts, smiling as she recalls those “babes in the woods,” including first-time feature director Donald Petrie, who embarked on what felt like a “fun home movie.” Critics liked it, and before it was through the $3.5-million picture did $14 million at the box office.

To get the most mileage, Goldsmith and Shapiro sent out 100 copies of an Esquire photo spread of Roberts in a skin-tight mini-dress doused in water, timed to the film’s release. Studio executives got on the phone. “Next time she’s out in L.A., give us a call,” they said.

Roberts proceeded to “do lunch” in Hollywood, but she was skeptical about the impression she made. “After ‘Mystic Pizza,’ they expected this dark-haired, stiletto-heeled thing . . . and then this willowy, washed-out blonde enters their office,” she says. “When I first met Steven (Spielberg), he said he thought I’d be 6 feet tall. I felt I disappointed him by being only 5-9.”

Colleagues insist that “one on one” is Roberts’ strong suit, that the relationships she has built help account for her rise. They talk of her loyalty, warmth and a Bambi-like quality in almost obsessive terms.

“I’m in love with Julia,” says Joel Schumacher, who directed her in “Flatliners” and “Dying Young.” ’She’s a combination of many things, which is why she’s so fascinating on-screen: sexy but ladylike, guileless yet sophisticated, fragile but strong. She’s street-smart rather than ‘educated,’ but extremely well-read. Her mother and father are from Smyrna, Ga., but they aren’t Beverly Hillbillies.”

Then came “Steel Magnolias,” produced by Ray Stark and directed by Herbert Ross. It was her first major studio film, and Roberts was paid $90,000--well above the $50,000 she’d received for “Mystic Pizza.” Competition to replace Meg Ryan (who opted to do “When Harry Met Sally . . .” instead) was intense, and Roberts read for the part three times. As co-star Sally Field remembers it, she definitely stood out. “Something about her makes you care for her, watch her,” she says. “And it went far beyond her looks. The part didn’t call for a great beauty . . . which was fortunate because no one, including Julia, agreed with me that she was one. She grew up as kind of an ugly duckling, not a ‘Pretty Woman,’ and the impression we form of ourselves in early adolescence always remains.”

As the only actress on the shoot without any clout, Roberts had a hard time with Ross. She was instructed to lose weight, lighten her hair, even change the shape of her eyebrows. The first day of shooting, she had to plunge into the most difficult scene of the movie: the beauty-parlor scene in which she has a diabetic fit. Still, Roberts was the only one of the ensemble to win a Golden Globe award--and the sole cast member to receive the academy’s nomination for best supporting actress. “That often happens,” producer Laurence Mark says. “If you’re in a group of old pros, you get noticed more. The fact that you hold your own is surprising.”

After “Steel Magnolias,” Roberts left McGowan, her manager, without explanation. She hasn’t hired another. “That was the first completely difficult decision I had to make in my life,” she says. “Bob had gone to bat for me, but I felt I had to be honest. We’d outgrown each other. There were too many people around me making decisions and I wanted a clearer line between me and the work.”

Roberts is still learning the ways of the world--and the business--and prefers to leave financial dealings to others. Does she have “leading-man approval”? She merely shrugs. (The answer is yes.) What did she get paid for a particular project? “You’re barking up the wrong tree,” she replies with a steely smile. “I’m the show. Elaine and Risa are the business. They take care of the stuff I’m not meant to deal with. If it concerns me, they let me know.”

When it comes to material, however, it’s Roberts’ gut that prevails. “The great thing about Julia is that she picks very diverse parts, doing things that seem mostly to be of interest to her,” says Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios. “She doesn’t worry about what image she’ll create. She’s not caught up in the notion of servicing some audience. Her primary concern seems to be doing good work--and letting the rest take care of itself. That’s very unique and almost unprecedented for movie stars these days.”

Goldsmith believes the smartest move her client has made was taking time off after shooting “Steel Magnolias” to wait for the right next movie--which turned out to be “Pretty Woman,” the movie that propelled Roberts into the stratosphere. But there was an unfortunate detour along the way. Shortly after “Steel Magnolias” wrapped, Roberts had committed to a project called “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” according to the film’s producer, Phyllis Carlyle. The story of a woman on a jury trial who falls in love with the accused, it was to be written and directed by Frank Military and financed by Trans World Entertainment. The first hitch occurred when TWE rejected the two leads Carlyle had in mind. “They didn’t believe that Julia Roberts could carry a film and had no interest in Billy Baldwin,” Carlyle recalls. “It’s not unusual. In this business, they only get behind someone once they’re ‘there.’ By the time things came together, the ship had sailed.”

