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PARIS — Moments before making her debut as Lancôme’s global ambassador, Julia Roberts was coming to grips with her new responsibilities.
“I think I have to stand up straighter and wash my face more,” Roberts laughed.
“It’s kind of like every girl’s dream, really,” she continued, referring to her role with the L’Oréal-owned brand. “To be 42 and have three kids and be a working mom, it’s a great moment to be asked to do this and to be able to do it. I think it says a lot about Lancôme and what they stand for.”
Roberts said she was attracted to Lancôme in part because of its French je ne sais quoi. Looking chic on Tuesday in Paris’ Hôtel de la Monnaie prior to a sit-down dinner for 75, Roberts wore a black Alexander McQueen dress and Christian Louboutin heels, while her wrists were spangled in diamond bracelets, mainly from Cartier.
Her laughter, bubbling up frequently, was raucous and infectious. (Think Vivian Ward in “Pretty Woman.”) Roberts had Youcef Nabi, Lancôme International’s president, giggling, too.
“[Youcef] and I had such an immediate rapport the first time we met,” she said. “You really want to have a relationship where you don’t just want to be the face of something. You want to participate in it, and you want to have a voice in it. I still have to be myself.”
Nabi jumped on a plane from Asia to see Roberts in Los Angeles once the Lancôme executive learned they could meet for the first time. What might have been just a 20-minute get-together stretched into two-and-a-half hours.
“My husband sent me a text, ‘Where are you?’ I was having such a good time,” said Roberts.
She received oodles of text messages at the Golden Globes (two days ahead of the Lancôme event) as well. As soon as Sir Paul McCartney sat down at the table next to Roberts, her phone began chiming.
“It was so embarrassing,” she said. “It just started going ‘ding, ding.’”
Roberts said people sent her messages like, “OMG I can’t believe you’re sitting next to Paul McCartney.”
Jetting to Paris from Los Angeles was a mere puddle jump compared with the miles she clocked working on the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” (which comes out Aug. 13). Based on the best-selling book by Elizabeth Gilbert, the film tracks Gilbert’s postdivorce, soul-searching adventure spanning Italy, India and Indonesia.
“It was quite a huge undertaking. It was a little bit daunting, dragging three little kids around the world, but well worth it,” said Roberts, referring to her three children, the oldest of whom are five-year-old twins.
She plays the role of Gilbert, someone Roberts lauded for her intelligence, among other strengths.
“I think that she just showed so much courage and humor,” said the actress. “I just felt an incredible sense of need to accomplish the task on a great level. Ryan Murphy, who adapted the screenplay and was our director, was incredible.
“It was really like the acting Olympics,” continued Roberts. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a full-time acting job. I am really glad that I made the decision to go off and do that movie. I hope that Liz [Gilbert] really likes it more than anything. She’s a really interesting woman. I’m pretty fascinated by her, and I think a lot of people relate to her. So that’s the greatest challenge [with] a book that’s so well-known: You want people to see the movie and have that same sense of interest and comfort that they got from reading the book.”
Roberts opted not to meet Gilbert until after the shooting of the movie began, however.
“I didn’t want to be overly influenced,” explained Roberts. “She’s such an incandescent personality. I’ve seen her on television, and I’ve heard her on the radio and so I thought, ‘OK, I have to be objective.’ I wanted to at least start the movie before I met her. We were a few weeks into filming when I met her and her husband, and she was exactly what I wanted her to be.”
Roberts also has acted in another movie, “Valentine’s Day,” due out Feb. 12. What drew her to that project was Garry Marshall. “He’s just one of my favorite people in the world, and I owe my career to him,” she said.
Marshall was, after all, the director of the 1990 hit “Pretty Woman,” which catapulted Roberts into the stratosphere.
“He took a chance on me when it wasn’t the easiest decision to make, and he really stood up for me,” said Roberts. “He’s a great director. It’s insane the people that are in [‘Valentine’s Day’].”
The cast she was referring to includes the likes of Shirley MacLaine, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner and Patrick Dempsey.
“This movie is just about people loving each other and missing out and getting it right, and it’s pretty incredible,” said Roberts.