Film biz comes out to salute Roberts


"Is there a hungry baby in the house? Just come on up!" declared Julia Roberts, gesturing to her breasts. She had just taken the podium to accept the 22nd annual American Cinematheque Award from her friend Denzel Washington, her "Pelican Brief" co-star.

Roberts gave birth to her third child in June. On Friday night she displayed her renowned disarming frankness and trademarked high-wattage smile throughout the Cinematheque's annual fundraiser. It was an evening that saw friends and co-stars celebrate her acting talent, her beauty and her devotion to family life.

"More than anything, I am just the most proud wife and mother of the three most amazing children, and that is all I could ever ask for," Roberts said. "And the widening of my life and my hips is really the true gift of my husband, Danny (Moder), who I would just be so lonely without.

"I am not a one-woman show by any stretch of the imagination," she said as she thanked her former agent, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, and her current ones, Richard Lovett and Kevin Huvane. She also singled out director Garry Marshall, who directed her in "Pretty Woman," the movie that made her a star in 1990.

"At least twice a week people come up to me and say something about 'Pretty Woman,' and I ask for something a little more current, but they cling to that. And that suits me fine."

Tom Hanks started off the evening with a detailed description of how knowing Roberts is to be a member of Q.U.A.K.E. Q is for Question, as everyone is always asked what's it like to work with Roberts. U is for being upstaged, as everyone invariably is when in a scene with the actress.

"When you share the screen (with her), you might as well be a waffle iron in a tree," Hanks said. "No one is ever looking at you."

A is for Asterisk, which will forever follow your name for having worked with her; K for Knowledge, knowing that all the above are true; and E is for Everybody. "Everybody loves Julia Roberts. Absolutely everybody," Hanks said.

Actor Bruce Willis continued the lighthearted tone, listing comparisons between his life and Roberts', including their connection to Sharon Stone.

"Julia turned down the Sharon Stone role in 'Basic Instinct,' and I have had to actually turn down Sharon Stone a few times," quipped Willis as laughs roared across the hall. "No, no, no. Like Julia, I never meant any disrespect for the opportunity, I just wasn't comfortable with the nudity."

Marshall, who has the elliptical storytelling manner of a genial grandparent, told a story about how he taught a young Roberts an important lesson. He and Roberts were starting to make a movie titled "$3,000," and Marshall made all the cast jackets with "$3,000" emblazoned on them. But during production, the studio changed the title.

"She learned from me that before you make the jacket, you've got to name the picture. One day, 10 years from now, she will pull out a jacket that says '$3,000,' and say 'Danny, when did I do this film?' And we'll remember it was 'Pretty Woman.'"

Sally Field likened acting projects to stones of varying qualities strung together to make a necklace.

"As I look at my necklace, there is one very bright shiny jewel, located somewhere in the late '80s: 'Steel Magnolias,' " Field said, "a time where I, and the all the other women in the cast and eventually the entire country, fell in love with Julia, with her big huge laugh, her beautiful face, her fearless talent."

Other speakers included director Mike Nichols, who said watching Julia Roberts is a mixture of falling in love, driving a Ferrari, reading a Yeats poem, and eating a triple-decker ice cream cone. Marcia Gay Harden also spoke, pretending to read from a diary she kept while shooting "Mona Lisa Smile" with Roberts. Others on hand to honor Roberts included Shirley MacLaine, Natalie Portman, Dermot Mulroney and Blair Underwood.

Richard Gere and David Letterman provided video tributes, as did George Clooney, who appeared in a bathroom stall. In the middle of his speech, his shoe was tapped by a foot from the adjacent stall, and the camera swung over to reveal a surprised Brad Pitt.

AMC will air the Julia Roberts American Cinematheque Tribute on Dec. 5 at 8 pm ET.