(from left) David (George Clooney) and Georgia (Julia Roberts) in Ticket to Paradise, directed by Ol Parker.
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

(from left) Director Ol Parker, Julia Roberts and George Clooney on the set of Ticket to Paradise.

All-star Sweetheart

With a megawatt smile known around the world, Julia Roberts – veteran of more than 60 films – is back on the big screen in a triumphant return to “rom-com”, sharing the billing with her “Ocean’s Eleven” co-star George Clooney.

 

Julia Fiona Roberts, born in Georgia, in the US to a family involved in the theatre, moved to New York City to pursue her dreams of stardom. Roberts made her debut on an episode of “Crime Story” in 1987 and took on various bit parts in the 80s. It wasn’t until she was cast as a waitress in the coming of age story, “Mystic Pizza” (1988), that Roberts came to the attention of critics and casting directors.

 

This was followed by the scene-stealing role of Shelby in “Steel Magnolias” (1989), for which she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar. Her first starring role was as Vivan Ward in Pretty Woman (1990) with Richard Gere, which earned her a Golden Globe award, grossed US$464 million worldwide and remains a cherished rom-com with all ages.

 

Other fan faves include My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Stepmom (1998), Notting Hill (1999), Runaway Bride (1999) America’s Sweethearts (2001) and Erin Brockovich (2001) for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress and a BAFTA, as well as becoming the first woman to earn a US$20 million dollar pay check for the part. Since then, she’s starred in the heist comedies, Ocean’s 11 (2001) and Ocean’s 12 (2004) with George Clooney, and films of the stature of Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), August: Osage County (2013) and Wonder (2017).

 

Roberts has a Broadway play, “Three Days of Rain” under her belt, and in 2018, she made the leap to TV by starring on the first season of the Amazon series “Homecoming”. Roberts and Clooney reunited for their fifth film together in “Ticket to Paradise” – a film that was created specifically for them, according to writer and director Ol Parker, whose previous credits include “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”. “It was only them,” he said at the film’s media preview in the US, referring to the film’s leading characters. “I wrote to both of them. It was just very clear to me that it barely existed if it wasn’t them. I had no plan B,” he said. “We wouldn’t be sitting here today and we wouldn’t have made a film, if it wasn’t them. I’d still be writing letters, saying, ‘You don’t understand – this needs to be you’. I begged them to do it and they took mercy on me.” The film follows the reunion of divorced couple David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) who team up and travel to Bali to try to sabotage their daughter’s wedding – hoping they’ll stop her from making the same mistake they believe they made 25 years ago.

 

For Roberts, the chance to act alongside Clooney was an offer too good to refuse. She told RadioTimes.com that “the chance to be snarky to George”, along with an effervescent storyline and tropical locations during Covid lockdown appealed to her.

 

“Ticket To Paradise” was filmed on location in Queensland and locals will instantly recognise the dazzling Whitsunday panoramas, Gold Coast hinterland vistas, the dolphins of Tangalooma and assorted beach backdrops. Carrara Markets were repurposed as the streets of Bali and Lily’s graduation was filmed in Brisbane City Hall! The vehicle for Roberts’ return to rom-com was due in part to Ol Parker’s response to Covid. “The world had completely changed,” he explained. “I thought about what I wanted to write and work on next, and I landed on writing something that would make people happy – something joyous and optimistic. “Romantic comedies bring a large audience together to collectively laugh with each other, and after a few tough years, that seemed like a beautiful thing to bring to the big screen.” Great friends on and off screen, Roberts and Clooney have a chemistry that clicked for their foray into comedy.

“George and I are both really motivated by making people laugh and it was our great joy whenever we would do something where we could hear all laughing across the set at the monitor and we thought ‘Okay, yeah, that’s great,” said Roberts, who admits living close to Clooney and his family during filming kept her sane, grounded and went some way to lessening her longing for her own family. In an interview with The New York Times, the two actors opened up about playing exes and quarantining together while filming in Australia. “The Clooneys saved me from complete loneliness and despair,” said Roberts, who was “Aunt Juju” to the Clooneys’ kids during that time. “We were in a bubble, and it’s the longest I’ve ever been away from my family. I don’t think I’ve spent that much time by myself since I was 25.”

 

Back in the US, her family husband of 20 years, Danny Moder and their three children, twins Hazel and Phinnaeus, 17, and Henry, 15, kept in touch through Zoom like millions of others separated by travel restrictions. Once filming wrapped and international travel was again possible, Roberts was relieved to return to family life, which she says is key to “keeping it real, and winding down”, especially around filming and work commitments.

 

In an interview with InStyle Roberts revealed that family time over dinner reinforced the bonds with her kids. “It’s really meaningful, and that is the time that we have had some incredible conversations. I usually have breakfast and dinner with my kids every day. I think it really punctuates, you know, starting things together and sort of processing and winding it down together.” Low key and low profile, cinematographer Danny is credited with keeping Roberts “grounded and grateful”. “He makes me feel my most comfortable self,” she told Oprah Winfrey in 2003. “I don’t alter myself in any way.” After two decades of marriage, she said, “I’m more interested in what he has to say or his point of view than anybody. Really, we’re so lucky in that way. We just really, really like each other and we just enjoy each other’s company.”