Eric Roberts, known for his Academy Award-nominated performance in “Runaway Train,” and his Golden Globe nomination for “Star 80 “is, without a doubt, the busiest actor working in Hollywood. With over 550 acting credits, and just after his 2020 film, “6 Rounds of Chloë,” he has another 44 projects as an actor either in post-production, filming, or pre-production.
I interviewed Eric, via Zoom, for his current film “Inside the Rain.” He plays Monty, a seasoned, good-hearted film producer who’s ‘down on his luck,’ and living in his mother’s garage. What struck me during the interview is his underlying calm and pleasantry, Eric not only answered all of my questions, he chatted with me as if he had all of the time in the world. For such a prolific actor (I can’t even begin to imagine his schedule.), it was indeed delightful to meet him via Zoom.
Eric chats about Aaron Fisher’s vision, Bob Fosse, his director of “Star 80,” his family of actors; sister, Julia Roberts, and daughter, Emma Roberts, his personal struggles with psychotropics, and the joys of working in the entertainment business.
Here are the highlights of our interview:
Your character Monty in the film “Inside the Rain,” helps film student Ben (Aaron Fisher) produce a film about how he got kicked out of film school over a misinterpretation as a result of his bipolar disorder.
What message do you feel the writer, director, and main actor Aaron Fisher hopes to achieve?
The understanding of the circumstances, because psychotropics are embedded in our society, one out of three people are on them. We’re all dealing with our issues, and some people are doing it chemically. This movie is a very gentle understanding of the issue.
Can you tell us about your character Monty?
I like my characters if I don’t then I can’t play them. I’ve had about 500 producers in my career, Monty is a combination of about a half a dozen of them, the one characteristic I choose to focus on Monty is they all have a sense of humor about themselves, they don’t take their life that seriously, which is the saving grace, which makes them likable. I did the movie because of the subject matter, it’s wonderful, and we need it.
You’ve openly talked about your struggles with psychotropics, can you speak to that?
Yes, sure, for me, psychotropics did not work; it was like being trapped in a phone booth; it was just horrible for me. It was also during a time when they took off all of the stipulations on drugs, so I was combining all kinds of drugs. And God knows what I was taking, they don’t know, my doctor and I never figured out a good recipe of drugs for me, and so I only got unhappier.
One of my favorite roles you played was in “Star 80,” what was it like to work with the great Bob Fosse?
When I went after that role and read the script for the first time, I thought what a hard part to play. When I got the part, I basically sat in the great Bob Fosse’s lap for nine months and said, “Tell me what to do.”
You have such an impressive resume of over 500 films, what is your greatest joy working in the business?
It’s evolved over the years the first 25 movies were only chosen because of the role or the script, then it evolved into who’s involved in the film; finally, it has evolved to the money, the location, the wardrobe, yes, I get to keep the wardrobe. It’s much more relaxed, not so deadly serious, and more family-oriented.
What’s your family life like having yourself, your sister Julia and your daughter Emma in the entertainment business? Are you all supportive of each other?
Yes, we actually are supportive, (nodding) oh yes, of course, we are.
How do you show that; notes, emails?
We are on the computer and we FaceTime all the time.
When you and Julia were younger and watched movies together, did you like the same kinds of movies?
(Eric Roberts chuckling and smiling while reminiscing) Actually, no, in fact, quite the opposite Julia is a romantic comedy girl, and I’m a black- comedy, drama guy.
Do you remember a film you worked on with Larry the Cable Guy called “Witless Protection”? My daughter, Kathrine LeBlanc, and I worked the ballroom scene and the end of the movie polo club scene as extras in Chicago back in 2007. Do recall having fun on that shoot? We had a blast!
Yes, I do! It’s the most fun I’ve ever had working in a fight scene in a movie, and it’s the only time I’ve ever been hurt. I was clobbered over the head with a statue, and the statue was made of rubber— here’s the bad part, the statute was as hard as a rock! (Eric laughing)
Thank you so much for speaking with me today, and best of luck with the film and your future films!
*Author’s note: After the conclusion of our interview Eric’s wife Eliza came in the Zoom call and asked if anyone has ever told me I look like Candice Bergen. I told her yes, last year, two film festival jurors on my jury that I met in Memphis did say that to me. I thanked her for the compliment, although I don’t see the resemblance. Eliza, Eric and I chatted another couple of minutes about our quarantining and the situation in general. Both are lovely people and made my day so much brighter.
Sarah Knight Adamson© (April 30, 2020)