Carlyle says that negotiations were in progress when “Three Thousand”--the original title of “Pretty Woman”--came along. “Elaine and Julia asked whether I’d mind giving her the space to do a ‘Hollywood’ movie first. When Elaine decided not to honor her agreement and put out feelers for other films, the project started coming undone. It was a case of Julia’s career taking on a momentum that couldn’t be contained. This wasn’t the first--or the last--time it will happen.”

Maybe not. But TWE is less philosophical. The company has served Roberts with a lawsuit, being handled by her lawyer Barry Hirsch, who extricated the actress from the project and remains a key member of the Roberts team. Goldsmith claims that things were just in the talking stage, that there was never any deal. Negotiations, she says, broke down only when they heard TWE was considering another actress.

All that faded into the distance when “Three Thousand” (a reference to the sum the hooker Roberts played was to be paid for a week of her services) came along. Discussions about Roberts playing the role were under way while the project was at Vestron Pictures. When Steve Reuther, a top production executive at the company, decided to leave, however, he sold the project to Disney. None of the Disney executives had seen “Mystic Pizza” and they were unenthused about Roberts. “Elaine was like a dog tugging at your cuff who wouldn’t let go,” recalls David Hoberman, president of Disney’s Touchstone Pictures. “She was dogged in her pursuit of the role, getting us to believe that Julia was right.” Ray Stark arranged for a screening of the unreleased “Steel Magnolias” for Hoberman and Katzenberg. Sally Field put in her two cents with Michael Eisner, chairman of the Walt Disney Co.

Roberts read a few times before testing. A deal was worked out giving Disney three weeks to pick up her option--which they did on the last day of the option period. Such actors as Sting, Sean Connery and Al Pacino were approached for the male lead. Richard Gere passed early on, but came around after director Garry Marshall and Roberts flew to New York to plead their case firsthand.

The film, retitled “Pretty Woman,” was completed in September, 1989. The story of a Hollywood Boulevard hooker who wins the heart--and credit cards--of a Wall Street corporate raider, the movie is much more of a fairy tale than the dark, gritty original version. As in the classic case of “Casablanca,” the script was constantly rewritten during the shoot.

No matter. When the movie was released in March, 1990, the public turned out in droves. “Pretty Woman” became the third-highest-grossing movie of the year and turned Roberts, who received $300,000, into a star. The foreign press presented her with a Golden Globe best actress statuette, which was followed by Roberts’ second Oscar nomination. “The movie was like an avalanche for her,” says Joan Hyler, an agent at the William Morris Agency. “After the film took off, she got every script in the business. There was Julia Roberts . . . and everyone else.”

Critic and film historian Richard Schickel questions all the fuss. “Without taking anything away from Julia Roberts, there were doubtless 25 other actresses who could have played the ‘Pretty Woman’ role and played it fine,” he says. “It wasn’t exactly a stretch. There was nothing inherent in what she--or Richard Gere--did that pushed the film over the $150-million mark. It took off because the public wanted to plug into the fantasy.

“The Julia Roberts phenomenon,” Schickel says, “is indicative of Hollywood’s peculiar inability to analyze its own successes. After someone has a whopping success, studios think he or she must have something--and lays a lot of money over it. In a rational business, they’d wait five pictures before deciding if they want to pay her $7 million or, at least, tailor a film to her strengths. Roberts turned in an exceptionally fine performance in ‘Steel Magnolias’ and showed that, underneath all this hoopla, there’s a young actress who can act. But paying Julia Roberts $7 million for the wrong picture is meaningless.”

Many disagree. They point to her openness and honesty on camera; to her likability and accessibility, which make audiences--particularly those in the blue collar community--identify with her. “Like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood, Julia has a translucence,” says Richard Fischoff, a senior vice president at Tri-Star who served as the supervising executive on “Steel Magnolias.” “When she smiles, she lights up the screen.”

Some feel Roberts’ appeal crosses not only class lines, but gender lines as well. “Men think Julia is extraordinarily beautiful and women think they went to school with her, that they can call her up and be her best friend,” says Field, who is one of the producers of “Dying Young.”

As always, luck enters into the phenomenon. Roberts seems to have been the right person at the right place at the right time. “Julia’s the new blood,” says one high-powered industry observer. “No other actress in her 20s has her quotient of sex appeal. The others are all in their 30s and 40s. It had to happen. Someone had to fall out of the air.”

Roberts professes ignorance about her appeal. “It’s the old philosophy: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ ” she says with a bit of impatience. “If everyone was responding to my shoulders, say, I’d start becoming aware, freaking out about my shoulders. It’s not necessary to know . . . and I don’t care.”

Roberts’ next film, 1990’s “Flatliners”--the story of medical students who learn about life by experimenting with death--was more of an ensemble piece than a true star turn. The actress had turned down the part in the summer of ’89 because of prior commitments. But before the release of “Pretty Woman” and after “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” fell through, she contacted director Joel Schumacher. “We worked out a deal based on a creative meeting,” he recalls, “which means if either of us hated the other, the deal was off.”

