Son of the founder of Atlanta’s The Actors and Writers Workshop actor-writer Walter Roberts and the older brother of Academy Award-winning actress Julia Roberts, Eric Roberts is a gifted performer of film, television and stage, who, by his own admittance, has made many second-rate films. However, he has usually been appealing darn good even with moldy material, and frequently marvelous with substantive work. The three-time Golden Globe nominee, Eric, had countless springboards to a high-powered Hollywood career, but because of woes and/or wrong choices, he has stayed one of those whose skill is very much appreciated by those in entertainment industry, but who the viewers has not made into a “box office” commodity.
Making his acclaimed film debut in 1978’s King of the Gypsies, from which he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, Eric again scored triumph with his disturbingly convincing performance as a brutal small-time hustler in Bob Fosse’s Star 80 (1983), in which he netted a Boston Society of Film Critics award and another Golden Globe nod, but it was his portrayal as the escaped convict Buck in Runaway Train (1985) that garnered the actor an Oscar nomination. The role also brought Eric his third Golden Globe nod. He also gained critical acclaimed for his starring roles in the film It’s My Party and the miniseries “In Cold Blood” (both 1996). More recently, he is known by TV audience as Will Butler in the ABC sitcom “Less Than Perfect,” a character he played from 2002 to 2005. He won a 2003 Golden Satellite Award for his work in the series.
Privately speaking, Eric has spent his life outside the limelight with his lovely wife Eliza, whom he married in 1992, and they now reside in Los Angeles. He has one daughter, Emma, from his marriage to Kelly Cunningham. She also pursues a career in showbiz. Eric’s love life has also been linked to Sandy Dennis, with whom he had a long-term relationship in the 1980s.
Julia’s Big Brother
Childhood and Family:
Eric Anthony Roberts was born on April 18, 1956, in Biloxi, Mississippi, to actor-writer Walter Roberts, who founded the Atlanta Actors and Writers Workshop in 1963, and Betty Lou Motes. His parents divorced in 1972, and Eric went to live with his father in Atlanta, Georgia, where he graduated from Grady High School. While Eric lived with her father, who died of cancer in 1977, his mother maintained custody of Eric’s younger sisters, Lisa and Julia Roberts. Eric trained at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from 1973 to 1974 and continued his studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where he stayed from 1974 until 1975.
Eric was divorced from Kelly Cunningham shortly after the birth of their daughter, Emma Roberts (actress, born February 10, 1991). He became involved in a custody battle over Emma that resulted in him barely seeing his daughter while she was growing up. Eric remarried in 1992, to Eliza Garrett. He is the stepfather of Keaton Simons and Morgan Simons.
Less Than Perfect
Son of writer-actor Walter Roberts, Eric Roberts started his acting career as a child in his father’s local theater company called the Actors and Writers Workshop. Appearing for the first time on the stage as a mute clown at age four, Eric performed in almost 100 modern and classical plays before he was out of his teens. After completing his studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, he continued his studies and began working professionally in New York City. He made his professional stage debut in “Rebel Women” at Public Theatre, New York, in 1976 and made his television series acting debut in the 1964 daytime soap opera “Another World,” playing the recurring role of Ted Bancroft #1, the following year. In 1978, Eric took the leap into features with a notable supporting role in the Frank Pierson-directed drama King of the Gypsies, from which he was nominated a 1979 Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Acting Debut- Male.
Due to Eric’s ability and his tremendous good looks, his career skyrocketed, but his off-screen life was still turmoil. He became addicted to alcohol, drugs and women. He utilized the drugs and alcohol to reduce the pain and his affairs with women to try to seek the relieve he so badly needed. Another tragedy struck in his life, when in 1981 he was seriously injured in a car crash and he spent three days in a coma. Eric made his returned to the cinematic industry in 1983 when director Bob Fosse had him star as Paul Snider, a nasty small-time hustler, in his biopic film Star 80, based on the story of Dorothy Stratten, 1980 Playmate of the Year. For his bright acting-comeback performance, the actor was handed a Boston Society of Film Critics for Best Actor and earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama. The same year, he also could be seen as the star of the television movie Miss Lonelyhearts, which was adapted from Nathanael West’s play of the same name.
