On this day in 1988, Mystic Pizza, a romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts, Annabeth Gish and Lili Taylor as three young women who work at a pizza parlor in Mystic, Connecticut, opens in theaters. The then-unknown Roberts played Daisy Arujo, a feisty, wild-child waitress from a working-class family of Portuguese descent who gets swept off her feet by a rich young man. Mystic Pizza also featured Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Storke and William R. Moses. Matt Damon made his big-screen debut in the film as Steamer, the younger brother of Daisy’s wealthy suitor (Storke). Less than two years after Mystic Pizza was released, Roberts would skyrocket to international fame when she appeared in the 1990 blockbuster Pretty Woman.
Julia Roberts, who was born on October 28, 1967, in Smyrna, Georgia, made her silver-screen debut in the 1988 girl-band movie Satisfaction, with Justine Bateman and Liam Neeson. She received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role as a young Southern woman afflicted with serious health problems in the 1989 tearjerker Steel Magnolias, which co-starred Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis and Daryl Hannah. Roberts’ performance as the hooker with a heart of gold Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman propelled her to stardom, and earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. The film, directed by Garry Marshall and co-starring Richard Gere, was an enormous box-office success. Roberts, who became known for her huge smile and willowy girl-next-door beauty, went on to appear in a long list of films in the 1990s, including Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), Dying Young (1991), The Pelican Brief (1993) with Denzel Washington, My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) with Cameron Diaz, Dermot Mulroney and Rupert Everett, Notting Hill (1999) with Hugh Grant and Runaway Bride (1999), which paired her with Gere again. In between her hits came such commercial flops as I Love Trouble (1994) and Mary Reilly (1996).
Roberts collected a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in the title role of 2000’s Erin Brockovich, which was based on the true story of a single mother who takes on a giant power company that has poisoned one town’s water supply. Roberts played the sole lead female character in the hit caper film Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and its sequel, Ocean’s Twelve (2004), both of which co-starred George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. More recently, she voiced the role of Charlotte, the motherly spider, in 2006’s Charlotte’s Web and co-starred with Tom Hanks in 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War.
Roberts was married to the country singer Lyle Lovett from 1993 to 1995. In 2002, she wed cameraman Danny Moder, whom she reportedly met on the set of her film The Mexican (2001). The couple has three children.