Eric Roberts

One of Hollywood's edgier, more intriguing characters running around and about for decades, Eric Anthony Roberts started life in Biloxi, Mississippi. He is the son of Betty Lou (Bredemus) and Walter Grady Roberts, one-time actors and playwrights. His siblings are actors Lisa Roberts Gillan and Ju...

Born on April 18, 1956

Biloxi, Mississippi, USA

Height 1.78m / 5' 10"


One of Hollywood's edgier, more intriguing characters running around and about for decades, Eric Anthony Roberts started life in Biloxi, Mississippi. He is the son of Betty Lou (Bredemus) and Walter Grady Roberts, one-time actors and playwrights. His siblings are actors Lisa Roberts Gillan and Julia Roberts, and he grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. He began his acting career at age 5 in a local theater company called the "Actors and Writers Workshop", founded by his late father. After his schooling at Grady High, he studied drama at age 17 in London for two years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, then returned to the States and continued his studies at the American Academy in New York. He made his NY stage debut in "Rebel Women" in 1976 at age 20 and appeared in regional productions, once playing the newspaper boy in a production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" starring Shirley Knight and Glenn Close.After appearing in such daytime soaps as Another World (1964) and How to Survive a Marriage (1974), his career began to shift fast forward when he copped a leading role in a major film. In King of the Gypsies (1978), based on Peter Maas' best-seller about a fracturing dynasty of New York City gypsies, he made his debut alongside an intimidating roster of stars including Judd Hirsch, Susan Sarandon, Shelley Winters and Sterling Hayden. Young Eric held his own expertly (winning a Golden Globe nomination) while his burning intensity and brooding charm marked sure signs of star potential. After this, he won the lead opposite Milo O'Shea in the 1980 stage production of "Mass Appeal". He suffered serious injuries in a car accident during his nascent film career but lost no fans by the time he returned to co-star with Sissy Spacek as a small-town stranger in Raggedy Man (1981). It was, however, his stark and frightening portrayal of two-bit hustler Paul Snider, the cast-off boyfriend who slays Playmate-turned-movie starlet Dorothy Stratten (played by Mariel Hemingway) in Star 80 (1983) that really put him on the movie map and earned him a second Golden Globe nomination. A wide range of fascinating, whacked-out roles were immediately offered to him on a silver plate. He played another dangerous streetwise hustler type in The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) opposite fellow rebel Mickey Rourke; a cocky soda pop sales exec in the Australian comedy The Coca-Cola Kid (1985); appeared with more charm and restraint opposite Rosanna Arquette in the offbeat romantic comedy Nobody's Fool (1986) and topped his prolific period off with an Academy Award nomination as a young prison escapee hiding out with Jon Voight aboard an out-of-control train in the ultra-violent, character-driven action adventure Runaway Train (1985). Good things continued to happen when he was a replacement lead in the original run of "Burn This" and won a Theatre World Award for his 1988 Broadway debut.A risky, no-holds-barred actor, he was often guilty of overacting if given half the chance. His film career began to slide in the late 1980s, appearing in more quantity than quality pictures. A series of missteps led to unheralded appearances in such bombs as the karate-themed Best of the Best (1989); the NY urban thriller The Ambulance (1990); the action western Blood Red (1989), which took three years to release and is the only film Eric and his sister Julia Roberts appeared in together; and Rude Awakening (1989) when he filled in as a burned-out hippie opposite a Chong-less Cheech Marin. More under appreciated "B" filming came with the 1990s (Freefall (1994), Sensation (1994), The Nature of the Beast (1995), etc.), while also chewing the scenery with a number of mobster types in TV-movies, including one as "Al Capone". He soon began appearing as flashy secondary villains and creepies that showcased other stars instead, such as Final Analysis (1992) starring Richard Gere, Heaven's Prisoners (1996) top lining Alec Baldwin, and The Dark Knight (2008), part of the "Batman" series with Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger.Eric's undeniable, unconventional talent would occasionally mesh with the perfect role. At the Sundance Film Festival in 1996, he received critical applause for his starring role as a man dying of AIDS in the uplifting and emotional film It's My Party (1996) and earned more honors as a writer marked for murder in the mob-themed story La Cucaracha (1998). He was also perfectly cast as one of the cold-blooded killers in the Emmy-nominated TV adaptation of Truman Capote's chiller In Cold Blood (1996). Eric continued to appear sporadically on TV in such dramatic series as Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001), while sometimes showing a fun side as well in comedy (The King of Queens (1998)). His own series work included Less Than Perfect (2002) and, more recently, and in the cult program Heroes (2006) where promise for a longer participation ended with his character's death.Recovered from a long-standing cocaine problem, Eric wed, for the first time, actress/writer Eliza Roberts (nee Garrett). They have appeared in such films as Killer Weekend (2004) and Final Approach (2005). His daughter from a former relationship, Emma Roberts, is a newly popular and fast-rising "tween" actress from the series Unfabulous (2004) and has played youthful super-sleuth Nancy Drew (2007) on film. Eric's unpredictable, volatile nature which works so mesmerizing on screen has also led to troubling times off camera; his relationship with younger sis Julia Roberts has been seriously strained for quite some time.Read More

