Julia Roberts Talks ‘Secret In Their Eyes’ & “Instinct” For Movie Roles



In Secret of their Eyes, Julia Roberts is Jess, an FBI investigator who is understandably obsessed with exacting revenge on her daughter’s killer (Joe Cole). The Los Angeles based story, which is a remake of the Oscar winning feature El Secreto De Sus Ojos, is directed by Billy Ray and co-stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman.

Secret In Their Eyes
(L-R) JULIA ROBERTS, NICOLE KIDMAN, and CHIWETEL EJIOFOR star in SECRET IN THEIR EYES. Photo Credit: Karen Ballard © 2015 STX Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Below is the full transcription of our roundtable interview with Julia Roberts, which was held at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, Ca.

Can you talk about the emotional challenges of the role?

It’s so funny. (Be) Careful what you ask for. You said, I want a really interesting complicated… then you get there and you’re like, why’s everybody looking at me? It’s one of those things that I feel is a combination of preparation and a certain roll of the dice that comes into it for me. I think this character was written in such a clear way and the biggest part of my preparation was figuring out what she looked like in the beginning and what she looked like 13 years after and then structuring the performance around that, in a way. It was a unique approach. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to craft a character like this, and try making a commitment in the beginning that my personal thoughts had no interaction with Jess’ personal thoughts. Normally actors, you say, ‘oh my kitten died when I was twelve, in my arms, and I cried all night.’ It was all Jess, all the time. Everything she was going through was never a thought outside of what was really her planet.

Your role was originally spread out to two male characters in the Argentinian movie.

It takes two men to make one me! I’ve read a number of scripts over the years that get sent that say well the part is a man now. But if you want to do it we will change it into a woman. I don’t know how many men have had that experience. But it happens.

Are there other roles you’ve played that were originally for men?

Of all the ones I’ve been offered, none of them have ever spoken to me or interested me at that time. This was something that did. I think that it was originally a guy is sort of secondary to the things about it that appealed to me.

What kind of input did you have that the character was changed?

I just asked that because the man loses his wife, the note that I had been sent the script was it will be a woman who loses her wife. And I thought well that’s real cool and 21st century. I’m down with that. And then halfway though the script, I thought if you’re going to really need people to be openly invested in the truth as Jess reveals it, all along the way, the different times that say here’s the truth, she has to somehow have a story that everybody has a part in. So I said to Billy, if it is a woman, can she lose her child? Cause we’ve all had one, or been one, so everybody is connected to her grief in some way. I thought that was a really important aspect of then saying, we’re connected, so you understand me, you believe me.

ZOE GRAHAM stars in SECRET IN THEIR EYES. Photo Credit: Karen Ballard © 2015 STX Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
As for Zoe Graham, the girl who plays your daughter…

Isn’t she amazing? She’s amazing. As soon a she got cast, we went out to breakfast, she and I went out to breakfast one morning. You just fall immediately in love with her. She’s so bright. She’s so articulate. Her interests are so diverse and bohemian and she’s in college studying textiles. She’s the person I wan to be when I grow up and wake up when I’m 17 and awesome. And it made me so absolutely connected to the side of Jess having lost her husband and raising this child by herself and watching her grow up into this magnificent human being that she gets to admire and feel responsible for and everything is about getting back to the kitchen to talk to this girl. And honestly, it’s so touching to me, that relationship, and I thought Zo did such an impeccable job. That breakfast with her was so valuable and illuminating to me as an actor. I just thought every single thing makes complete sense, in light of how in love this woman is with her daughter.

How did you settle on the two looks of the Jess?

It was interesting. My husband, who was the cinematographer on this movie, he and I had a lot of conversations about this. I would figure out a little piece of the 13-years-later puzzle and that would inform the earlier puzzle and that would get me another piece of this puzzle and I have to go back to this one. It was kind of tricky and fascinating and the best thing that he said to me about the whole thing when I started to get super crazy with the 13 years later, he said, you have to remember when Chiwetel, when you walk into that office and he sees you, this great friend who hasn’t seen you in 13 years, who went through this experience with you. He can’t worry that something else has happened to you. It can’t be a situation of what did I miss? It can’t be a question of is she sick? It has to be a very clear line between what happened in that parking garage and who that woman is walking through that door. That took away a lot of actory bullshit stuff that I wanted to do. You’re just thinking, Okay, how can I portray her as a shell of a person?

What about working with your husband (Danny Moder is the film’s cinematographer), having him there to support you?

It was amazing. It’s so great. He’s my favorite person on the planet, so I love spending time with him. I love his work ethic, his point of view is really valuable to me. It was great. Also, when you feel like you like have scenes where you’re sort of really exposing yourself in a way that I wouldn’t do sitting here with you guys comfortably. But if he were sitting behind and I felt like some sense of that security, it just makes you want to do more, really.

You continue to challenge yourself. Is it something you feel like you need to do?

I think it’s just an instinct. I read a script and I’m connected to that thing and I think I want to accomplish this. I try to do varied things just for my own creative impulses. You want things to be different and challenging. And I’m happy at home. I’m very creative in my household. It’s nice with things come up that are dreams that I thought did I dream the right dream and now I’m in this parking garage? But enough cannot be said about Chiwetel Ejiofor and his walking through that parking garage and then walking back to me in that parking garage. That sets the whole scene real… my part would be less of value were it not for the way he traveled back and forth. It was incredible to watch. He’s amazing.

CHIWETEL EJIOFOR stars in SECRET IN THEIR EYES. Photo Credit: Karen Ballard © 2015 STX Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
You’re working with George Clooney again on the Jodie Foster movie? Was making “Money Monster” more fun than Secret In Their Eyes due to Secret’s subject matter?

Anything would. Getting your legs waxed would be fun and frothy. What sounds more amazing than me and George and Jodie together? That’s hilarious for me. It was great. It was really great. It was incredible and I worship Jodie Foster ten times as much now as I did before I worked with her. She’s really remarkable. Of course, you forget oh, she’s brilliant, she’s Jodie Foster. But to see it working. To see her going all the time and to be responsible for so much stuff. I would never want to be that person. But she does it effortlessly.

Below is audio of Roberts talking about working with Jodie Foster:

You never want to direct?

No. Listen I get everybody out the door to school on time, clean, fed, happy. That’s directing a whole production right there.

What do kids say when you’re away doing movies? Isn’t a big break in the routine?

It is and it’s not. Danny is very much part of it so there’s only one little element gone. I like to think I’m an important element. The movie that I did with George and Jodie, I worked days and off days, so I was back and forth a lot. My daughter does refer to August Osage County as the dark time because it was the first time that I ever left.

Can you talk about celebrating another year passing and looking back and forward as well?

I just had my birthday and I do think I feel so happy on a birthday in quite a long while. And I think part of it is the happy space that I’m lucky enough to occupy in the world with my family and my friends. I played mahjongg all day. So you start to realize what is the point in not being happy about anything. There’s no value in it. There’s no value to think, Oh my god, I’m 48!

What’s something you would tell your younger self?

Don’t take advice from anybody, even if they look exactly like you.

What about working with Nicole? You had a few scenes together.

I did not have enough. I think she is such a quality human being. She is just as talented and stupidly stunningly beautiful as she is enormously good natured and wonderful a person as she is. She’s just like the real deal.

Do you think you’ll do something else together?

I hope she’s looking feverishly right now.

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