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Julia Roberts is officially a Grand Dame

America’s ‘90s sweetheart, Julia Roberts is entering a sort of grand dame phase, which is interesting as she unexpectedly ages into character-actor territory.

Once the fresh-faced star of dramas and rom-coms—and the loveliest prostitute in ages in 1990’s PRETTY WOMAN—Roberts was an appealing ingénue with a smile that brightened any screen and a fascinating ability to laugh and cry at the same time. I always thought she was a good actress—not just a good movie star—and was beside myself when she won the Oscar for 2000’s ERIN BROCKOVICH, playing a fiery legal assistant with cleavage and chutzpah.

Years later, she showed comic flair as a Texas society lady in CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (2007), but after that, Julia hit a rough patch which was even rougher if the gossip is true that she turned down THE PROPOSAL and THE BLIND SIDE, both of which propelled Sandra Bullock on her road to being “the new Julia Roberts” (even though she’s older).

Meanwhile, Julia came out with the long and critically dismissed EAT PRAY LOVE and then a shorter dud, LARRY CROWNE. And now she’s finally ready to reclaim some stature.

In MIRROR MIRROR—opening wide on March 30—she’s the Evil Queen, vamping and camping in lavish costumes, with a hint of a British accent as she disses Snow White and plots all kinds of destruction. It’s a long way from her Tinkerbell (in 1991’s HOOK), and it’s definitely the star attraction, seeing as Julia is in the trailer way more than poor Snow as she spits out lines like, “Her skin has never seen the sun, so of course it’s good!” It’s the kind of role you’d expect maybe Helena Bonham Carter to play, so this is definitely an interesting career twist that gives America’s eternal princess something dark and juicy to play with.

And next come two pitch-black prestige projects based on acclaimed stage dramas. THE NORMAL HEART is the movie of the Larry Kramer play about Kramer’s attempt to get some response to the growing AIDS crisis in the 1980s as everyone buried their heads in the sand about it. Ryan Murphy (EAT PRAY LOVE) will direct Mark Ruffalo as the Kramer-based character and Julia as the wheelchair-bound doctor with a host of statistics and a searing monologue in which she relates them to the deaf ears of the power brokers. It’s meaty stuff that will be a true test of whether the pretty woman can really handle capital A Acting.

And that’ll be followed by the movie of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, the Pulitzer winning drama about an Oklahoma family in disarray when the father goes missing. Julia plays a simmering, resentful daughter of an elegantly vicious woman. And since the latter is played by Meryl Streep, we know that Julia has entered a higher league in her middle age.