It’s been a long time since Julia Roberts was involved in a proper scandal. These days, the 48-year-old star of Pretty Woman, Notting Hill, Eat Pray Love and countless other films has an air of Respectable Grown-Up Hollywood about her. She lives her life largely out of the limelight with her husband of 14 years (the cinematographer Daniel Moder) and their three children, and prefers charity work and family life to glitzy celebrity functions.
Way back in 1991, however, Roberts sparked a furore of Brangelina proportions. Aged 23, she was engaged to the then-24-year-old actor Kiefer Sutherland: Stand By Me star, son of cinema legend Donald Sutherland, and all-round Hollywood bad boy.
But three days before their extravagant wedding was due to take place (at a film studio, natch), Roberts broke off the engagement. On the wedding date itself, she instead flew to Ireland – accompanied by her former fiancé’s friend, the actor Jason Patric.
So far, so scandalous: one can only imagine the memes if the internet had existed 25 years ago.
To be fair to Roberts, she reportedly terminated her relationship with Sutherland after hearing that he’d been secretly hanging out with a go-go dancer named Raven, a performer at Hollywood’s Crazy Girls Club.
Sutherland apparently claimed, euphemistically, that he was doing “research for a role” – and that he and Raven had just been "playing pool" together. (Ahem.)
And now, Sutherland has said that he respects Roberts for making the decision she did – and thanked her for showing such “courage”.
“I think she was being realistic for herself. I think that’s much better,” Sutherland said, during a recent interview with the People/Entertainment Weekly Network.
He attributed the collapse of his relationship with Roberts to their youth at the time – combined with the pressure of getting married in front of the entire world.
“We were young and we were both very much in love, we had decided that we wanted to get married, but then this other thing kind of took over,” the actor, now 49, said. “She was arguably the most famous woman in the world, and this wedding that was supposed to be something between the two of us became something so big.”
According to an article published in People magazine at the time, 150 guests had been invited to watch Sutherland and Roberts get married on a 20th Century Fox soundstage, which was being decorated like a garden paradise.
Roberts’ custom-made, $8,000 gown was waiting to be picked up from the dress shop, while her four bridesmaids had already collected their Manolo Blahniks and seafoam-green dresses.
“In the middle of that, I think she had the courage – it wasn’t what she wanted to do, in the end,” Sutherland concluded. “I think it took a lot of courage, even amongst all of that other stuff, to be able to say, ‘I can’t do this’.”
In a way, the '90s legend of Sutherland and Roberts contains a lesson for us all. If a situation just doesn't feel right, don’t be afraid to cut your losses and run. Preferably to Ireland with a handsome man in tow, of course.
Images: Rex Features