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Julia Roberts Reveals She Almost Passed On Her Iconic ‘Notting Hill’ Role

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB

2024 marks the 25th anniversary of the classic romantic comedy, Notting Hill. One of the genre’s favorite actresses, Julia Roberts, sat down in a recent interview where she discussed how her part in the film almost didn’t come to be. Thankfully, she did take the lead role, and a good thing too, because we couldn’t have imagined anyone else who could’ve played the part.

Notting Hill

Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant smiling at one another.
Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. (Photo Credit: Universal Pictures / RobertMcClaine / MovieStillsDB)

Notting Hill is a classic romantic comedy that was filmed in 1999 and features Julia Roberts as the famous actress Anna Scott. In the film, she meets William Thacker, a bookstore owner played by Hugh Grant. The film was an incredible success, amassing a whopping $21.8 million on opening weekend, making it the biggest opening for a romantic comedy. 

By the time the film had come out, Roberts had already cemented herself as a successful actress, earning her a reputation as a romantic comedy powerhouse. Prior to Notting Hill, she had starred in other hit movies in the genre, including Pretty Woman (1990), Steel Magnolias (1989), and My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997).

Roberts hesitated in taking the role

Julia Roberts peering out from a corner, wearing sunglasses and a beret.
Julia Roberts as Anna Scott in Notting Hill. (Photo Credit: Universal Pictures / RobertMcClaine / MovieStillsDB)

During an interview with her longtime friend and screenwriter of Notting Hill, Richard Curtis, for British Vogue, Roberts revealed that she was actually hesitant about taking the role. The reason? The role was that of a movie star. “I was so uncomfortable!” she explained. “I almost didn’t take the part because it just seemed ― oh, it just seemed so awkward. I didn’t even know how to play that person.”

While it may seem like an actor playing an actor on screen would be an easy task, Roberts explained that doing so was actually “one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.” She said that when she works, she gives more of her authentic self to her roles rather than focusing on her acting technique, as many other actors do. “I never feel like I’m playing myself,” she said. But with Notting Hill, she had to face that more intimately.

Thankfully, Roberts doesn’t spook easily, and we’ve been able to enjoy the film for 25 years now!

Her influence in the iconic scene

Julia Roberts standing in front of Hugh Grant, his back to the camera.
Julia Roberts in the famous “I’m just a girl” scene in Notting Hill. (Photo Credit: Universal Pictures / RobertMcClaine / MovieStillsDB)

Acting like a movie star may have been a difficult task for Roberts, but one area she really despised was having to dress like one. She told Curtis how she especially “loathed being dressed as a movie star,” which made caused her to take control of what she wore in the famous “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy,” scene.

Rather than wear the clothes picked out for that scene from the wardrobe department, Roberts had her driver go to the place she was staying at the time and pick up different articles of clothing from her bedroom. “I said, ‘Go into my bedroom and grab this, this and this out of my closet,'” Roberts explained. “And it was my own flip-flops and my cute little blue velvet skirt and a T-shirt and my cardigan.”

Read more: Hattie McDaniel and the Oscar Win That Forever Changed Hollywood

Curtis teased her about this during the interview, jokingly saying, “I was always disappointed you weren’t wearing a better costume that day.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!