Julia Roberts Opens Up About Her Bond With Lucas Hedges at 'WSJ Magazine' Event: "I Believe in Him"

Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges-Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of BFA

If Hollywood is indeed a large, extended (often functional, sometimes dysfunctional) family, then WSJ. Magazine’s intimate dinner Monday night in Beverly Hills was like a reunion for offspring with the most talented genes.

Start with Julia Roberts. The Oscar-winning star with the world famous grin agreed to put her name on the invite as co-host alongside WSJ. Magazine’s editor-in-chief Kristina O’Neill and sponsor Ferragamo because, well, it was all about familial ties. The dinner — an inaugural event designed to shine a spotlight the publication’s Talents and Legends issue — honored Lucas Hedges, the Oscar-nominated actor who plays her will-he-or-won’t-he-stay-sober son in the heart-pounding/wrenching family drama Ben is Back, directed by his father Peter Hedges. In real life, the two bonded like DNA, which made her trek from Malibu to Mr. Chow a most easy yes. Like having dinner with a son who just returned from college, except Hedges actually just wrapped up a well-reviewed Broadway debut in Kenneth Lonergan's The Waverly Gallery opposite Elaine May, Joan Allen and Michael Cera.

“Lucas was just looking at me and petting me and I said, ‘You can’t believe I’m here, can you?’ I don’t go out a lot, and [when I do] it does have to be important to me and mean something to me. Lucas absolutely does," she told The Hollywood Reporter before sitting down for dinner. Roberts also commented on her "nice relationship" with the "great publication" WSJ. Magazine, which put her on the cover of the Talents and Legends issue in 2014. "This is really special."

Minutes earlier, Hedges told THR that he definitely "feels like a part of her family," like an older brother to her kids. It's a kinship that kick-started when Roberts invited father and son Hedges to her home for a week prior to filming so they could gel as a unit. "I fit right in in many ways. And the fact that a stay at her house is always on offer means a lot to me and it represents a lot to me." 

Kathryn Newton, who plays the skeptical-yet-forgiving sister in Ben is Back, was sort of hoping that when she got the invite that it would've just been the three of them back at Roberts' Malibu pad sitting around the table, much like their rehearsal time. "I had this dream," she said with a smile. While that didn't happen, the dinner was far from a nightmare. 

WSJ. Magazine took over the restaurant and filled two dinner tables with talent and industry insiders but, again, it was all about family and shared connections. Jewelry guru Jen Meyer was there as was her father, Universal chief Ron Meyer. The Foster sisters — Erin and Sara — attended together and were spotted catching up with Derek Blasberg, who is considered family by Hollywood's most famous stars from Gwyneth Paltrow and Katy Perry to Karlie Kloss and Cara Delevingne. (He even joked about his Leave it to Beaver-style upbringing in St. Louis to Roberts' longtime rep Marcy Engelman.) Lana Condor sat close to To All the Boys I've Loved Before scribe Jenny Han while Elsie Fisher held court with agent Abby Bluestone. Roberts' longtime stylist Elizabeth Stewart sat next to Roberts' longtime hair guru Serge Normant, while Hedges' team — agent Franklin Latt and manager Tony Lipp — kept close a few seats away from their in-demand client. Also there: more family with Lisa and Eric Eisner. 

Troye Sivan, who starred opposite Hedges in Boy Erased, arrived fashionably late and was one of the last to leave. China Chow was in the family-owned restaurant, too, and its offerings got a nice shout-out from the co-host during her mid-dinner remarks. Roberts followed O'Neill — a pair that could easily be mistaken for sisters — who said that when she put Roberts and her smile on the cover in 2014 not long after assuming the magazine's top job, it was the moment she knew "we had made it." 

"Lucas and Julia have a lot in common. Both are actors who aren’t scared of emotionally complex characters and who turn out unforgettable performances," she said, adding earlier in the night that Roberts agreed to co-host the dinner on the same day she was asked. That's family. "Lucas has been described as having a 'beautiful regularness,' but there's nothing ordinary about him. He’s truly a talent well on his way to becoming a legend."

O'Neill's words were so touching that Roberts got a little teary. But her emotions had nothing to do with her big reveal. 

"I just want to say that I will be going home soon," she admitted. "Full transparency — I have small children and a husband who has done everything all day, well, for the last 20 years." But truth be told: She stayed for another hour, wedged between Hedges and Newton and looked to be enjoying every minute of it. "I am here because I love Lucas Hedges and I believe in him and I haven’t had Mr. Chow's noodles in 20 years and it seemed like the time. Honestly, to be able to sit between Kathryn Newton and Lucas Hedges is my great honor and joy ... like to have played their mother. It seems silly but it's true."

Speaking of the noodles — the famous Mr. Chow Noodles — were on a menu that also featured gambei with goodies, ma mignon, chicken Joanna, gamblers duck, nine season prawns, vegetarian sauteed rice, four-color cauliflower, prawn toast and assorted desserts. There were drinks, too, with one dubbed The Talent (Nolet's silver gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, cucumber slice and mint leaves) and another The Legend (margarita tequila blanco, lime, agave and jalapeño). 

Roberts saved a nice nod for another special guest, Stephan James, with whom she starred in Amazon's Homecoming — "I’m so happy to be here with Stephan," she said — and then she closed out her quick speech like a relative who just wants the best for her entire family. Or, on this night, for her close cadre of dinner guests. "It’s a great time to be alive and happy, so let’s take it out tonight and share it with everyone that we see. Just look in each other’s eyes and be grateful and happy." Like a happy family.