Known For


Frequently plays villains

Gravelly smoke burnished voice


Older brother of Julia Roberts and Lisa Roberts Gillan.

Was chosen to act in Royal Kill (2009) when the Wrestling Choreographer, Ranjan Chhibber, a big "Doctor Who" fan, suggested to the director Roberts be hired because he loved his performance as "The Master" in the "Doctor Who" made-for-TV movie on Fox.

His left hand ring finger is permanently disfigured, as a result of a 1980s car accident.

Attended Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia.

Appeared with actor Clarence Williams III in Ja Rule music video "Down ass chick".

Step-father of Keaton Simons and Morgan Simons

Brother-in-law of Tony Gillan and Daniel Moder.

Became a father for the 1st time at age 34 when his [now ex] girlfriend Kelly Cunningham gave birth to their daughter Emma Rose Roberts, aka Emma Roberts, on February 10, 1991.

He was seriously injured in a car accident and spent three days in a coma. [1981]

Before he became a movie star, he appeared in at least two soap operas. Another World (1964) and How to Survive a Marriage (1974).


I do like the idea of putting something comical into an intense drama, and being intense in absurd circumstances within a comedy.

[on The Ambulance (1990)] That was... I put myself in Larry Cohen's hands for that, because I liked the script. It was kind of like The Whole Truth, actually, because I said, "Since this is kind of an action-comedy, I need you to guide me. And I'm gonna do what you tell me and how you tell me to do it, so if there are any mistakes, they're gonna be yours." And he goes, "Okay, here we go!" So he just told me what he wanted, where he wanted it, and how he wanted it, and we had a great time making that movie. That movie was a huge hit in France. It made a lot of money in France. It, uh, didn't do well in the U.S., though. Not until it had been out on DVD for about five years, at which point it became kind of a cult classic.

[on The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)] The greatest acting experience of my life, as far as character work. I took every chance an actor could, and I think I made him work. I'm very proud of that piece. Mickey Rourke and I became lifelong friends. I love him. It was probably the most fun I've ever had playing a character... Yeah, they offered me that part. After Tennessee Williams died, I was in Hartford doing a production of The Glass Menagerie, playing Tom Wingfield, and I get this script called The Pope Of Greenwich Village, based on the book. I read it, and... my character was a tough guy. He's a not-too-smart, not-too-educated tough guy. A badass. You don't want to mess with him, because he wasn't very smart, and he might hit you. And I realize, "Hmm, that character has been portrayed like that in a thousand movies. I've done it five times already myself! I have to approach it differently." Since I was up there doing the play, I had lots of time to think about it, lots of time to read and re-read it, and I finally realized, "Ah, here's what I'll do! I'll play a mama's boy who wants to be a tough guy but isn't." So I used all the same dialogue. I didn't change any of the dialogue. I just changed how he dressed, how he looked, how he talked, and how he walked. And I permed my hair and lost 30 pounds, so I'd be a string-bean walking spaz attack. And the result was one of the most satisfying experiences of my career.

[on Star 80 (1983)] I discovered what I thought was the core of his (Paul Snider) kind of energy, by my talking with people who liked, and also disliked, him. Also, through photographs - how he stood, whether his shoulders were up or down, and stuff like that. Small stuff, which I could see through pictures of when he was at the Playboy Mansion. I realized that he was wound very tightly, and he was very self-conscious, and he was very....from another era, almost. Once I got that, that was the core of his physicality, I just had to find his morality. And once I had that, I had this very pathetic man, and I popped him out there. I went to a screening at a regular movie theatre and I was on my way out and, of course, everybody knew who I was, because I didn't look that different in the movie, and somebody said, "God, what an awful man!" It was such an awful story that people got me confused with the character. It was a bomb in movie theaters because it was so dark and so real. Bob Fosse was one of the greatest filmmakers ever and he made everybody who watched the movie have to go through that experience, and it was hard. Obviously it was a big loss financially because it should've been a mega-hit, but it was ahead of its time. It has since become a cult classic so I am satisfied by that, but Bob Fosse never saw that. He died. And I love him like I love my life. He became my second father, and he was great to me. We had a great relationship, and we spent a lot of time on the road together, doing press, and we bonded.

