A winsome beauty with a large, incandescent smile and a mane of hair, Julia Roberts was one of the few bankable female stars of the 1990s whose love affair with the public and world's press continued into the next century. Critics have long speculated on the secret of her undeniable appeal, but it remained one of those enigmas of contemporary pop culture. Roberts lacked the technical polish of some of her contemporaries, but was able to command the screen like no one else, even while surrounded by heavy hitters like Sally Field, Denzel Washington and Susan Sarandon. Her public life was also key to her longevity. From the trail of broken-hearted beaus she left in her wake to her self-imposed post-"Pretty Woman" exile to getting pregnant with twins ? the public ate it all up with a spoon. Born Oct. 28, 1967 in Smyrna, GA, Roberts originally planned to be a veterinarian, but later studied journalism instead. She was introduced to performing at an early age by her theatrical parents, who ran the Atlanta-based Actors and Writers Workshop out of their home. She made her screen debut opposite her brother Eric in "Blood Red," although the 1986 film went unreleased for three years. Noticing that her old brother was scoring some success in Hollywood, Roberts decided to try acting as a career. She first gained notice starring in two youth-oriented movies in 1988 ? "Mystic Pizza" and "Satisfaction" (1988). In the former, Roberts played a memorably fiery Portuguese waitress. Only a year or two into her new career, the young actress earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination as the doomed diabetic heroine, Shelby, of "Steel Magnolias" (1989). With her performance as a warm-hearted prostitute who transforms cold executive Richard Gere in Garry Marshall's saccharine but immensely successful rags-to-riches saga, "Pretty Woman" (1990), Roberts became one of Hollywood's most popular and bankable stars ? certainly its top female ? and earned a surprise Best Actress Academy Award nomination. The iconic role would forever label her America's "pretty woman" ? even over a decade later. While her contribution made the routine thrillers "Flatliners" (1990) and "Sleeping with the Enemy" (1991) popular successes, she faltered a bit at the box office in late 1991 with the weepie romance "Dying Young." She finished the year with the supporting role of Tinkerbell in Steven Spielberg's lavish but disappointing update of the Peter Pan myth, "Hook." Roberts' toothsome portrayal of the feisty fairy revealed no insights into the tiny winged character, and she struggled gamely with the physical and artistic rigors of doing most of her scenes alone on a special effects soundstage. Rumors of bad blood between Roberts and Spielberg cast a pall on the project, sending the increasingly reclusive star into a self-imposed exile, which only fueled the press more. It was at the peak of her early '90s fame that Roberts took an unannounced break from acting to get her highly publicized personal life in order. Romances with co-stars Liam Neeson, Dylan McDermott and most notably Kiefer Sutherland ? whom she reportedly left for his best friend Robert Patrick only days before the wedding ? all petered out, though her romance with the odd-looking actor/singer Lyle Lovett ended in a brief bare-footed marriage in 1993. Roberts made a cameo appearance as herself in Robert Altman's "The Player" (1992) before making her much ballyhooed return to the screen after two years, reasserting her commercial magic opposite Denzel Washington in the political thriller, "The Pelican Brief" (1993), but lost a bit of ground opposite Nick Nolte in the middling romantic comedy, "I Love Trouble" (1994). Her next few film roles proved spotty: she was passable as a journalist in Robert Altman's high-fashion comedy "Ready to Wear/Pret-a-Porter" (1994), spunky as a woman coping with marital problems in the romantic comedy "Something to Talk About" (1995), and dour in the period horror film "Mary Reilly" (1996), all of which failed to find much audience favor. As Woody Allen's leading lady in his musical comedy "Everyone Says I Love You" (1996), she fared slightly better (and displayed a pleasant if not spectacular singing voice). Cast opposite old beau Neeson as his love interest in Neil Jordan's biopic of Irish revolutionary "Michael Collins" (also 1996), Roberts gave a gallant try but was hampered by a wavering Irish accent. 