The Truth About Julia Roberts' Brother

Eric Roberts: the man, the myth, the ... well, Julia Roberts' brother and Emma Roberts' dad. You may not recognize the name or have even been aware that America's sweetheart had an older male sibling, bet we guarantee Roberts' face will be familiar. He's been in so many movies and TV series he can't even keep count, the most notable of late being his small role in The Dark Knight. But his journeyman approach to acting isn't entirely intentional.

A severe cocaine addiction derailed his once-promising career — he was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for Runaway Train in 1986 — leading to arrests, severe bodily harm, and crippling damage to his professional reputation. As of this writing, however, Roberts has his life completely in order again, bouncing from B movie to B movie and saying he's just happy to work — on anything. 

Along the way, he's left a remarkable trail of personal and professional anecdotes. Let's take a closer look at the untold truth of Eric Roberts.

Why say no when it's so much fun to say yes?

In a 2018 Vanity Fair profile, Roberts revealed the secret behind the unfathomable 487 film and TV credits he's racked up over his lifetime: necessity that led to a genuine love of the craft. 

Roberts said that he resorted to making B movies after "the big starring roles stopped coming," and before he knew it, he'd done "like 30 films in two, three years ...mAnd so suddenly it's like 250 movies, and I realize, I went from being a joke that'll do anything to being 'Is there anything he can't do?'"

In fact, by taking roles in projects such as Fatties: Take Down the House, Stalked by My Doctor, and The Human Centipede III, Roberts found himself making some unusual deals for compensation. Speaking with The A.V. Club, he recalled how legendary camp director Roger Corman only got him to agree to star in Sharktopus after he allowed Roberts to bring as many guests as he wanted to stay for the entire month-long shoot in a Mexican resort town. "So I brought everybody I ever met, everybody I've ever been related to, and we all had a great time in Puerto Vallarta while I made a bad movie," Roberts said.

Keep that in mind the next time you chuckle when you hear about Roberts headlining a title like The Dead Want Women.

He's the David Hasselhoff of Russia

Roberts also revealed to Vanity Fair that he has an inexplicably large following in Russia, which he traces back to his Oscar-nominated performance in Runaway Train, as well as the the late '80s and early '90s Tae Kwon Do action flicks, Best of the Best and Best of the Best II. According to Roberts he's "like Elvis" to the Ruskies, and he even had to hire bodyguards while visiting Moscow because of the frenzy he caused just by walking down the street.

In another questionable compensation anecdote, Roberts told 5 Hot News that while attempting to capitalize on his Russian fame, he traveled there in 1993 against the will of his agent, who warned that he would have a tough time getting paid. After three weeks with no paycheck, Roberts said he was eventually picked up at his trailer by a producer in a limo, where he found "two huge amounts of cash" waiting for him inside. "It was like the Wild West," Roberts said.

A history of violence

Back in 1985, Roberts opened up to People about the traumatic 1981 car accident that left him "in a coma for three days" and in the hospital for a month. The story he told back then was that he was driving a doorless Jeep with his girlfriend's dog in the passenger seat. When the dog "leaned out too far," he reached for it by letting go of the wheel and slammed into a tree.

Decades later, Roberts revealed a key detail he'd left out of his original recollection: He was high on cocaine at the time. The rehabilitation was difficult. The actor told Vanity Fair he had to "learn how to walk again and talk again," but this wasn't the only time Roberts' substance abuse introduced violence into his life and the lives of others around him.  

In 1987, he was arrested for drug possession, harassing a woman, and assaulting a cop, stemming from an incident in which he was intoxicated, and allegedly banging on the door at the home of a woman whom he'd met at a party a year before. The arresting officers also claimed Roberts "threw a punch" at one of them but missed and "hit another policeman in the shoulder" while they were taking him into custody. 

Eight years later, Roberts was arrested again in connection with violence against a woman — this time his wife, Eliza — who called 911 after an argument. Police told the New York Daily News that Roberts had "pushed the victim, causing her to hit her head against the wall," but both he and his wife later denied any physical abuse.

What really happened with Julia?

Two years before the alleged domestic assault, the tabloid headlines were ablaze with Eric Roberts' ugly split from his then-girlfriend and Emma's baby mama, Kelly Cunningham. While suing Roberts for custody of their only child together, Cunningham reportedly got assistance from Julia Roberts, according to People. It was a move that apparently served as a final straw in the brother and sister's already strained relationship.  

Eric took all of the blame for the fractured family relations, saying he brought both of his younger sisters "into a drug addict's life" and they they just grew tired of it "and decided I was more trouble than I was worth."

He later told Vanity Fair that it was a surprise invite to the hospital for the birth of Julia's twins in 2004 that sparked what has now become a lasting reconciliation. Though Eric was also quick to take credit for his superstar sister's entire career, saying, "If it wasn't for me, there would be no Julia Roberts and no Emma Roberts as celebrities, as actresses, and I'm very proud of that." 

Perhaps that's why their supposedly amazing reconciliation still exists in the form of them being merely "email buddies."

He's the king of music videos

At the behest of his wife, Roberts agreed to star in his first-ever music video for The Killers' song, "Mr. Brightside." From there, according to the blog Death + Taxes, Mariah Carey enlisted Roberts to be her own music video muse, casting him in both her "We Belong Together" and "It's Like That" videos.

For the next decade, Roberts would go on to star in videos for Akon, Ja Rule, some band called Godhead, and finally, Rihanna, in her ultra-explicit short film for "B***h Better Have My Money," which is extremely, extremely NSFW, by the way.