They didn’t--and Julia came on board. The movie, released last August, performed pretty well at the box office. More significantly, though, it brought Roberts together with Kiefer Sutherland, whom she met on the first day of rehearsal. With the two of them and an array of other young talent in the cast, Hollywood agents, trying to ingratiate themselves, made a beeline for the set. “If I’d sold tickets, I could have paid for the movie,” Schumacher says.

If the film wasn’t a boon to Roberts, who snagged $550,000 for the part, neither was it a setback. “ ‘Flatliners’ wasn’t a bad move,” says Mike Simpson, co-head of the motion picture division of William Morris. “If it failed, she was one of 10 people. If it worked, it was because she was in it. In that way, it was a bulletproof idea.

“It was ‘Sleeping With the Enemy,’ though, that confirmed Julia as a box-office star,” Simpson continues. “It showed that she could open a movie that isn’t very good--and that the movie can go big. ‘Sleeping’ was for Julia what ‘Cocktail’ was for Tom Cruise. An actor doesn’t want too many of these in his wallet, but one or two is part of what gets you the high-money deal.”

“Sleeping With the Enemy” came about through a call Roberts placed to Fox studio chief Joe Roth during his third day on the job. She wanted the female lead role, ultimately played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, in the Fox film “Class Action.” Roth told Roberts she was too young for the role, but promised some work down the road. Kim Basinger was first cast as the abused wife running from her psychotically abusive husband in “Sleeping With the Enemy.” But Basinger jumped ship to do Disney’s “The Marrying Man” (for which Roberts had also been considered--and rejected) and Roberts got her shot.

“Sleeping With the Enemy” has pulled in nearly $100 million domestically and, like “Pretty Woman,” is performing well in the foreign market--traditionally a male-oriented action-adventure bastion. Roberts, already hot in this country, has become a star in Australia, Japan and Europe and was paid $1 million for the role.

“Dying Young” was developed for Roberts by Sally Field from a book by Marti Leimbach that she discovered when “Steel Magnolias” was in post-production. When Field pitched her for the lead before the release of “Magnolias,” Fox was resistant. By the time the script was completed, however, the studio changed its tune. “They went from, ‘Who is she? We’d love to meet her’ to ‘Can we get her for the role?’ ” Field says.

This film puts Roberts’ salary at the $3-million level--on a par with Michelle Pfeiffer or Meryl Streep. And, as a serious film coming out in the summer, it will be another test of her drawing power.

Fox’s Roth believes the odds are with him. “All the movies released prior to July 4--’City Slickers,’ ‘Robin Hood,’ ‘Rocketeer,’ ‘Naked Gun 2 1/2,’ ‘Terminator 2’--are male movies drawn by big stars or big concepts,” he explains. “Julia Roberts in a love story is perfect counterprogramming. Why cut out 50% of the audience . . . or make them wait until the fall?”

“Dying Young” marks two years of nonstop work for Roberts. Friends say she is constantly battling fatigue and is capable of sleeping anywhere, in any position. A few weeks ago, she was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and hospitalized for five days with what she says was a severe case of the flu.

The part of Tinker Bell in the movie “Hook” was offered last fall and the actress leaped at the chance. The thought of working with Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hoffman (Captain Hook) and Robin Williams (Peter Pan) was enticing. But once she was involved in the physically and emotionally draining “Dying Young” shoot, she turned the role down. It was to be a strenuous part in which Roberts flies around wearing a harness. And the shoot was to begin in January, giving the actress no breathing room after “Dying Young.”

“The stop and start was just too quick,” says Roberts, gazing off into the distance. “I didn’t think I had the muscle to do it. Better to pull out than to go in halfhearted and let everyone else down.”

Last December, Goldsmith called up Spielberg, his agent, CAA’s Michael Ovitz, and the film’s producer, Kathleen Kennedy, to inform them of Roberts’ change in plans. A couple of days and a powwow with Kiefer Sutherland later, however, the actress asked for the part back.

Sources say that this indecision took its toll at the bargaining table. Though the actress is receiving $2 million for less than a full work schedule, she won’t begin to share in the gross profits until well after Spielberg and her two co-stars. One agent said she should have played hardball: “Julia would have been better off saying, ‘Me play Tinker Bell, propping up those other guys? It’ll cost you.’ This way they knew they had her. Her negotiating leverage was gone.”

This week, she’s extricating herself from “Hook” to tie the knot with Sutherland. The wedding will be held on the lot of 20th Century Fox, the studio that has distributed two of her films. Joe Roth is a dear friend, the actress explains. The environment is secure. And there’s a certain symmetry or “poetry” to getting married on a movie sound stage. Goldsmith, wearing a light-green fitted jacket and long skirt, will be a member of the wedding party. Last weekend she hosted a shower for Roberts at her home, and in the past has baby-sat for Julia’s basset hound puppy when the actress was away.