1997 saw the actress reassert her position as both America's sweetheart and a box-office performer with her starring role in the hit comedy, "My Best Friend's Wedding." Cast as a scheming restaurant critic who sets out to break up the wedding of the man she thinks she loves, Roberts turned what could have become an unsympathetic character into an audience favorite through the sheer force of her natural charm and vibrancy. She was abetted by Rupert Everett's scene-stealing supporting turn as her editor and a subtle script by Ron Bass that inverted many of the clichés of screwball comedy. Roberts' much-anticipated teaming with Mel Gibson in Richard Donner's "Conspiracy Theory" (also 1997), however, proved to be somewhat disappointing thanks to a muddled script. Ron Bass was one of several writers who worked on the script of "Stepmom" (1998), a comedy-drama that cast Roberts as the much younger girlfriend of a divorced man coping with his two children and his saintly ex-wife. Most critics dismissed the film as pap but audiences lapped it up and made it a modest box-office success. She followed with a turn as a world-famous movie star who falls in love with a bumbling British bookseller (Hugh Grant) in "Notting Hill", an uneven romantic comedy, which nevertheless, did well at the box office. The much ballyhooed reteaming with Gere under Garry Marshall's guidance in "Runaway Bride" (both 1999) brought out the crowds, but the film could in no way compete with the "Pretty Woman" legacy that came before. Together these films earned over $300 million domestically, justifying the actress' standing as the highest paid female actor. Just as critics thought she was all charm and no real acting chops, Roberts took on the role of her life, essaying the real-life legal secretary who assisted in turning a water poisoning case into one of the largest class-action lawsuits in U.S. history, in "Erin Brockovich" (2000). Her stellar work under the direction of Stephen Soderbergh, earned her just about every accolade in 2001, including the Best Actress Oscar. After such a heavy project, Roberts returned to comedy, playing the frustrated girlfriend of a low-level, somewhat bumbling gangster (Brad Pitt) in the "The Mexican" (2001). Although she and Pitt were not on screen together for very long, the pair shared a nice easy chemistry ? but the actress had better rapport with James Gandolfini, as the hitman who kidnaps her as insurance. Despite fielding many offers and after already playing a movie star on screen, Roberts opted this time to play the personal assistant to the movie star (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in the disastrous, critically reviled comedy, "America's Sweethearts" (2001). To recover from that disaster, Roberts re-teamed with Soderbergh for a small role in his remake of "Ocean's Eleven" (2001). Playing Tess Ocean, George Clooney's perpetually disappointed wife, Roberts did her best to keep up with the hunky boys, including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Andy Garcia. Robert's next project was also with Soderbergh, in the non-narrative sequel to his 1989 film "Sex, Lies and Videotape" ? "Full Frontal" (2002). Roberts' character, wearing an extremely unattractive hairdo, was shockingly uninteresting and unimportant to the story, such as it was. Worse was her limp turn in new buddy George Clooney's directorial debut, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002), the supposed life story of game show producer/host-turned-government agent Chuck Barris, in which she played a spy femme fatale in a performance so purposefully arch as to defy belief. Roberts fared better in her next project, the harmless "Mona Lisa Smile" (2003), playing Katherine Watson, a liberal-minded educator who takes a feminist position at Wellesley in the 1950s and quickly comes under fire for teaching her female students to aspire to something other than marriage and kids. While the film's premise and storyline ? a female spin on the familiar "Dead Poets' Society" model ? was predictable, Roberts' delivered a mature and engaging performance that, in ways different from her previous efforts, had audiences once again rooting for her. Just as Roberts began filming the anticipated sequel "Ocean's Twelve" (2004), the actress, who was by then onto her second marriage to cameraman Danny Moder, announced to the world that she was pregnant with twins. Perhaps due to the impending birth, Roberts appeared to be having more fun than in the first "Oceans," gamely playing off of her pregnancy and ? in a harder-to-swallow plot spin ? her character's uncanny resemblance to movie star Julia Roberts. Just prior to the release of that film, Roberts made international headlines when she gave birth to a boy and a girl, Phinnaeus and Hazel, in November, 2004. Hot on the heels of that arrival was the debut of the Mike Nichols-directed drama "Closer" (2004), in which she played an American photographer in London caught up in the heated, sometimes erotic, often cruel love/sex gender war amid two shifting sets of couples (Jude Law and Natalie Portman; Roberts and Clive Owen). The highly literate film received excellent reviews and brought Roberts' her best notice since "Erin Brockovich." After taking time off to enjoy her twins and family time on her Taos, NM ranch, Roberts returned to work ? this time, surprising many by accepting a role on Broadway. In April of 2006, Roberts headlined the Richard Greenberg drama, "Three Days of Rain," co-starring Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper. Although her reviews were lukewarm, the play sold out its 12-week run, proving Roberts' appeal extended beyond the big screen and various magazine covers.