As for why Roberts decided to become the video darling to a generation of hip-hop and R&B artists, the answer is simple: "I got a whole new audience," he told Vanity Fair. We have no way of knowing this for sure, but we're fairly confident there was already a large cross-section of Ja Rule and Sharktopus fans. Call it a hunch.

Why so serious about The Dark Knight?

In 2008, Roberts landed a small role in the smash Batman flick The Dark Knight. He played Sal Maroni, the de facto head of the Falcone crime family, in a role that vaulted him into the kind of spotlight he hadn't seen in decades. Roberts was mostly effusive about the huge opportunity, but he did toss some surprising side-eye at the film.

Speaking with The Detroit Free Press (via IndieWire), Roberts said he likes films that give you something to "take home with you in your heart or your mind," which he says caused him to wonder if Batman's big budget was worth it when "so many movies don't get made that can educate, enlighten, move, comfort." He added, "Batman didn't do any of those things that I named, for me, anyway, even though I enjoyed watching it."

A bit of framing for that arguably passive-aggressive ponderance may be found in Roberts' admission to The A.V. Club that he was "the only actor in that movie who's in a main part who had to audition" and that it took him months to get a callback. We'll probably never know the real motivation for Roberts' shade, but we wonder if the actor questioned the intrinsic value of other selections from his repertoire, like say, the mini series, Bullet in the Face, or the film, A Talking Cat?!?

Move over, Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks won an Oscar in 1994 for his moving performance as a gay man who is dying of AIDS in the film Philadelphia. Two years later, Roberts starred in It's My Party as Nick Stark, a gay man who chooses to end his own life when complications from AIDS affect him in a profound way. Though Roberts' film was generally well-received by critics, including Roger Ebert, others felt it lacked substance

Speaking with The A.V. Club, Roberts said It's My Party "wasn't a big-enough hit for my tastes." He then went on to say that the film was "better than Philadelphia, in that ... it doesn't deal with the issue in a drastic visual way, like with sores on my skin. It deals with the issue emotionally, and it deals with it in a way that everyone can relate to and everybody can understand." Granted, Roberts did also say that he wasn't "knocking down Philadelphia" with his commentary, but his criticism of the award-winning film is dubious nonetheless.

At this point, we should probably mention that both the screenwriter and makeup department were also nominated by the Academy for Philadelphia, meaning some folks, namely a large swath of Roberts' peers in the film industry, felt just fine about it's "dramatic visual" portrayal of the disease. 

His Celebrity Rehab stint was a ruse

In 2017, Roberts finally made an appearance on Eric Roberts is the F***ing Man, a podcast that describes itself as the "woefully misguided podcast examining the life, career, and works of actor Eric Roberts." 

The A.V. Club published excerpts from the epic appearance, which included a slew of signature Roberts anecdotes, including one about his motivations for doing Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2010. Roberts said there was a bit of serendipity involved, as he was literally smoking a joint when his wife, who is also his manager, told him about a call she'd fielded from the show's producers, asking if he still had a drug problem. Thinking it would be a way for him to connect with the show's "young audience," she encouraged him to take the gig "under the tenuous premise that he was addicted to marijuana." 

When Roberts showed up and was clearly not as destitute as other cast members who were having "breakdowns" and "coming off of heroin, or ... oxycontin, all this hard stuff," he said producers encouraged him to stir up drama, which he did by calling castmate Janice Dickinson a terrible word that we won't even including the censored version of here.

The moral of the story, kids, is don't do drugs. You could die or wind up manufacturing fake drama on reality TV, which are both depressing fates.  

Nothing is forever in the world of daytime soaps

Roberts got his start the same way as many other young actors — on soap operas. Specifically, he landed the role of Ted Bancroft on Another World in 1977 when he was just 19-years-old. Finding his dialogue too cheesy for his late-teenage sensibilities, he took it upon himself to rewrite it, he told The A.V. Club, which did not go over well with producers. "They finally called me in one day and fired me. But a month later, I got my first feature film, King of the Gypsies, so I was rescued from myself," he said.

There's yet another interesting twist to this story. Roberts also told The A.V. Club that the same producer who fired him from Another World, Paul Rauch, ended up hiring him on The Young and the Restless in 2010. We're not sure if that's a double happy ending or an incredibly depressing full circle that began and ended with acting in a soap opera.

He's still pretty into weed

After his stint on Celebrity Rehab, Roberts took a 1,000 day self-imposed marijuana hiatus, after which he realized the good ganja was "a medicine and using it was a positive infusion into his life." So now he's a regular user again. In fact, he even told Edibles Magazine that he went so far as to clear his reunion with Mary Jane with a psychiatrist, who allegedly told him, "Scientists have been trying to invent what THC does in a pill since the beginning of science."

In another interview with Edibles Magazine, Roberts said he was taking his relationship with the chronic to another level by developing "a line of edibles and other needed products in the cannabis community." It remains to be seen what happens with that enterprise, but Roberts also briefly continued his dank nugs advocacy by hosting the web show What Are You Smoking for The videos are no longer streaming on the site, but the show description says that its focus was "on what happens when Marijuana is not handled with care and things go really bad. ... Cannabis News, Politics, and the World of the Weird in Weed, all delivered to you cheekily by acclaimed actor Eric Roberts."

Obviously, Roberts doesn't claim to be sober, but he does say that he was "born an addict" who knows how to use "nature's prozac" (marijuana) in a way that works for him. And hey, no judgments here, especially since the guy's already got a startling 28 projects lined up for 2018 alone. Weed may turn some folks into couch-bound Scooby-Doo binge watchers, but it seems to have the complete opposite effect for Roberts.