Julia Roberts returns to Britain, says other role not her cup of tea


Julia Roberts promised this week there would be no repeat performance of her walkout when she last went to make a film in England -- "unless I get fired."

Ms. Roberts was speaking before shooting starts today on the reported $25 million-plus TriStar Pictures production of "Mary Reilly" at Pinewood Studios and in Edinburgh, co-starring John Malkovich and directed by Stephen Frears.

"The whole thing didn't work out," said the actress of "Shakespeare in Love," her ill-fated first British project. "It wasn't just me pulling the plug on the production."

Ms. Roberts was faced with somewhat skeptical questioning about her ability to cope with a British accent and other aspects of her role as a Victorian housemaid in the film. She admitted that she hadn't read the original Robert Louis Stevenson novel ("The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde") or "Reilly," the contemporary work by Valerie Martin about Jekyll's housemaid, on both of which the film is based.

"It's more information than I want at this stage," she said. "I'm not sort of a big research nut. I just sort of wing it, you know."

Director Frears and screenwriter Christopher Hampton said they had "upped the murder count" of the story.

Ms. Roberts, whose recent performance in "The Pelican Brief" received something of a critical drubbing, refused to confirm reports that she was being paid $10 million for the "Mary Reilly" role. "It could be $50 [million], I really can't remember." She confirmed that her next picture would be the contemporary Southern drama "Grace Under Fire" for Warner Bros. in the fall.

Pallid for the role and dressed in a plain white, collarless shirt and black jacket, Ms. Roberts generally coped well with repeated questioning from the British tabloid press about the state of her marriage to Lyle Lovett, giving little away.

TriStar, which would not confirm unofficial production budget estimates, has built an extensive Edinburgh street set on the huge old "007" sound stage at Pinewood, where most of the action will be filmed, apart from two days on location in Edinburgh itself. The picture will not feature Scottish accents, said Mr. Frears.

The production reunites the "Dangerous Liaisons" team of Mr. Frears, Mr. Hampton and producer Norma Heyman, together with Mr. Malkovich and Glenn Close, who will play Mrs. Farraday in "Mary Reilly."

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