Just driving up to Julia Roberts's ranch in northern New Mexico sends me into a state of calm. Yellow and purple flowers line the dirt roads. Majestic purple mountains stand beneath a cloudless blue sky. And when I arrive, there's Julia as I've never seen her: completely at ease, wearing flip-flops, drawstring pants, and a tee, introducing me to her two geese, Bingo and Pajamas, and proud to show me the new tile on her bathroom floor. "I now feel like you officially know me better than 97 percent of the population," Julia tells me, "because you're in my house." Julia's hideaway is a universe apart from her hometown of Smyrna, Georgia, where she was born 36 years ago. In the sixties, her parents began a workshop for actors and writers in Atlanta; by the time Julia was a toddler, she was watching family theater productions. Though the workshop was disbanded after her parents' 1971 divorce, it gave Julia and her siblings, Eric (now 47) and Lisa (now 38), what Julia's mother calls "the family disease"—acting. After moving to New York in 1985 and scrambling for auditions, Julia—who as a child had dreamed of becoming a veterinarian—made her first movie in 1986, playing opposite her brother in Blood Red
. (Her sister is also an actress.) Julia's role as a fiery waitress in 1988's Mystic Pizza
put her on the movie map; a year later, she appeared in Steel Magnolias
and was nominated for an Oscar. The movies that followed are a Hollywood hot list: Pretty Woman
(1990), Sleeping with the Enemy
(1991), The Pelican Brief
(1993), My Best Friend's Wedding
(1997), Runaway Bride
(1999), and Erin Brockovich
(2000), for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress. In her newest movie, Mona Lisa Smile
, she plays a 1950s art history teacher who inspires her students to see new possibilities for their lives.
Along with Julia's starring film roles came the real-life romances: with Kiefer Sutherland, Lyle Lovett (her husband of two years), and Benjamin Bratt. Now she's found a life partner in Danny Moder, who was a cameraman when they met on the set of The Mexican
in 2000. At the time, Moder was married to makeup artist Vera Steimberg Moder, whom he later divorced. In a midnight ceremony on July 4, 2002, Julia and Danny married.
Their ranch, she tells me, is where she is most herself. It is here that I sit down with Julia, comfortable on her living room couch and, she says, finally content with her life. Start reading Oprah's interview with Julia RobertsNote: This interview appeared in the December 2003 issue of
O, The Oprah Magazine.