After starring with Mickey Rourke in the crime/drama The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) and with Greta Scacchi in the comedy The Coca-Cola Kid (1985), Eric was put in the Hollywood spotlight with his supporting role as Buck, the accomplice and sidekick of a notorious escaped con, in Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Rain (1985), opposite Jon Voight. The role brought Eric an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. Eric followed with roles in such films as Nobody’s Fool (1986), Options (1988), Rude Awakening (1989), Blood Red (1989, acted with his sister Julia Roberts) and Best of the Best (1989). 1988 also saw the actor debut on Broadway in Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This,” replacing John Malkovich. His bright performance in the play won Eric a Theater World.
During the 1990s, Eric maintained active in big screen feature films and in independent movies as well as on stage and in TV-movies. He acted in movies like Final Analysis (1992, opposite Richard Gere and Kim Basinger), Love Is a Gun (1994), The Specialist (1994, starred Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone), The Nature of the Beast (1995), The Immortals (1995), Heaven’s Prisoners (1996) and the Jim Carrey vehicle The Cable Guy (1996). In 1996’s It’s My Party, he acquired critical praise for his staring portrayal of Nick Stark, as a man dying from AIDS, opposite Bruce Davison and George Segal, and earned the similar victory with his role as Perry Smith, this time opposite Anthony Edwards, in the Emmy-nominated television miniseries adaptation of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (1996), for director Jonathan Kaplan. His fine acting in the latter even garnered Eric a 1997 Golden Satellite nod for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Still in 1996, he also was cast in the villainous role of the Master/Bruce in the made-for-TV film Doctor Who, which starred Paul McGann in the title role. He made his television series debut as regular the next year when he played the role of John Olansky in the short-lived show “C-16: FBI.”
Eric starred as a man who sells his organs to pay for his son’s hospital treatment in Race Against Time, a 2000 television film helmed by Geoff Murphy, and offered an unforgettable performance as a mobster named Raymond ‘The Madman’ Ricc in the CBS drama series “Falcone” (also 2000). He was cast as a crooked police captain in the A&E movie Walking Shadow (2001), and in the indie-comedy Spun (2002), he appeared as The Man along side Mickey Rourke and Jason Schwartzmann. It was also in 2002 that Eric landed the costarring role of Will Butler in the Sara Rue starring sitcom “Less Than Perfect,” a role he kept until 2005. In 2003, he took home a Golden Satellite for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Comedy or Musical for his work on the ABC show.
2004-2005 found roles in films like Killer Weekend (2004), Border Blues (2004), Comedy Hell (2005), Sister’s Keeper (2005), Sledge: The Untold Story (2005), Break a Leg (2005), Spit (2005) and The Civilization of Maxwell Bright (2005). He also contributed his voice for the animated movie Geppetto’s Secret (2005, voice of Jack Hammer), and for episodes of the television series “Justice League” (2004, as Mongul) and Nickelodeon’s “Danny Phantom” (2005, as Dark Danny). Eric appeared in nine films for 2006 release, including in Fatal Desire (TV), James Becket’s Final Approach, the coming-of-age drama A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, the adaptation of DOA: Dead or Alive and Aurora, a drama selected to be the official Ukrainian choice in the Best Foreign Film category to compete for the 2007 Academy Awards.
More recently, Eric starred as Roman Tobias in the romance/thriller 4-Bidden (2007) and appeared as Nick Swell in the Til Schweiger- Lauren Lee Smith vehicle One Way (2007). She also teamed up with Tiffani Thiessen, Vincent Spano and Faye Dunaway in the miniseries thriller “Pandemic,” which was released in the United Kingdom in January 2007. He will play a father in the psychological thriller Royal Kill (2007), also starring Pat Morita, Lalaine, Gail Kim and directed by Babar Ahmed. Other upcoming projects include Shaun Rana’s Westbrick Murders (2007), David O’Malley’s thriller Dark Honeymoon (2007, opposite Daryl Hannah and Tia Carrere) and the action Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter (2007, with Cung Le andDavid Carradine).
- Golden Satellite: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Comedy or Musical, “Less Than Perfect,” 2003
- Boston Society of Film Critics: Best Actor, Star 80, 1984