Family & Companions
Proclaimed by Interview magazine as having so handsome a profile "it could be struck on a Roman coin," actor Eric Roberts was best-known for two things: 1) being a great actor who was prone to making bad choices, and 2) being Julia Roberts' big brother. Blessed with a combination of a matinee idol's good looks and a thespian's acting ability, Roberts' talents were all too often squandered working in less-than-worthy material. When given a substantive script to play with, however, Roberts could occasionally be downright superb, infusing his performances with an intense charisma rarely seen on screen. Famed for his magnetic intensity, Roberts dazzled critics with his Oscar-nominated turn as Paul Snider, the obsessive and controlling beau of doomed Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratton (Mariel Hemingway) in director Bob Fosse's tragic biopic, "Star 80" (1983). Although Roberts seemed well on his way to becoming a major movie star during the 1980s, the actor ultimately found himself eclipsed in Hollywood by the rise of his younger sister - future Academy Award-winning "Pretty Woman" (1990) star, Julia Roberts.
Born in Biloxi, MS on April 18, 1956, Eric Anthony Roberts was the son of famed character actor Walter Roberts and his wife, acting teacher Betty Lou Motes. The oldest of three children, Roberts began his acting career at the tender age of five, working at the Actors and Writers Workshop, a local theater company founded by his father. Following his parents' divorce in 1972, Roberts went to live with his father in Atlanta, GA, while his two younger sisters, Julia and Lisa, went to live with their mother. After graduating from Grady High School in 1974, Roberts went to London where he studied drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Returning to the U.S. two years later, Roberts continued his studies at the American Academy in New York. In 1976, at the age of 20, Roberts made his New York stage debut in playwright Thomas Babe's, "Rebel Women."
After a brief stint on the daytime soap "Another World" (NBC, 1964-1999), Roberts made his auspicious feature debut in director Frank Pierson's "King of the Gypsies" (1978) - a star-studded tale about a splintering gypsy dynasty for which Roberts received a Golden Globe nomination. Roberts' burgeoning film career was temporarily sidelined after a serious 1980 car accident, but the actor made a full recovery a year later and rebounded with a gripping performance opposite Sissy Spacek in "Raggedy Man" (1981), a period romance directed by Michael Dinner. It was his next performance, however, as Paul Snider, the pathetic two-bit hustler turned cast-off boyfriend of Playmate-turned-movie starlet Dorothy Stratten in "Star 80" that really put him on Hollywood's radar. In addition to solidifying his rep as a young actor to watch, the role also earned Roberts his second Golden Globe nod.
Not afraid to go over the top when the role called for it, Roberts gave an explosive performance in "The Pope of Greenwich Village" (1984), a gritty urban drama co-starring Mickey Rourke and Daryl Hannah. Roberts approach to acting was not universally adored, however. In 1985, for instance, Roberts received starkly opposite receptions for two different movies he starred in that year. The first was the underappreciated "Coca-Cola Kid," an offbeat comedy filmed in Australia. Cast as a wonky marketing genius named Becker, Roberts gave a broad performance that some critics found off-putting. On the other hand, when given the right vehicle, Roberts could be electrifying, as in the case of "Runaway Train" (1985), a low-budget action drama released the same year. Cast as the accomplice-sidekick of a notorious escaped con (Jon Voight), Roberts struck a locomotivated chord with audiences and reviewers alike. For his efforts, Roberts would go on to receive his first Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
As the 1980s drew to a close, however, Roberts suffered the consequences of some questionable acting choices. Never one to turn his nose up at a project simply on the grounds of its budget - as "Runaway Train" demonstrated - Roberts signed on to a handful of cheap pix which he probably would have been better off ignoring. Among the worst of the worst was the ironically titled martial-arts themed drama "Best of the Best" (1989). Roberts would later candidly admit in a 1996 interview with Details, that his motive for signing on to such films was strictly financial in nature: "Up until the late '80s, I'd been so careful with my career that I only made a movie a year; sometimes every other year. But because of some bad investments, I was not a millionaire anymore. I decided the hell with it. So I started doing everything that was offered to me. I made a slew of B-movies, like 12 or 14, and some of them are pretty terrible."
Roberts' downward career slide continued well into the 1990s - at precisely the same time that his younger sister, Julia Roberts, was ascending in Hollywood. Already estranged since their youth - primarily as a result of being split by their parents' divorce - sister Julia's stellar rise only served to increase the rift between the talented siblings. Ironically enough, two more members of the Roberts clan subsequently entered the family business - Eric's other younger sister, Lisa Roberts, and his own daughter, Emma Roberts - who was, ironically very close to Aunt Julia, despite her father's estrangement to his younger sister. Due to Roberts' willingness to appear in just about anything during this period, the actor's reputation continued to take further unfortunate blows. Apart from starring in a "Best of the Best" sequel in 1992, Roberts' most notable work that decade was probably in television. In 1996, Roberts starred in the expensive Fox reboot of the venerable BBC sci-fi serial "Doctor Who," before turning in a spectacular performance as Perry Smith in the TV remake of "In Cold Blood" (1996). In the late 1990s, Roberts even headlined his own crime drama series, the short-lived "C-16" (ABC, 1998-1999).
With the dawn of the 2000's, Roberts' financial pinch seemed to have ended, leaving him free to take on more substantive material. Appreciating the relatively more stable environment of television, Roberts continued his efforts in that medium. In 2002, Roberts landed a three-year gig as a regular on the popular sitcom "Less Than Perfect" (ABC, 2002-06). The following year, Roberts appeared in a five-episode arc of the wildly successful live-action comic book series, "Heroes" (NBC, 2006-10). That same year, Roberts returned to the big screen, taking a supporting role in "D.O.A.: Dead or Alive" - the movie adaptation of the best selling video game series of the same name. Released in Australia in 2006, "Dead or Alive" had its stateside release in summer 2007.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Music (TV Mini-Series)
Stage debut at age four as a mute clown
Began appearing on local TV in Atlanta at age seven
First stage speaking parts by age eight
Received classical training at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London
Professional acting debut in "Rebel Women" at Public Theatre, New York
Played a recurring character on the NBC daytime soap opera, "Another World"
Film acting debut in "King of the Gypsies"
TV-movie debut, an "American Playhouse" adaptation of Nathanael West's "Miss Lonelyhearts"
Portrayed Playboy playmate, Dorothy Stratten's husband in Bob Fosse's "Star 80"
Acted with younger sister Julia Roberts in "Blood Red" (released in 1989)
Broadway debut, Lanford Wilson's "Burn This"; replaced John Malkovich
Cast in the TV remake of "In Cold Blood"
Played the villain in Fox TV-movie "Dr. Who"
Starred in "It's My Party"
TV series debut as regular, "C16: FBI"
Had memorable role as a gangster in the CBS drama "Falcone"
Played a corrupt police captain in the A&E movie "Walking Shadow"
Cast in the coming-of-age drama "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints"
Joined the cast of NBC's "Heroes" as Thompson, an associate of Mr. Bennet
Cast as Sal Maroni, an organized crime boss in the Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight"
Co-starred with Sylvester Stallone in "The Expendables," an 80s-style action adventure about a group of mercenaries who attempt to overthrow a South American dictator; film featured a Who's Who of action stars including Bruce Willis, Jet Li, and Arnold Schwarzenegger