Their bond, which goes well beyond the usual agent-client one, has recently been put to the test. As Roberts’ career took off, agents from rival companies embarked on what one observer calls a “full-court press.” International Creative Management Chairman Jeff Berg, says Goldsmith, started calling about a year ago. Friends called the high-powered Creative Artists Agency on behalf of Goldsmith, whose dissatisfaction with the William Morris Agency was exacerbated when her mentor Sue Mengers was replaced as head of the motion-picture division of the agency last December. On the face of it, Roberts might have seemed a natural for CAA given that such intimates as Sutherland, Schumacher and Field--as well as the entire “Hook” contingent--were clients. But the agency refused to play ball with Goldsmith, and Roberts followed her agent to ICM last January.

“William Morris is a fine company, but I wasn’t so much a company man as a client of Risa and Elaine’s,” Roberts says. “They’re smart. They care about me. If they told me that they were forming Elaine and Risa Inc., I would have said OK.” Sources say that Roberts’ arrival created internal havoc at ICM--that such clients as Holly Hunter, Daryl Hannah, Meg Ryan and Kim Basinger are hungry for material and now there is one more mouth to feed. Nonsense, says Goldsmith. “Julia’s arrival is great for the actresses here. I read all the scripts and she can’t do everything. We expand rather than contract their possibilities.”

Roberts was put in another bind when she began receiving flak about her press relations. Though the actress did participate in cover stories for GQ and Rolling Stone, other publications had less success: Premiere magazine asked Roberts to do a “Dying Young” interview for the cover of the June issue but Susan Geller--then Roberts’ publicist--turned it down. Geller pitched a cover to Vogue, then procrastinated so long that the publication decided to abandon the project altogether. Barbara Walters fared no better. When her request for a TV piece was rejected, the journalist ran an end run around Geller and got Roberts to agree. Geller’s inability to get through to Roberts also caused a Time magazine spread pegged to “Flatliners” to fall through.

Such tactics did not endear Geller--or, in some cases, Roberts herself--to the studios or the press. Geller was dismissed by the actress last March, and Roberts is now represented by PMK.

Geller says she did not try to stonewall anyone. “There was a communication problem with Julia at times,” she explains, “but, in fairness to her, a lot of people were making demands. You can only be stretched in so many directions and, in Julia’s mind, the work always comes first. I made a concerted effort to get back to people but they didn’t always get the answers they wanted. And, after Julia became the No. 1 female box-office star, we had to make some pretty tough choices to guard against overexposure.”

Burnout, Roberts has discovered, is a clear and present danger, balance very hard to come by. In a town that ravages relationships, she’s determined not to be a statistic. After “Hook” wraps, she says proudly, she’s taking a year off to recharge. When she resurfaces again next June, she’ll tackle the role of a half-breed in “Renegades,” to be produced by Ray Stark and distributed by Carolco. It’s a project she describes as a “Western with heart . . . a dream opportunity for me.”

With good reason. This is the one for which she’ll receive $7 million--after several renegotiations. (That’s a frequent occurrence in an industry that believes contracts are void in the wake of subsequent success.) And her leading man will be Sutherland, who’ll be receiving a larger-than-usual $2.5 million to $3 million for the part, which Mel Gibson gave up after a conflict over the start date.

Keeping Roberts happy is a major priority of Hollywood’s. For now, at least, she’s a key to getting projects off the ground, a reassuring safety net in a high-wire business. “It’s interesting watching this microcosm of celebrity happening in front of my face,” Schumacher says. “You learn a lot about the world--and Julia. There’s a voracious need for the press and the public to create icons, a kind of hysteria out there. I’m happy for Julia, of course. She’s a survivor and will be OK. But I’m also glad to be on the other side of the camera.”

From Roberts’ perspective, says Richard Schickel, a flop or two wouldn’t hurt. “What’s so bad about falling back and being one of two dozen young leading actresses--talented, attractive, but not expected to carry a picture?” he asks. “Right now, there’s tremendous pressure on this young woman and those attending her career to keep picking pictures grossing at this level or the studios will go after another actress for one-quarter of her price. Why not opt for a situation where the pressures are less, the choices freer?”

Roberts may be wondering that herself. For despite the perks, being Star of the Moment has its trade-offs. And, by all accounts, staying at the top is considerably more difficult than getting there.

“They say I’ve had it easy,” she says a bit defensively, straightening her wig and checking her makeup in preparation for “Hook’s” last shot of the day. “But ‘easy’ based on whose account? True, I haven’t slept in the park. I haven’t struggled to the bone. But this is my journey, so who’s to criticize or judge? Making movies, to me, is the best thing in the world. But, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, it’s very, very hard.”