[on working with Sterling Hayden on King of the Gypsies (1978)] It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life because it became a relationship. We became very good friends, and we stayed friends right up until his death. Sterling was just a winner as a human being. He loved you if you were whatever you were. And if you pretended to be whatever you were, he had nothing for you. I'd already been shooting on the film for about three weeks, and we went into night shoots in the fourth week. My first night working with him was his first day on the film. I'm in my trailer and I get a knock on the door and the second assistant director says, "Mr Hayden would like to meet you and talk to you about the scene tonight." I'm like, "Cool! I can't wait!" So I go over to his trailer and knock on the door, and I hear him say, "Come in, come in!" I open the door and - whoosh! - big cloud of hashish! He says, "Have a seat, young man!" I have a seat. He asks me if I want to get high. I say, "No, because I can't talk when I get high and I have to act tonight." He goes, "Okay, okay. So let's talk about what we're doing tonight! What are we shooting?" I said, "That would be scene 87, sir." He goes, "Oh I know the number. But what the fuck happens?" And it's a very pivotal scene. I've run away, and he comes and nabs me off the street and takes me home, blah, blah, blah. It's a big-deal scene. So I told him that and he goes, "How are you at improvisation, young man?" I said, "I'm okay with it." He said, "Okay, 'cause that's what we're doing tonight." So all our stuff together is all improv, and it's all extraordinary, because he was extraordinary.

I'm not going to be the next thing. I don't have hope, I just have patience. [2008]

This past 15 years, I made 120 movies, and I probably haven't seen 60 of them. But I've had a great time. I also don't have to die for my work anymore. I have never been more miserable or unhappy as when I shot Star 80 (1983) - as a person, just because of where I had to go every day. [2008]

I had a perfect track record up to Rude Awakening (1989). Then the track record goes bumpy, then it goes bad and I'm ruining myself with B movies. I've done a lot of shit. But I have reinstated myself.

I've had people say to me, "It's such a shame what happened to your career." I just smile and say I've had a blast. I really have.

My life is going to kill me. We all get angry when we realize that. But the anger is fear.


