Julia RobertsThis morning, one star was conspicuously absent from the August: Osage County press conference in Toronto: Meryl Streep. The Oscar winner had called in sick for the film's world premiere last night and Tuesday's publicity appearance, leaving co-star Julia Roberts to take the brunt of reporters' questions at the film festival.
Roberts, who plays Streep's eldest and least appreciated daughter, answered the barrage of queries like a pro, describing in detail how hard she and the cast worked to adapt John Wells's emotionally devastating Pulitzer Prize-winning play. "We worked our asses off because there was no other way to do it," Roberts told reporters while flanked by other members of the cast. "I've never worked so hard in my life, and I have given birth to three children. . . . We would work all day and go home and shower and then all run to Meryl's and start practicing for the next day, because you had to have that momentum going 19 or 20 hours a day or else it would just leave you. And it was the best acting experience of my life. I don't know how [the stage actors] did it eight times a week, really, without some kind of rehab after or halfway house."
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Roberts answered questions about working with the world's greatest living actress: "She is such a beautiful person, and it was intimidating, certainly, to be in these scenes with her. And choking her and things-like, that is not how I pictured it going all of these years when I thought we'd be together and having tea and speaking in fabulous accents and dressed up looking very chic. And then there we were, sweating, and I had on a big butt pad."
She spoke about her relationship with Streep off-screen: "At the end of every day, coming out of the truth of the Weston family and into our truths of who we are together, there was always a hug and a kiss and an 'I love you,' and that was really the elixir I needed to come in the next day and climb over the next table to choke her the next day."
But there were several questions she would not answer: one from a foreign reporter wondering whether it was true that Meryl Streep had elected to be considered in the supporting-actress category during the upcoming awards season so that Roberts could contend for best-actress honors without Streep as a rival.
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"Wait, let's get back to family values!" Roberts deflected. When pressed to answer, she claimed ignorance, repeating, "I don't know. I don't know."
Perhaps finally broken by the steady stream of queries, Roberts resorted to bribery when a reporter asked that each cast member discuss what John Wells's material meant for him or her personally.
"No, I already answered," Roberts playfully insisted when it was her turn to speak. "He said everybody but me, right?" Singling out the journalist in the audience with a point of her finger and a smile, Roberts offered to reward him if he turned a blind eye: "I have $5 in my pocket for you." Satisfied by either the $5 bribe or the charming call-out, the reporter let Roberts off the hook.
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