Eric Roberts who’s starred in over 600 films and won’t slow...
Eric Roberts who’s starred in over 600 films and won’t slow down: ‘I’m a showbiz prostitute’

Eric Roberts who’s starred in over 600 films and won’t slow down: ‘I’m a showbiz prostitute’

Eric Roberts is the most hardworking, famous actor in Hollywood who you might not have heard of… but you’ve definitely seen him. That’s because he’s starred in approximately 667 movies and TV series – and has 77 upcoming (although that figure is sure to have changed by the time of publication). You may know him as the older brother of Pretty Woman icon Julia Roberts and the dad of horror scream queen and rom-com darling Emma Roberts, but this is one accomplished actor who deserves to be known in his own right. This year alone, Roberts, 67, has appeared in 40 projects – including 10 episodes of one show – and the golden rays of summer have not even faded. So yes, Roberts might just be the hardest-working man in Hollywood but he’s also the happiest, evidenced in the way he joyfully flops down on a sofa in front of my screen as we Zoom on a late British summer evening for me, and a fairly early Californian morning for him. ‘I’m the luckiest man in Hollywood,’ he told with a charming smile barely a few minutes into our chat. Roberts might consider himself lucky but there’s clearly a talent there that has allowed him to stay booked and busy more than four decades after debuting on the silver screen. Even the beginning of his career is remarkable… The Mississippi native made his first feature film appearance in 1978’s King of the Gypsies, taking on the lead role of Dave Stepanowicz. It was a performance that earned Roberts a Golden Globe nomination, as did his turn in crime drama Star 80 five years later. However, it was Roberts’ role as Buck McGeehy in 1985’s Runaway Train that landed him a best supporting actor Oscar nomination – and, of course, another Golden Globe nod. He was then firmly on the map and Hollywood was well and truly at his feet. Fast forward years later and other roles include the Batman franchise The Dark Knight, TV series Heroes and blockbuster The Expendables. In today’s era of Instagram-friendly leads and social media buzz to push a movie along, Roberts is convinced that the criteria of what it takes to be a leading man has changed. ‘Of course, that’s changed and this whole influx of if you have the followers on your social network then you can be a star is not about acting or portraying,’ he explained. ‘It’s not about showing your weight of what you can do as an artist, it’s about being a celebrity which is fine, but they’re plugging that into acting as if that is acting. It’s changed, it’s weird.’ That’s not to say Roberts is afraid of change – in fact, quite the opposite, as we’ll come to learn a little later… He continued: ‘I’m very lucky because I’m a little recognisable and I’m older so they cast you now as doctors, judges and grandfathers so I have to have short hair. ‘But they cast me for me so I’m lucky. If I were an actor now, it would be so hard because there’s no real “the avenue” anymore, there’s so many avenues that blow up into these huge events. So it’s hard to know. It’s hard to navigate now and it’s harder than it’s ever been.’ Roberts is certainly everyone’s leading man whether it’s film or music having starred in music videos for the likes of Mariah Carey, Rihanna and Chris Cornell. But still, even with such a versatile portfolio of projects, it beggars belief: How has Roberts managed to star in over 600 films? Let’s get to the crunch of it… ‘Why I’ve made as many films as this?’ Roberts ponders, repeating the question. ‘I was always a hard worker and made one to four movies every year of my life as an adult. But then they took film away and gave us digital, so everything not only got faster it went lightning and what would take three months took three days quite literally,’ he recalled. ‘Everybody who owned a camera became a studio and started shooting their own films and became directors, and my wife told me about 15 years ago, “You’re getting 30 offers every day of your life from all over the world, what do you want to do about them?”. I said well let’s explore them and we’ll do it a while. That was 15 years ago and I’m still doing it. ‘It blows my mind that the world wants me in a movie. So, OK, I’ll show up.’ He added: ‘It’s just so flattering and so much fun and I’ve seen the world for free now a couple of times and I love what I do.’ It’s probably no surprise that the man who has made over 600 films is still working, even as the Sag-Aftra actors’ strike has paralysed much of Hollywood. However, Roberts is a Ficore member which means he’s able to work on both union and non-union sets, and therefore not bound by union rules. A win-win for the actor who loves making movies and for those who love watching him in them. It’s still a marvel to Roberts that he can now shoot a movie in three to six days compared to 20 years ago when it would be three to six months. In fact, he’s so busy these days that he’s on occasion found himself working on a few projects in one day – but the star has come up with a pretty genius solution to cope with the abundance of scripts he has to learn. Kim Kardashian is completely unrecognisable in first look at American Horror Story teaser Bradley Cooper's prosthetic nose feels like a kick in the teeth Bradley Cooper blasted for 'Jewface' after wearing prosthetic nose in Maestro Leonard Bernstein's family defend Bradley Cooper over prosthetic nose backlash ‘I’ve been on three different movie sets on the same day and when that happens, what you do is you say you need cue cards,’ he recalled. ‘I’ve used cue cards – one of my assistants told me I’ve used cue cards 33 times so I do use them on occasion and I’ve done whole movies on cue cards so sometimes they’re handy!’ Roberts is aware of how controversial the use of cue cards in the film industry can be so tries to ‘stay away from them’, but felt less bad about it when he heard Mel Gibson reportedly used visual aids for his scripts and that Robert Downey Jr used an earwig. ‘If it’s OK for them to cheat, it’s OK for me to cheat,’ he reasoned. Roberts’ life and career weren’t always this golden and he very nearly could have lost it all. In the 1990s, life was turbulent for the actor as he battled drug addiction and experienced a fallout with his sister Julia before they would reconcile in 2004. He went to rehab for substance abuse and, while it took his own determination to beat the disease, he credits much of his recovery to one woman. ‘You had to have something that means as much to you as your most intimate relationship, and that most intimate being yours with drugs because it’s your secret, it’s your thing, it’s private. When you have something more important then that will be the only time you can really overcome it,’ he explained. ‘I found a woman and she is an incredible example of a human being,’ Roberts said referring to his wife Eliza who he married in 1992. ‘She said to me, “You have a choice: it’s either this or that”, and I chose her. It was not easy for her at first and she let me know why or how she would stay or not. There were conditions I had to adhere to and did because I felt that was the only way I could survive.’ He describes it as a story with a happy ending, adding: ‘Marriage, if you go with the cycle properly is a wonderful evolution, and I’m very proud of mine.’ So back to the topic of change, Roberts is very much a man of the future, revealing he would be open to having his likeness used for AI technology so that he can live on-screen forever. It’s a notion that’s fast becoming a reality for actors with recent reports claiming Die Hard icon Bruce Willis – who has been diagnosed with dementia – has become the first Hollywood star to sell his rights to the tech firm Deepcake, allowing his moving and talking image to be used in films and TV and for movie actors past and present to star on screen together. Roberts mused: ‘That is so cool with Bruce because think about [him] losing his fiscal abilities right now with his illness, that is so cool that he can preserve that and we don’t have to watch him deteriorate. We get to watch him be Bruce and so that is AI used at its obvious best, so that’s cool. ‘Would I sell myself? I am a showbusiness prostitute, I think the answer is yes,’ he confessed. ‘But I don’t know. I’d have to talk to a lawyer and find out what it means, what it is, how long it lasts and what it entails. It’s way over my head. I just know that it’s coming like a speeding train.’ For now, Roberts is very much in the present and enjoying working with other actors in real life. He’s starred alongside Meghan Markle in Suits and recalls her being ‘lovely, low-key, sweet, unpretentious, good actor’ and hopes to one day work with his ‘magnificent’ daughter Emma and sister Julia with fans long hoping for a Roberts on-screen reunion. Some will also remember his turn as The Master in 1996’s Doctor Who, of which he said: ‘I loved that role. I was proud of how I played it. I played him more realistic than he’s usually played. He’s usually more stylised, I played him a little bit nasty and sure if they would let me come back and play him the same way, I would come back and play him the same way.’ Roberts remains one of the only American actors to star in the long-running British TV programme. However, one of his fondest on-screen moments of late was working with Barbie bombshell Margot Robbie in the 2022 comedy-drama Babylon. ‘They cut out our story in Babylon!’ he exclaimed, clearly still pretty miffed. Sharing details, Roberts revealed: ‘We had scenes where I’m cooking and she’s running around naked.’ If there were ever a scene to sum up the randomness of Roberts’ career, that might be it. He continued: ‘There’s one scene where she won my complete respect as an actor, technically, we had a scene where I’m driving a 1918 car down a very long driveway, she’s on a wall beside the driveway walking backwards barefoot in a man’s shirt holding a martini and we have dialogue. ‘We’re talking, I’m driving, she’s walking backwards and it’s a very long scene. And cut, we did it four times. She did it perfectly every time. Didn’t stumble ever walking backwards barefoot on a stone wall and I was having all kinds of tough luck with a 1918 car but it was a memory she made for me as an actor.’ So, for the man who has nearly 80 films to shoot in the coming months and years, when – if ever – does it all end? ‘I always wonder, is that question because I should, or because they want me to or because it’s amazing I don’t,’ Roberts asked, genuinely intrigued about the answer. When I suggest it’s because he surely must be knackered, he replied: ‘It always makes me a little self-conscious because quite frankly, not to undertalk it, but I have the best job on the planet and I know that. Knowing that, why would I give it up? ‘It’s been so much fun and I really do mean that, it sounds like a one-liner you throw out when you’re talking about quantity, I have had so much fun.’ Maybe Roberts really is the luckiest man in the world after all. Got a story? If you’ve got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the entertainment team by emailing us, calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we’d love to hear from you.

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