Is Julia Roberts too old?
On the occasion of the Friday release of Duplicity, Roberts' first true star vehicle since before 9/11, we ran the numbers, and, well, it sorta turned out Newsweek's "Hollywood ancient" assessment was spot-on.
The 41-year-old Roberts, the stats say, is past her box-office prime. Unless she's not. Which the stats also say, provided you listen carefully.
First things first—the reasons why Roberts' career should be fitted for support hose:
1. If You're a Woman in Hollywood, You're Toast Even Before the First Botox Treatment: Using Box Office Mojo stats, we looked at the career box-office performances of 10 lead actresses and 10 lead actors who, like Roberts, turned 40 this past decade. The women enjoyed the biggest hits of their careers, on average, at 33.7. The men reached their peak nearly three years later. Did we mention Roberts is now 41?
2. Make That, Really, Really Burned Toast: Since hitting the age that shall not be mentioned, the films of Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Nicole Kidman, Demi Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker, Meg Ryan, Naomi Watts and Roberts have cumulatively averaged $38 million—about 17 percent below their overall combined career marks.
Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Eddie Murphy, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Adam Sandler, Will Smith and Ben Stiller, on the other hand, cashed in after their 40th birthdays, thanks to animated films and blockbuster franchises, averaging $106.1 million per film after the middle-aged milestone versus $82.5 million for their entire careers. That's an increase—an increase—of nearly 30 percent.
3. Seriously, Like the Kind of Toast That's Only Good for Bread Crumbs. Or Pigeons: Of the surveyed women, only two have grossed above their career averages after hitting 40: Aniston and Parker. The exact opposite is true for the men, where only two haven't gotten bigger, post-40: Reeves and Smith.
Given all this then, Roberts' new movie is going to tank, no? No, not necessarily—because of the two reasons why Roberts' career will continue to thrive minus the assistance of a Rascal scooter:
4. She Is Julia Roberts: "The thing about Julia," says Women & Hollywood blogger Melissa Silverstein, "is she's an anomaly." Domestically, Roberts' movies have grossed $2.3 billion, more than any other actress, and more than all but 11 actors. If you moved her stats over to the male side of the ledger, where they actually match up better, you would reasonably expect her career to grow over the next few years.
5. She Is Not About to Get Buried by a Bromance. (Probably.): Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst Jeff Bock says Duplicity is expected to open with a respectable $15-20 million and find itself in a tight, three-way race for No. 1 against I Love You, Man and Knowing, the thriller starring the fortysomething Nicolas Cage. Bock gives the edge to the guy comedy I Love You, Man. But he doesn't discount Roberts.
"[She] is still an A-list actress that can still open a movie," Bock says in an email. "There is a reason she has top billing over Clive Owen."
And no, smart alecks, the reason isn't age before beauty.