Julia Roberts Thought It Was ‘Ridiculous’ Actors Were Getting Paid So Much Earlier in Her Career

Julia Roberts is known as one of the most talented and successful actresses in the movie business. At one point, she was the highest paid actress in the world, earning $20 million for her role in 2000’s Erin Brockavich.

While many people had differing opinions about how much actors were being paid at that time, Roberts herself isn’t shy about the issue. In fact, she thought the salaries many actors—including herself—were receiving were quite ridiculous. 

Julia Roberts thought it was ridiculous how much actors were getting paid 

Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts | Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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Roberts shared her thoughts on the extraordinary salaries actors were getting earlier in her career during a 2019 interview with Variety

“I mean, all the salaries in those days, where there was just a lot of money to be spent making films—which there really just isn’t that kind of money now, being spent on films,” Roberts said. “It all seemed kind of ridiculous. In a comical way, I thought ‘Okay, sure. This is ridiculous, but I’ll be part of this party.’”

She credits actresses like Barbara Streisand with opening the door 

Although Roberts was one of the actors receiving tons of money for roles at the time, she’s well aware of the actresses that came before her and paved the way. 

“I feel like there are so many—particularly someone like Barbara Streisand, I think of—that, you know, I’m just walking in the path that she has hacked out with a machete,” Roberts said. 

She’s extremely grateful that actresses from previous generations have put her in a position to choose the roles that speak to her. 

“So to be a little part of, you know, the gardener that’s picking some weeds that have come up since these incredible women before me have really made a path for all of us to be artists in our own right, and to be able to pick and choose the things that we want to do, and the way that we want to express ourselves as artists, it was nice to feel that I had a little puzzle piece to that,” Roberts said. 

Julia Roberts started taking lower-paying roles because she liked the stories better

Roberts made a significant turn in her career when she started taking on lower-paying jobs that had more depth. She still remembers the moment vividly. 

“Well, I think the big moment in my career, for me, was when I had done a lot of films in a row, ‘cause that’s how it happens, right?” Roberts said. “You’re sitting around waiting for someone to give you something good to read, and then all of a sudden you read four good things, or five good things, right?”

She paid close attention to what other actresses were doing 

She felt compelled to make a change with her selection of roles after seeing what her peers were doing. 

“I think it was after I did Sleeping With the Enemy, maybe,” Roberts said. “And I’m still, at that point, in my early 20s, and I saw some really great actors that I admired what they were doing, and I would think, ‘Oh, she’s great, and she’s great.’ And then there were a few movies that I thought, ‘Why is she in that movie? That’s—she’s better than that narrative.’”

After seeing how the careers of some of her peers were turning out, she knew she had to pick roles that she felt strongly about. 

“I realized there’s a kind of sense of—in the business at that time—of movement is what keeps you relevant,” Roberts said. “Or you just have to keep going. And I don’t know, I just had this instinct to stop doing anything if it didn’t feel like that passionate…”