Another World Another World TedBancroft#1(1977)(unknownepisodes)
The Young and the Restless The Young and the Restless VanceAbrams(34episodes,2010-2011)
How to Survive a Marriage How to Survive a Marriage
Entertainment Tonight Entertainment Tonight Himself(1episode,2010)
Star 80  Star 80  PaulSnider
The Pope of Greenwich Village  The Pope of Greenwich Village  Paulie
Biography Biography Himself(3episodes,1999-2010)
Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam  Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam  (voice)
To Heal a Nation  To Heal a Nation  JanScruggs
The Arsenio Hall Show The Arsenio Hall Show Himself-Guest(1episode,1989)
Best of the Best  Best of the Best  AlexGrady
Descending Angel  Descending Angel  MichaelRossi
The Lost Capone  The Lost Capone  AlCapone
By the Sword  By the Sword  AlexanderVillard
Lonely Hearts  Lonely Hearts  Frank
Bride of Violence Bride of Violence SeanMcLeary(3episodes,1990)
Final Analysis  Final Analysis  JimmyEvans
Frasier Frasier Chet(1episode,1997)
Late Night with Conan O'Brien Late Night with Conan O'Brien Himself-Guest(1episode,1993)
Best of the Best II  Best of the Best II  AlexGrady
Love, Cheat & Steal  Love, Cheat & Steal  RenoAdams
Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage  Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage  BillBonanno
Voyage  Voyage  GilFreeland
Touched by an Angel Touched by an Angel NickStratton(1episode,1999)
Freefall  Freefall  GrantOrion
The Hard Truth  The Hard Truth  Dr.ChandlerEtheridge
The Drew Carey Show The Drew Carey Show Steven(1episode,1996)
The Immortals  The Immortals  Jack
It's My Party  It's My Party  NickStark
American Strays  American Strays  Martin
Dark Angel  Dark Angel  WalterD'Arcangelo
Doctor Who  Doctor Who  TheMaster/Bruce
The Glass Cage  The Glass Cage  Montrachet
The Grave  The Grave  Cass
Heaven's Prisoners  Heaven's Prisoners  BubbaRocque
In Cold Blood In Cold Blood PerrySmith(2episodes,1996)
Past Perfect  Past Perfect  DylanCooper
C-16: FBI C-16: FBI JohnOlansky(13episodes,1997-1998)
The Hunger The Hunger Jean(1episode,1999)
The Odyssey The Odyssey Eurymachus(2episodes,1997)
Oz Oz RichardL'Italien(1episode,1997)
Spawn Spawn Petey(1episode,1999)
The Prophecy II  The Prophecy II  Michael
Making Sandwiches  Making Sandwiches  Julia
Most Wanted  Most Wanted  AssistantDeputyDirectorSpencer
Facade  Facade  ColinWentworth
T.N.T.  T.N.T.  Russo
Hollywood Squares Hollywood Squares Himself-Panelist(35episodes,2002-2004)
La Cucaracha  La Cucaracha  WalterPool
Howard Stern Howard Stern Himself-Guest(2episodes,1994-1997)
The Howard Stern Radio Show The Howard Stern Radio Show Himself-Guest(1episode,2001)
The King of Queens The King of Queens Strohmeyer(1episode,2001)
Cecil B. DeMented  Cecil B. DeMented  Honey'sEx
Lansky  Lansky  Ben'Bugsy'Siegel
Tripfall  Tripfall  Mr.Eddie
American Playhouse American Playhouse MissLonelyhearts(1episode,1983)
Showbiz Today Showbiz Today Himself(1episode,1996)
Dirk and Betty  Dirk and Betty  Customer
No Alibi  No Alibi  VictorHaddock/StanleyJoiner
The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn Himself-Guest(1episode,2000)
Heaven's Fire  Heaven's Fire  DeanMcConnell
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Law & Order: Special Victims Unit SamWinfield(1episode,2001)
Loose Women Loose Women Himself(1episode,2007)
The Beatnicks  The Beatnicks  MackDrake
Walking After Midnight Walking After Midnight (unknownepisodes)
Falcone Falcone Raymond'TheMadman'Ricci(4episodes,2000)
Tonight at the House of Blues  Tonight at the House of Blues  Himself
Mercy Streets  Mercy Streets  Rome
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation CSI: Crime Scene Investigation DanielLarson/...(3episodes,2013-2015)
Fast Sofa  Fast Sofa  Robinson
Mindstorm  Mindstorm  DavidMendez
Rough Air: Danger on Flight 534  Rough Air: Danger on Flight 534  FirstOfficerMikeHogan
National Security  National Security  Nash
The Andy Dick Show The Andy Dick Show Himself/...(2episodes,2001)
Justice League Justice League Mongul(2episodes,2002)
Law & Order: Criminal Intent Law & Order: Criminal Intent RoyHubert(1episode,2008)
The Test The Test Himself-Panelist(1episode,2001)
Strange Frequency Strange Frequency BobHenry(1episode,2001)
Roughing It  Roughing It  TheForeman
1998 VH1 Fashion Awards  1998 VH1 Fashion Awards  Himself
The Civilization of Maxwell Bright  The Civilization of Maxwell Bright  Arlis
Last Call with Carson Daly Last Call with Carson Daly Himself-Guest(1episode,2007)
CSI: Miami CSI: Miami KenKramer(1episode,2005)
Break a Leg  Break a Leg  MichaelRichardLange
Christmas Rush  Christmas Rush  JimmyScalzetti
Russians in the City of Angels Russians in the City of Angels Larry'Coyote'Maklovski(2episodes,2003)
Jimmy Kimmel Live! Jimmy Kimmel Live! Himself-Guest(1episode,2003)
Less Than Perfect Less Than Perfect WillButler(65episodes,2002-2005)
Pyramid Pyramid Himself-CelebrityContestant(1episode,2004)
The Making of 'Mercy Streets'  The Making of 'Mercy Streets'  Himself
The L Word The L Word GabrielMcCutcheon(3episodes,2006-2007)
The Sharon Osbourne Show The Sharon Osbourne Show Himself-Guest(1episode,2004)
SoapTalk SoapTalk Himself(2episodes,2003-2004)
The 58th Annual Academy Awards  The 58th Annual Academy Awards  Himself-Nominee:BestActorinaSupportingRole(uncredited)
The Last Shot  The Last Shot  EricRoberts(uncredited)
Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade  Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade  Himself
Danny Phantom Danny Phantom DarkDanny(1episode,2005)
My Date with Drew  My Date with Drew  Himself
Entourage Entourage EricRoberts(1episode,2008)
The Great American Celebrity Spelling Bee The Great American Celebrity Spelling Bee Himself
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